China’s Top Short Video Player Douyin Upgrades E-commerce Functions
COVID-19 and China
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The line between e-commerce and short video platforms in China has been blurred. The time consumers spend on each app will generate unplanned consumption, providing opportunities for unstandardized goods, for products that need more guidance before making a purchase decision, and so on.

Douyin (抖音), the phenomenal short video app from Bytedance, reported a revision to its e-commerce shopping cart function on December 13. When users see a short video promoting certain products and click on the shopping cart, they will find more products, not only recommended by this video blogger but other KOLs whose marketing videos rank top in ‘likes.’

In this case, Douyin will provide more choices for users when they want to find similar products. However, for KOLs who are trying to sell goods online by leveraging their fans’ power, their influence may be greatly diminished by this new adjustment.

One year ago, when short video platforms were still a nascent market, to attract traffic was much easier than today. After the boom period is over, latecomers will have to pay for exposure in order to be found by more users and lure fans. By that time, CNY 100 will bring exposure to over 5,000 users.

Nevertheless, with the revision of the shopping cart function, those KOLs who have commercial ads agreement with product suppliers will face the possibility of a lower conversion rate (people purchasing the products divided by total viewers) and even fan loss due to other KOLs.

The short video-derived online shopping is a branch under the social e-commerce business model. Social e-commerce is essentially a supplement of shopping habits online. If we look at offline shopping only, the purchase decisions are made in three circumstances: DIY, known from friends or recommended by shopping guides. From this writer’s point of view, the form of online shopping experience will ultimately approach the offline scenario. Therefore, the traditional online shopping is actually similar to the DIY shopping mode we have in supermarkets. The current social e-commerce momentum is mimicking the offline recommendation by friends and shopping guides.

Eventually, it’s about people, merchants and products; the platforms which connect these parties together will still follow the logic of how people buy things. With a full understanding of the variety of consumers, consumption needs and products, platforms will provide a more reasonable shopping environment as offline players do. Otherwise, the mode will be questioned.

For Douyin’s case, just imagine 10 years ago when you went to a shopping mall with your mom, most of the time she wouldn’t listen to only one shopping guide and pay the bill. If you have more choices before you, why not have a look?

Editor: Luke Sheehan

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