As a Chinese short-video app, TikTok achieved global popularity reaching 500 million monthly active users across 150 countries. But new e-commerce features and the launch of its own smartphone seem to bring the app to an even wider success
TikTok is now an international phenomenon. It is the “Made in China” success that is taking ground from the Celestial Empire to the United States, without forgetting the audience from the Pacific area.
Although today it ranks fourth, in 2018, Douyin 抖音 – TikTok for Western market – was the most downloaded app worldwide with an estimated 104 million downloads. The app exceeds 500 million monthly active users (MAU) across 150 countries while 150 million daily active users come from the PRC.
As the Chinese social media that is enjoying the greatest success among a very young user-base from all over the world, TikTok is the talk of the town and now many different brands and digital marketers seem to have noticed.
© TikTok. TikTok allows users to make 15-second videos, providing them with editing tools that can add music and special effects to the video.
Launched in September 2016, the platform has begun to expand internationally by the name TikTok in less than a year. To date, the app owned by Bytedance is a reality in countries like Japan, the United States, and the Middle East. And this success is showing no signs of slowing down yet but, on the contrary, it is still growing.
TikTok is a short-video platform that provides users with editing tools that can add music and special effects to the few-seconds-long videos. Like many other social media, users can follow certain accounts and appreciate their content with likes, comments, and shares. However, unlike all the others, instead of focusing on people, TikTok invests in the content. In other words, users do not necessarily have to follow someone to have a rich newsfeed. The app selects for them a series of trend videos that the users can watch even if they do not follow anyone. And there is no doubt that many of the online videos are truly amazing.
The app has already shown its potential in marketing to Generation Z – the generation born between the mid-1990s and early 2000s. According to data, each user opens Douyin on average five times a day, spending about 30 minutes watching videos.
Since the launch, many international brands have been eager to experiment with this brand-new platform, including Chevrolet, Airbnb, and Pizza Hut, which worked with the app for advertising and marketing campaigns.
ByteDance was valued at $75 billion, and is among the leading technology companies in the world, with a turnover for 2019 estimated at around $18 billion. It is currently considered the most valuable startup in the world, joining Tencent, Facebook, and Google among companies with over 1 billion users.
The Chinese startup, formerly called A.me, was launched by the Chinese internet company ByteDance, whose core product, Toutiao, is a popular content platform in the Middle Kingdom and worldwide.
The race to become the leading short video app in the world formally started when A.me changed its name into Douyin. But the truth is that the $1 billion purchase of the Santa Monica/Shanghai-based Musical.ly decisively contributed to making the app reach not only the American teenage market but also the world’s Generation Z.
But it was not until August 2018 that Musical.ly was relaunched as TikTok when the two apps merged, laying the foundations for what is now the most popular short video app in the world.
In the beginning, much of the platform’s popularity could be attributed to its hashtag challenges, in which users film themselves lip-syncing or dancing to short audio clips about trending hashtags. But today, it is exactly a year since ByteDance shut the lip-sync-video app Musical.ly and migrated its users to TikTok. Now we can officially say, the re-brand and launch have been extremely successful, especially for what concerns impacting pop music, since the platform has become a staging ground for music hits before they reach the mainstream.
© Weibo. The founder Zhang Yiming recognized the importance of the social networks environment. TikTok thus integrates social sharing with major platforms such as QQ, Weibo, and WeChat.
But what has helped TikTok to become such a major player so quickly?
First, after the merger, TikTok had access to an impressive number of users. Indeed, TikTok claimed to already have 500 million monthly users around the globe when it absorbed Musical.ly. Moreover, ByteDance is a corporate behemoth worth many billions of dollars. Therefore, not only the app can reach a huge audience but after the merger, it can also have access to a lot more resources.
And TikTok’s fiercest competitor may not even exist yet. “In this whole viral space, we’re in the really early stages of seeing what apps are gonna come about,” says music manager Danny Kang. “I would love to have a new platform every year that does this for the music business — reach new audiences, reach the kids,” says Jeff Vaughn, senior VP of A&R at APG.
Nevertheless, TikTok still wants to improve by adding even more features to the platform and thus attracting even more people.
The video social platform is now giving its young users direct access to online shopping while they watch fun, entertaining videos. TikTok is moving to profit from its widely popular app by integrating external online shopping links from the country’s largest e-commerce sites into its platform.
“Short video has become a powerful force in China’s social scene by providing 15-second entertainment to grab mobile users’ attention. It can be a strong weapon for e-commerce, especially for Alibaba and Tencent, which want to reach younger consumers and those living in smaller cities,” said Lu Zhenwang, chief executive at Wanqing Consultancy.
A shopping cart logo can now be seen on the Douyin user interface of certain content publishers with a fan base of more than 1 million. The shopping links allow followers of these publishers to buy goods ranging from cosmetics and food to stationery supplies on Alibaba’s Taobao and Tmall platforms.
According to recent statistics, up to 70% of young Chinese aged between 18 and 22 are interested in buying products directly through social media, compared to the global average of 44%. And Douyin has managed to capture its target market, or Gen Z as the 80% of the app’s users are under the age of 30.
Specifically, TikTok has become one of the main social-commerce apps, a platform that combines social media and e-commerce, allowing users to buy products by clicking on the video in real-time.
The move to embrace Alibaba’s online merchants is seen as a major milestone for Douyin’s commercialization efforts and could prove strong competition for Tencent Holdings, which is also counting on the rapid growth in China’s short video market to further monetize its presence in social media. There were nearly 250 million Chinese watching short videos at the end of 2017 and the market is projected to be worth $4.78 billion by 2020, according to iResearch.
© Pexels. The short video industry has more than 820 million MAU as of June, meaning that more than 7 out of 10 mobile internet users are on short video platforms.
But the entrance in the e-commerce arena is not the only special move TikTok has in store for its users. The Chinese app is working on several new seemingly Instagram-inspired features including a Discover page, a grid-style layout similar to Instagram Explore, an Account Switcher, and a more direct connection with WhatsApp, Google, and Facebook.
Moreover, a related feature, “Suggested Users,” could also come into play here, in terms of highlighting top talents. However, TikTok diverged from Instagram with the testing of two other new features focused on popularity metrics. One test shows the “Like” counts on each video on the Sounds and Hashtags pages, and another shows the number of Downloads on the video itself, in addition to the Likes and Shares.
But the news does not end here. TikTok seems to be ready to launch its own smartphone. According to the website Reuters, the device would be mid-range, designed for a young audience, and built by the Chinese company Smartisan Technology on behalf of ByteDance.
TikTok does not seem to want to limit its success to short lip-sync videos. Therefore, from the upcoming news, it really seems we should expect the app to grow even further in the nearest future.