What a TikTok ban would mean for ecommerce brands

As a potential TikTok ban looms, brands are considering what a world without TikTok Shop would look like. It probably won’t look all that different, but there are a few places where TikTok’s absence will be felt more than others.

Here are some implications of a TikTok ban, including who stands to gain, who stands to lose, and what it means for the ecommerce landscape as a whole.

The open market: TikTok is a valuable resource for brands looking to reach a wider audience, but in terms of commerce, it’s far from their only choice. Most TikTok Shop sellers are probably selling on multiple platforms.

  • Amazon is the largest retail marketplace in the US, bringing in $328.30 billion in sales, per our forecast. eBay comes in second ($35.02 billion), followed by Walmart ($10.64 billion).
  • Other marketplaces, like Shein and Temu, are also fighting for their share of consumer dollars by offering lower prices than competitors.

There are some brands that may find it hard to replicate the success they’ve had on TikTok. For example, Tarte Cosmetics and Cider have sold hundreds of thousands of items via TikTok Shop while other brands like e.l.f. Cosmetics and Charlotte Tilbury have profited from product recommendations going viral.

Slow your roll: A potential TikTok ban could also put a dent in the push we’ve seen with social commerce and livestream shopping.

  • TikTok is a driving force behind social buyer growth—over a third (36.9%) of social buyers in the US will purchase something on TikTok this year, per our forecast.
  • It’s also been bullish on livestream commerce, using its relationships with creators to try and speed up adoption in the US.

“TikTok was one of the biggest, strongest, most visible proponents behind social commerce and livestream shopping,” said our analyst Max Willens. “They were investing tons of money into trying to encourage adoption in Western markets. And if you take them out of the game, it's quite possible that those ideas never really get any foothold in the US.”

Searching for something: A TikTok ban could also have an effect on consumer search behavior, particularly for the 51% of Gen Z consumers who prefer to research brands on social media versus traditional search engines, per GWI Core data from 2023.

  • Over half (52.5%) of Gen Z social media users used TikTok for shopping and product discovery in the last month, per our July 2023 survey. That was the No. 1 platform cited.
  • But nearly as many (50.3%) said their top shopping platform was Instagram, suggesting that TikTok is not the only place consumers go for inspiration.

The bottom line: It’s unclear whether or not a TikTok ban will happen. But if it does, there’s not a lot of evidence to suggest it would have a major impact on the larger ecommerce landscape.

However, brands should still do their due diligence to prepare for the worst, especially if the platform plays a large part in their ecommerce or marketing strategies.


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