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ByteDance-owned Douyin launches stand-alone shopping app in China, heating up the competition against Alibaba, JD.com, PDD

ByteDance-owned Douyin, the Chinese sister app of TikTok, has introduced a standalone e-commerce platform on the mainland, ratcheting up the competition against domestic online shopping stalwarts Alibaba Group Holding, JD.com and Pinduoduo operator PDD Holdings.

Douyin Mall was launched last week as a downloadable app for Android users in mainland China, the world’s largest smartphone market. An Apple iOS version of the app was not released as of Tuesday.

The new app serves “as an extension of the Douyin platform, designed to elevate the overall shopping experience of [its] existing users”, a representative from the Chinese short video service provider’s e-commerce department said.

This initiative escalates ByteDance’s efforts to expand the reach of its social media operation into a potentially large e-commerce revenue stream, as the firm’s overall sales last year surged to more than US$110 billion on the back of its nascent online retail business via Douyin on the mainland and TikTok overseas.

Online shopping via Douyin started in 2019 as a click-and-buy function within the short video app, similar to how TikTok Shop has fused overseas users’ online entertainment feed with impulse buying.

What sets Douyin Mall apart from TikTok Shop is that ByteDance has made it an independent app that competes head-on against larger mainland rivals such as Alibaba’s Taobao and Tmall platforms, JD.com and Pinduoduo. Alibaba owns the South China Morning Post.

While it touts the slogan “choose great bargains with little effort”, Douyin Mall looks just like any other Chinese shopping app that lists recommended items in two columns on its landing page. The next tab in the app is a video channel where recommended short videos and live-streaming sessions are found.

Taobao and Pinduoduo, which both target online bargain shoppers, also have a video channel next to their respective landing pages, showing the popularity of livestreaming e-commerce to engage consumers on the mainland.

ByteDance, which set up a dedicated e-commerce unit in 2020, advanced Douyin’s domestic online retail business by launching its own mobile payment service Douyin Pay in 2021. The tech unicorn initially tested a stand-alone Chinese shopping app in 2021 with Douyin Box, which was shut down a year later.

Last year, Douyin said its shopping channel recorded a 277 per cent increase in gross merchandise volume, but did not disclose the figure. ByteDance in 2021 established TikTok Shop to advance its e-commerce ambitions across international markets. Still, the company continued to experiment with standalone overseas shopping apps, including Fammo, Dmonstudio and If Yoouu – which are no longer operational.

TikTok Shop, which was initially made available in the United Kingdom and Indonesia, has since expanded to the United States and other Southeast Asian markets.

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