Instagram Ditches Live Shopping, While TikTok Doubles Down


From Retail Leader, Feb. 16:

  • TikTok is leaning into e-commerce, testing more shopping features in the U.S.
  • Competitor Instagram, meanwhile, continues to pull back from shopping, eliminating a livestreaming tool it debuted in 2020. 
  • Social commerce has been increasingly popular in Asian markets, but it has so far failed to catch on broadly in the U.S.

Competing social-media platforms Instagram and TikTok are taking different approaches to retail: While TikTok tests new shopping features, Instagram is eliminating them.

TikTok has rolled out more in-app shopping features, including in-app checkout to users in the U.S, AdAge first reported. P2PI sibling brand Retail Leader had learned that TikTok is testing this feature with a few select retailers and merchants, which include apparel brand Pacsun and makeup brand KimChi Chic Beauty. The feature is in alpha testing, and the retailer plans to continue testing it before rolling it out more broadly this year. 

Retailers with access to the new TikTok Shop tool gain a “shop” button on their profiles that brings consumers to a list of products for sale. Consumers can select things like product color and sizes before checking out without ever leaving the TikTok app. The TikTok Shop platform offers retailers the ability to upload products and manage things like shipping, fulfillment and point of purchase.

"We are always guided by demand and exploring new ways to enhance the TikTok experience,” a TikTok spokesperson previously told Retail Leader. “We've seen the positive impact of TikTok Shop, and we're excited to continue experimenting with this new commerce opportunity to support businesses of all sizes and enable our community to discover and engage with products they love.”

Retail Leader previously reported that TikTok, owned by the China-based ByteDance, has already had shopping functionality in the U.K. and in Southeast Asia. It first became apparent that TikTok had e-commerce ambitions in the U.S. in October when the social-media company posted job listings for positions at a fulfillment facility

[READ: Meta Focuses on Short-Form Videos]

The move comes as Instagram, which has in the past several years focused on video to compete with rapidly growing TikTok, is pulling back on shopping features it introduced just a few years ago. Instagram in January announced that it’d boot the shopping tab from the in-app home feed, as commerce became less of a priority for the Meta-owned platform. 

Now, Instagram is pulling back even further and will eliminate live shopping features next month. According to a post on Instagram’s website, the social-media app will sunset the ability for users to tag products in live broadcasts on March 16. The feature was initially rolled out in 2020. Instagram said it’s not eliminating shopping from the platform entirely, and still plans to support commerce “for people and businesses across feed, stories, Reels, ads and more.”

Social commerce has been increasingly popular in Asian markets, but it hasn’t necessarily caught on in the U.S., especially as consumers have returned to brick-and-mortar shopping. According to data from Insider Intelligencesocial commerce was expected to make up just 5% of e-commerce sales in the U.S. last year compared to 16% of the total e-commerce business in China.