TikTok’s New Ecommerce Tools Are the Next Step in Social Shopping

Click product links, see brand showcases and watch TikTok's version of a TV shopping channel: TikTok has ecommerce ambitions.

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TikTok is rolling out features in 2021 to make online shopping easier. The social platform's new updates will give users the ability to add affiliate links and will even give brands the ability to showcase their suite of products from within TikTok itself.

The move is another sign that big social platforms are shifting towards offering more tools to help their influencers and creators earn a living.

Of course, the likely rewards will be somewhat tied to the size of your TikTok following. But these new tools offer a point of entry to affiliate marketing for a whole new range of people, and for existing brands to diversify their channel earnings. We explain all you need to know, below.

See our guide to the Best Social Media Management Tools

TikTok's new features

Here's the full list of new tools on the way from TikTok, according to a new Financial Times report.

  • Product links in videos to earn the poster an affiliate commission, a feature available to popular users
  • Showcases to give users a look at each of the products a brand has to offer, a feature available to brands
  • “livestreamed shopping” – TikTok's take on a TV shopping channel, allowing users to buy products with a tap after seeing TikTok celebrities discuss and endorse them

The plan is to debut these tools at some point in 2021, though no specific date has been announced.

Is the creator middle class built on ecommerce?

We're a little over a month into 2021, and it's already shaping up to be the year that the world realizes the financial power of online creators and communities. The flashiest examples are the amateur trading crusaders behind the Gamestop short squeeze, but plenty of meme-loving public figures have been able to move the stock markets with a tweet for a while now.

Yet not all creators are equal. Sure, the biggest ones can earn millions per year, but there's a long tail of creators who are earning pennies. Massive social platforms like TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, or YouTube would benefit in the long term by making it easier to earn money within their ecosystem.

Instagram has been experimenting with ecommerce for a while, and TikTok teamed up with Shopify to explore the space back in October 2020.

Granted, they could be doing a lot more to help their users. But, TikTok's new shopping tools are yet another sign that new paths towards financial security are opening up for mid-tier influencers and creatives – at least, for those popular enough to qualify for access.

Ecommerce alternatives

You shouldn't entirely tie your ecommerce hopes to a third-party platform. Diversification is key, and nothing can replace the security of owning an ecommerce channel that will never be suspended, banned, or suffer from an algorithm change. For that, a good old fashioned website is still the gold standard.

To keep the internet healthy, creators need to be able to earn a living. Here's hoping TikTok's new ecommerce tools are just the latest step towards a meaningful change. But while you're waiting to gain a giant following, take a look at all the top website builders for ecommerce.

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Our score is based on independent assessments of ease of use, features, ecommerce functionality and value for money
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  • Robust email marketing
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  • The most ecommerce features across our research
  • Vast selection of marketing integrations
  • Built-in VR compatibility for showcasing products
  • Unlimited products for all plans
  • Mobile app can update pages, review traffic, and manage inventory
  • Outstanding email marketing templates
  • Advanced fraud detection system for security
  • No transaction fees
  • Customizable checkout options
  • Manage site from mobile app
  • POS system integrates with your site
  • Excellent site speed
  • No transaction fees
  • Only platform with transactional emails
  • Very user-centric experience
  • Live transaction monitoring enhances security
  • Unlimited product capacity
  • Excellent in-person selling functionality
  • Unlimited storage only available for $159/month
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  • Highest transaction fees on POS
  • Monthly fees for POS system
  • Scheduling and booking requires add-on
  • No tutorials for setup
  • POS system is currently exclusive to the US
  • Sorting and filtering of products requires add-on
  • Not ideal for larger ecommerce stores
  • No email marketing
  • No POS integrations
  • No mobile app to manage your store
  • No option to remove transaction fees
  • Users must report fraud cases
  • Not able to customize the checkout page
  • Lack of customization on email marketing
  • No AI features
  • No supported POS systems
  • Free plan is very limited
  • No way to remove transaction fees
  • Limited multichannel integration

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Written by:
Adam is a writer at Tech.co and has worked as a tech writer, blogger and copy editor for more than a decade. He was a Forbes Contributor on the publishing industry, for which he was named a Digital Book World 2018 award finalist. His work has appeared in publications including Popular Mechanics and IDG Connect, and his art history book on 1970s sci-fi, 'Worlds Beyond Time,' is out from Abrams Books in July 2023. In the meantime, he's hunting down the latest news on VPNs, POS systems, and the future of tech.
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