TikTok tests social commerce waters, takes on Instagram

TikTok is testing a feature that will allow users to add links in their bio; will this now add to the pressure on close competitor Instagram?

e4m by Shikha Paliwal
Updated: Nov 22, 2019 8:26 AM

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TikTok Instagram

When TikTok decided to experiment with social commerce, it was bound to pique interest across the world. In India too, there has been a steady buzz about TikTok’s new feature although it hasn’t been officially launched yet. When rolled out, the feature will allow TikTok users to add links of e-commerce sites to their bio or posts, thus helping creators monetize their accounts.

‘Link in bio’, sounds familiar? Well if you are a regular on Instagram you may have already used or seen a similar feature on the platform where the clickable URL on a profile allows visitors to reach a product or service website. This feature has been popular with influencers.

It was inevitable that TikTok’s social commerce trailer would result in comparisons between the two social media giants which are vying for the same market share. The obvious inference being drawn is how Tiktok’s new feature is as an attempt by the platform to lure the influencer community. Even though TikTok has been rising up the popularity charts, Instagram is seen as a far more lucrative platform for influencers. If TikTok does roll out the feature, it would definitely be an attractive prospect for creators.

Instagram’s recent decision to hide the number of likes has in fact irked influencers who depend on it to prove their popularity to brands.

In recent times, both TikTok and Instagram have been seen aggressively introducing new features to push forward their ambitious plans, elaborates Krish Ramnani, Co-founder and Director of Technology/Innovation, Togglehead. “Instagram was earlier synonymous with a ‘photo-sharing app’, and TikTok, even today, is associated with short videos and user-generated content. However, as each platform competes for increased consumer stickiness, they diversify their features to overshadow those of the other. Instagram recently announced the launch of ‘Instagram Reels’, a feature to record 15-second videos with a striking similarity to the China-based app TikTok. In response, TikTok wades into social commerce by allowing users to buy products featured/ showcased in the video,” Ramnani said.

The link in bio aside, Instagram has been quite vocal about its social commerce plans and its interest in ensuring a seamless shopping experience for its users on the platform. In a press interaction earlier this month, Instagram had put forward an IPSOS study, according to which 95 percent of people said Instagram helped them decide whether to buy a new product or service. Instagram is already making ambitious plans for its Instagram Shopping feature by testing Augmented Reality-based shopping and is also dabbling with in-app payments to ensure an end-to-end shopping experience. This, however, is still in the testing phase. But will Instagram’s ‘new and improved’ features be able to rein in TikTok’s popularity?

As far as the Indian market is concerned, experts say there is a lot that is working in TikTok’s favour. India holds a huge potential for social media platforms, it has the world’s second-largest internet user base, as per Mary Meeker’s 2019 Internet Trends Report.

Even though it has made a late entry compared to Facebook’s family of apps, Bytedance-owned TikTok has firmly established its place in India, especially in Tier 2 and Tier 3 markets. So enamoured is the Indian public by TikTok that it has generously contributed to TikTok’s feat of hitting the 1.5 billion downloads worldwide on Google Play and Apple App store. India tops the chart with 466.8 million, according to a report by mobile intelligence firm Sensor Tower. In 2019 alone India saw 277.6 million downloads, which is a whopping 45 per cent of all global downloads, the report said, thus surpassing other social media platforms in terms of downloads.

Explaining how the brand perception as being one for the masses has clicked for TikTok in India, Srikant Subramanian, General Manager - Sales, Mirum India, says,  “TikTok has a brand perception of being one of the people, one for the masses, and Instagram is seen as an app for a premium (read rich) person. If we look at typical content on Insta it's quite globally focussed, aims to be classy, and about having a larger-than-life lifestyle, which you wouldn't see on TikTok and that's why TikTok has grown so fast. The growth in Tier 2 and Tier 3 towns is owed also to the fact that the Internet has just exponentially grown in those locations as well.”

“Instagram has to find a way to become an app that 'everyone' would want to be a part of. If they are able to do that, then it will grow in those markets, else it would be difficult for them to create an impression,” he further said.

According to Vikas Chawla, Co-founder, Social Beat, “TikTok is popular in tier 2 and 3 markets in terms of content creation, but the content consumption is happening across the country, even in metros. They are far stronger on the vernacular side, compared to Instagram and are more well suited to capture the next billion internet users. Infact, TikTok also competes with YouTube and gaming apps as it’s an alternate to those modes of entertainment.”

 

 

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