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TikTok’s venture into e-commerce paying off: report

SINGAPORE (AFP) – TikTok’s nascent venture into online shopping is paying off, with its e-commerce affiliate gaining a substantial market share in Southeast Asia just a year after its launch, a report said on Thursday.

TikTok Shop capitalised on the legions of users of the popular video-sharing app to expand its business in 2022 after testing the waters in Indonesia in 2021, Momentum Works, a Singapore-based consultancy focused on startups, wrote.

While it lagged older rivals Shopee and Lazada, TikTok Shop posted the fastest growth rate, expanding its gross merchandise value (GMV) – the total value of goods sold, including cancelled, returned and refunded orders – sevenfold to USD4.4 billion last year from just USD600,000 in 2021.

“You can think of it as TikTok already having a captive audience coming onboard for entertainment trying different means to convert them and their attention into purchase and GMV,” Weihan Chen, head of insights at Momentum Works, told AFP.

From Indonesia, TikTok Shop “aggressively expanded into five additional Southeast Asian markets, many of which boasted large populations of TikTok users” and invested to improve its e-commerce capabilities, Chen added.

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew delivers his opening speech during the TikTok Southeast Asia Impact Forum 2023 in Jakarta on June 15. PHOTO: AFP

TikTok is owned by Chinese technology giant ByteDance.

Overall, the GMV of the region’s nine top e-commerce platforms was valued at almost USD100 billion in 2022, up 14 percent on-year, led by Singapore-based Shopee and Lazada, a subsidiary of China’s Alibaba Group.

Shopee, a unit of Singapore’s Sea Ltd, accounted for USD47.9 billion of that, a 13 per cent increase, the report said.

Lazada was at a distant second with USD20.1 billion, down from USD21 billion in 2021.

Tokopedia, which solely serves the Indonesian market, was in third place with USD18.4 billion.

Indonesia remains Southeast Asia’s largest ecommerce market, accounting for 52 per cent of the region’s total GMV.

The return of offline shopping after Covid-19 restrictions were lifted led to a moderation in ecommerce sales, but it is expected to continue growing, the report said.

It noted that the region may benefit from Chinese brands and manufacturing firms expanding into other countries as they reduce reliance on the US market and escape rising competition at home.

“That might be a real game changer for Southeast Asia’s ecommerce landscape, which has for a long time suffered from a lack of variety of goods,” it said.