TikTok is stepping up its in-stream shopping game with a new live test feature that aims to revolutionize user behavior. The platform is experimenting with the ability to make any object in a video “shoppable,” allowing users to easily identify and purchase products within the app.

Identify Similar Objects Feature

Social media expert Lindsey Gamble showcased the new feature, revealing a toggle within the video upload flow that activates “Identify Similar Objects.” When enabled, TikTok’s object identification AI scans the video, highlighting potential product matches that users can directly buy through the app.

Background and Testing

While the feature has been active in Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, for years, it has yet to gain widespread acceptance among Western users. Douyin’s success with in-stream shopping is noteworthy, generating over $270 billion in direct product sales in 2023, marking a 60% YoY increase. ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, aims to replicate this success in the Western market, even though it has encountered some challenges.

Western User Behavior

Despite TikTok users spending more within the app over time, in-stream shopping hasn’t gained as much traction in the Western market. Data.ai research indicates that TikTokers spent $3.8 billion in the app throughout 2023, a 15% YoY increase. However, this spending is primarily on digital coins for creator donations, not on tangible products.

TikTok’s Strategy

TikTok is determined to tap into the growing willingness to spend in the app and is expanding its shopping options to capitalize on this potential. The platform is positioning itself as a comprehensive discovery-to-purchase tool, aligning with its role as a discovery platform. Currently this is shown through the development of the e-commerce feature called TikTok Shop, that allows users to browse and buy products without leaving the app. TikTok Shop is specific to brands on the platform already, with creators who can select from those products by those brands.

User Feedback

However, not all users are on board with TikTok’s commercial push. Some have expressed concerns about the app becoming too focused on in-app sales, adding pressure to the user experience. The introduction of the “Identify Similar Objects” feature may amplify this sentiment, raising questions about how users will respond to the platform’s evolving direction.

As TikTok continues to experiment with in-stream shopping, the ultimate success will be determined by user adoption and engagement. The platform’s growth strategy aligns with Douyin’s proven model, but whether Western users embrace in-stream shopping remains to be seen. The impact on creator monetization, the rise of live-stream commerce, and the potential emergence of AI influencers as sales tools will be closely monitored as TikTok evolves. Stay tuned for updates as the platform transforms its shopping experience.