TikTok's position as a social media app in the U.S. has been growing among users and retailers alike, with Walmart being the first major retailer to pilot its in-app, live-stream shopping. TikTok began offering TikTok for Business, which allows retailers to advertise and market on the platform, in June 2020.

TikTok is bolstering its retail tools and heavyweight Walmart Inc. is taking new strides to use the social media app as a marketing channel.

Walmart (No. 3 in the 2020 Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000) announced today it would begin livestream shopping on its profile page on TikTok. Livestream shopping is an interactive experience on social media apps where users can view a host—usually a promoter or individual associated with the brand—and then click on a product in the stream to purchase in real time. Walmart’s TikTok livestream shopping event will take place in-app in one of two ways: Viewers can either click an item in real time and then be taken to a mobile checkout, or they can wait until the end of the broadcast and see all of the items featured in the livestream.

The mass merchant will be partnering with 10 TikTok influencers during the one-hour event.

“Naturally, when TikTok began exploring a new shoppable product, we jumped in to pilot the solution,” Walmart’s chief marketing officer of William White wrote in a blog post. This is natural for Walmart as the retail giant, along with database management provider Oracle, reached a proposed deal in September to take a stake of the company.

According to social media management platform Hootesuite, TikTok is the sixth-largest social media app in terms of active users across the world, behind Whatsapp Messenger, Facebook and Facebook Messenger, WeChat and Instagram. While TikTok has 30 million active monthly users in the United States, this audience only represents 5% of TikTok’s global users, according to Hootesuite.

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TikTok’s popularity with international consumers gives retail marketers another platform to reach a global audience.

But TikTok’s position in the U.S. has been in question. In early August, President Donald Trump issued an executive order imposing limitations on Chinese social media apps, citing that TikTok and similar technologies posed a security risk because of their Chinese ownership.

The potential ban was ruled against by two federal judges, but it’s still unclear whether or not it might resurface. The Trump administration initially set a deadline for the ByteDance-owned company to find a U.S.-majority stakeholder by Nov. 12, but then extended the deadline to Dec. 4. President Trump approved the Oracle and Walmart deal with TikTok in September, but TikTok challenged the original executive order in the U.S. court of appeals in mid-November, and Chinese government said that they would not approve it themselves. The Commerce Department must also approve of the Walmart and Oracle stake in TikTok, but stated that they would abide by the first preliminary injunction ruled by U.S. District Court Judge Wendy Beetlestone, barring any further legal developments.

Currently, TikTok and ByteDance have been granted a preliminary injunction against the U.S. government’s restrictions by U.S. District Court Judge Carl Nichols. The Walmart and Oracle deal still hasn’t been finalized.

Despite TikTok’s legal issues, global retailers like Walmart and Newegg are beginning to adopt TikTok as a new marketing channel. Only in June 2020 did the social media app begin “TikTok for Business,” which allows retailers to advertise on the platform.

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Now, Walmart is the first to pilot the in-app, livestream shopping. “We’re excited to engage with TikTok on this new experience and learn what’s possible for shopping on a platform that brings its community so much joy. We can’t wait to see what we learn,” White says.

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