TikTok Shoppers Unfazed by Threat of Forced Sale

Shopping activity on TikTok increased despite Congress threatening to force ByteDance to sell the platform.

TikTok might be facing an existential threat from Congress, but its e-commerce business has been largely unaffected by the prospect of a forced sale. 

In fact, e-commerce activity on TikTok actually increased among Millennial shoppers following news that Congress was considering legislation that would force China-owned parent company ByteDance to sell the platform due to national security concerns, according to new data obtained by Attain.

"Americans, in general, don't care what Congress does, and Millennial and Gen Z shoppers especially aren't influenced by Congress,” Jason Goldberg, chief commerce strategy officer for Publicis Groupe, tells The Outcome. “Every few months, Congress has a hearing about how bad social media is for society. And none of that has ever slowed down social media.”

TikTok Shop experienced a moderate increase in sales among Millennial shoppers after media coverage of Congress' proposed ban on March 13, 2024, with spending hitting an all-time high in the subsequent days for the month of March. Source: Attain.

In the days immediately following the House of Representatives passing the TikTok ban bill, shopping activity on the platform remained high on the platform across all demographic groups, Attain finds. There was even a spike in purchase activity among Millennials as the House was voting on the bill. 

A maturing e-commerce platform

Data pulled from Attain found the average number of transactions per TikTok shopper decreased from January 2023 to March 2024, but that the average transaction price has nearly doubled over this same period, a sign that TikTok has matured into a more trusted e-commerce platform.

"Historically, the products that have done the best on the TikTok Shop are very low price point products that you can't get in a general store,” Goldberg says. A move to fewer, higher priced transactions signals that the quality of products available on TikTok has improved. Additionally, it suggests that users perhaps see the platform as a destination for more legitimate purchases.

An ‘everything app’ for a changing America

Shopping on TikTok is most popular among Hispanic American users, with that demographic scoring 138 on a 100-point index, according to Attain data.

Goldberg attributes this phenomenon to the changing demographic landscape of the country. TikTok skews young in terms of usership, and the American population is increasingly Hispanic, especially among young people. Hispanic users over-indexing on TikTok is a reflection of the increase in Hispanic population more broadly.

TikTok’s rise as an e-commerce platform has left many wondering who its primary competition is. The platform’s emphasis on social media video put it in direct competition with YouTube and Instagram, but the growing popularity of the TikTok Shop has elicited comparisons to Amazon and other possible e-commerce destinations.

By effectively merging social media with commerce, TikTok has separated itself from other platforms in the American market. The closest comparison are the so-called “everything apps” — such as WeChat, Line, and KakaoTalk — that are popular in Asia and allow users to do everything from send chat messages, browse social media, buy groceries and hail a rideshare.

“TikTok  is a competitor to all social and retail platforms,” Matt Heindl, group vice president of social content and engagement strategy at digital agency Razorfish, tells The Outcome. “It has carved a significant spot out for itself in our minds, and now it’s chipping away at our collective wallets. Its ultimate goal is to become the ‘everything app’: From media source to social to commerce to banking. Seamlessness is key.”

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