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What TikTok Shop Means for Southeast Asia’s E-commerce Market

By October 12, 2023No Comments
TikTok Shop in Southeast Asia

Scrolling through the platform, Sarah’s finger stops; a lipstick shade catches her eyes. She adds it to the bucket, quickly makes the payment, and checks it out. And all these happen within 20 seconds as social media meets e-commerce! 

In the ever-evolving landscape of e-commerce, this social media platform has recently emerged as a game-changer, not only redefining how we shop online but also how we engage with content. TikTok Shop, an innovative addition to the TikTok ecosystem, has been making waves in Southeast Asia and beyond. With TikTok’s explosive growth and reach, its foray into e-commerce presents an exciting prospect for consumers and entrepreneurs alike.

A report by Momentum Works entitled “The TikTok Shop Playbook: How Ecosystem Stakeholders Should Respond to the Ecommerce Insurgent” states that in 2022, TikTok’s global monthly active users exceeded 1 billion. Pursuing e-commerce as a key monetisation pillar has been a strategic priority for TikTok and its parent company, ByteDance. Here’s how TikTok Shop is narrowing the gap with traditional e-commerce players in Southeast Asia.

TikTok Shop's maket share in Southeast Asia

At its core, TikTok Shop is a novel fusion of social media and e-commerce. It leverages the immense popularity of TikTok, a short-form video platform with billions of users worldwide, to create an immersive shopping experience. Unlike conventional e-commerce platforms, TikTok Shop blurs the lines between content consumption and purchasing, offering a seamless transition from discovering products in entertaining videos to making instant purchases.

Ng Chew Wee, Head of Business Marketing, APAC at TikTok, remarked that Singapore had exceeded its potential as a major e-commerce market, with its projected market volume expected to hit US$11.45 billion by 2025. Ng added that TikTok Shop presents the ultimate convergence of content and commerce, with unique shoppertainment experiences for all.

TikTok Shop: What Are They Doing Differently in E-commerce Sector? 

TikTok Shop enables users to watch engaging videos that showcase products in action, with creators and influencers providing authentic reviews and demonstrations. This approach not only makes shopping more interactive and enjoyable but also builds trust through user-generated content. Here’s how TikTok Shop revolutionizes the shopping experience: 

  1. Engaging Content: TikTok Shop revolves around short video content. Video content consumption is projected to reach a user base of 3.5 billion by 2023. TikTok Shop enables businesses to create engaging videos showcasing their products, telling a story, or demonstrating how items can be used.
  2. Influencer Collaborations: Collaborating with TikTok influencers can significantly amplify the reach of a TikTok Shop. Influencers can create authentic and persuasive content that resonates with their followers, driving traffic and sales to the shop.

  3. Live Streaming: Live streaming is a powerful feature on TikTok Shop. Businesses can host live shopping events where they interact with viewers in real time, answer questions, and showcase products. Viewers can purchase items from the live session by tapping the pinned products or browsing the shopping basket icon.

  4. All-In-App Experience: Unlike platforms like YouTube or Instagram, there is no redirection to partnered shopping apps or websites on TikTok Shop, only concentrated sales.

  5. Personalization: Leveraging advanced artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms TikTok Shop provides highly personalized shopping recommendations based on the content they engage with. Enhanced user experiences drive higher conversion rates, a key metric that encourages more brands to sell their products on the platform.

  6. User-Generated Content: Alongside influencers, user-generated content is an effective way to reach the target consumers. This authentic approach can foster a sense of community around your brand. 

To compete with TikTok Shop, several social media platforms are integrating online shopping capabilities. Instagram and Facebook Reels have successfully carved out a niche among avid shoppers, with Instagram’s social buyer penetration set to reach 35% of its user base this year, a significant increase from the 21% recorded in 2019 (source: Insider Intelligence). Other social commerce platforms like Pinterest, Snapchat, WeChat, Grip, and Verint are also actively competing in this arena. Collectively, these platforms are presenting a plethora of opportunities for businesses to expand their customer base and offer an immersive shoppertainment experience.

Roadblocks in Social Commerce Ambition 

TikTok’s ambition to emerge as a major e-commerce player in Southeast Asia has recently been stalled in Indonesia by the local government in its attempt to defend offline merchants, marketplaces, and small enterprises.

The Indonesian government only allows social media to facilitate promotions, not transactions. “Social media [and e-commerce] must be separated so that the algorithms are not controlled. The provision will prevent the use of personal data for business purposes,” said Minister of Trade Zulkifli Hassan. Hassan and some other ministers, along with the country’s president, consider that the influx of such platforms has contributed to a sales decline for domestic businesses by flooding the market with foreign imports. 

The Director General of Public Information and Communications of the Ministry of Communications and Informatics, Usman Kansong told the reporters that if TikTok Indonesia separates itself from TikTok Shop and registers the latter as a separate entity, the e-commerce platform can return to business as usual. 

Following the regulation, TikTok announced to stop facilitating e-commerce transactions in TikTok Shop Indonesia. Will this regulation reshape their e-commerce trajectory? Only time can tell! 

Other Challenges and Considerations 

While TikTok Shop offers exciting opportunities for businesses and users, it also comes with its fair share of challenges. Understanding and addressing these issues is essential for a successful and sustainable presence on the platform. With the collection of user data for personalization and advertising, privacy concerns can arise. Mishandling user data or privacy breaches can erode trust and reputation. This can have long-lasting negative consequences for businesses. It’s crucial for businesses to prioritize data security and transparency.

Social media platforms like TikTok frequently update their algorithms, which can impact content visibility and engagement. Businesses need to adapt quickly to algorithmic shifts. This may involve adjusting content strategies, experimenting with new formats, and monitoring key performance metrics. Over time, certain product categories or niches may become saturated with similar content. This can make it harder for new entrants to gain visibility. Refining market strategies and creating unique and compelling content that resonates with their target audience is the key to success. 

The SEA region has diverse regulatory environments, which can impact e-commerce operations. Staying compliant with local laws and regulations is essential for global brands operating in multiple Southeast Asian markets. Creating localized content is also crucial for such brands.  


The recently imposed ban by the Indonesian government might produce varied repercussions for TikTok Shop. Nevertheless, the concept of social commerce platforms holds significant promise as a business model. TikTok Shop, leveraging a substantial user base and a robust algorithm is elevating e-commerce beyond conventional online marketplaces. TikTok Shop has lofty goals for the future of online shopping, and it will be interesting to observe how they move forward as competing players edge on this lucrative opportunity.

Authored by Soumi Bhattacharya

For more information, please reach out to the Marketing Team.