The gross merchandise value (GMV) of TikTok e-commerce in 2021 totaled about 6 billion yuan ($951 million), of which 70% or more came from Indonesia and the remaining 30% or less came from the U.K., according to sources of Chinese tech media outlet 36Kr.
In addition, TikTok’s e-commerce division is targeting nearly 12 billion yuan in GMV for 2022, nearly doubling from 2021 levels. On the other hand, the e-commerce business of TikTok’s Chinese mainland counterpart Douyin previously attained a GMV of about 500 billion yuan in 2020, the year of its establishment.
Having also now operated for a year, TikTok e-commerce’s GMV last year was only 1% of that achieved by Douyin e-commerce in 2020, with the vast majority contributed by the Indonesian market.
In April 2021, TikTok piloted the live e-commerce business, with Indonesia and the U.K. serving as the initial target markets. An individual close to TikTok’s e-commerce division said that during a review meeting at the end of last year, an official stated that the GMV from Indonesia accounted for more than 70% of all TikTok e-commerce. Meanwhile, daily GMV from the entire U.K. market was only about the volume of a medium-sized livestreaming online store in China.
The remarkable success of the Indonesian market in its first year of trial is attributed to the scale and maturity of the local e-commerce market. Data from research firm Momentum Works show that e-commerce sales in Indonesia reached $32.2 billion in 2020, ranking fourth in the world after China, South Korea and the U.K., making it the largest e-commerce market in Southeast Asia. As per SenseTower data, TikTok has garnered about 200 million user downloads in Indonesia, accounting for more than 40% of the entire Southeast Asia region.
Southeast Asia is also the first major overseas market for Chinese e-commerce companies to access. Alibaba laid out its own Southeast Asian e-commerce market by acquiring Lazada in 2016, before Tencent-backed Shopee surpassed Lazada in 2019, becoming the largest e-commerce platform in the region. The two platforms have initially cultivated the online shopping habits of Indonesian users by drawing on their experience operating e-commerce business in China.
Unlike Indonesia, no Chinese e-commerce platform had ever made its way into the U.K. market. Thus, Chinese e-commerce platforms have no prior advantages in terms of logistics, supply chains or other areas. Moreover, it takes time for the firms to promote live shopping habits among local users. A TikTok service provider said the team’s live e-commerce GMV from the U.K. mainly relies on TikTok’s official subsidies for 3C categories. For example, an iPhone is subsidized by up to 20% on the platform.
After March this year, TikTok will also open its livestream e-commerce business in more Southeast Asian and Western European countries.