Douyin E-Commerce Sales Explosive Growth, an opportunity for brands to seize

If you have not been living under a rock for the last 5 years, you’ve heard of Douyin (Tiktok) – the wildly popular Chinese social media app. But did you know that it’s also a major player in e-commerce? In fact, Douyin’s sales are growing at an explosive rate, and brands that want to reach Chinese consumers should take note. Here’s what you need to know about Douyin’s e-commerce ecosystem and how your brand can benefit.

Douyin eCommerce: Figures

  • From April 2020 to April 2021 the platforms recorded a 320% sales growth
  • From April 2020 to April 2021,10 billion goods were sold through the short video app
  • 2021 GMV of Douyin e-commerce is estimated at RMB800 billion
  • Douyin e-commerce is expected to reach 1.2 trillion in GMV for the year 2022
  • In comparison, IN 2021, Kuaishou, Douyin’s biggest competitor on the Short Video eCommerce turf, achieved a GMV of RMB680 billion in 2021

How Douyin become an e-commerce platform in 4 steps? 

It all started with key opinion leaders who quickly became an integral part of the Douyin ecosystem. KOLs seeking to monetize their community and influence often seek to create their own e-commerce selling products they use for their followers to buy.

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1. Integration of a Shopping Cart

With this in mind, in May 2018 Douyin began to release a feature on the platform for the creation of a shopping cart. Originally only influencers with over a million subscribers could try this feature.

Then in June 2018 to increase the visibility of the e-commerce feature, Douyin invited a hundred KOLs, celebrities, and companies to test the shopping cart in their use of the app.

2. The Shine Tour Platform

Furthermore, in September 2018, Douyin announced the release of “Shine Tour Platform” which is a platform allowing brands who want to promote their product via Douyin’s Key Opinion Leaders to pay a commission of 30% to increase the visibility of their product.

On November 11, 2018 (双 十一 or “single’s day” is the most important online selling day and breaking sales records worldwide) nearly 100,000 products were sold and the total amount of sales has reached 200 million yuan.

3. Lowering of the bar for Taobao Integration

In December, Douyin decided to lower the follower limit bar to 8000 to allow less influential KOLs to be able to link their Taobao account to their Douyin account. However, at the end of December, any user with the only condition to have posted at least 10 videos on Douyin has the possibility of connecting his shop Taobao to his account Douyin.

4. Douyin eCommerce latest Step: Douyin Flagship Stores

In March 2021, Douyin launched its flagship stores to the public on a testing basis. This marks another major step for them in e-commerce, and as we have seen, it’s paying off!

The new ” flagship store” feature on Douyin allows brands to create their own stores that are exclusively for them. This means they can increase conversion rates and provide a more personal experience than ever before! Consumers will also have the opportunity of claiming vouchers which redeem both online or offline, giving customers greater flexibility when it comes time to buy something from your brand

  • The deposit of most product categories is around 100K RMB.
  • Commission fees are around 4-5% of the product’s total price.

4 ways to Sell in China with Douyin:

There are different ways to use Douyin to sell in China, the one thing they all require is an Official/ business account.

1. Create your own Douyin Flagship Store

This feature is already available but not the most used compared to linked Taobao Stores. However, the process is going through the website of Douyin. You will need to be a Chinese citizen or your company must be registered in China.

2. « Shopping Cart » : using Douyin to sell to Chinese 

The system is based on a deal with the Alibaba group holding the Taobao and Tmall platforms. Users can use links in their videos to link products to a Taobao shop. The products are quite varied, but the most popular are definitely fashion or fashion-related products (accessories, …).

The products are easily found on the influencer’s profile with their respective links. Links to Taobao shops are the most common way for KOLs to sell their products.

However, Douyin also has its own trading platform allowing you to buy directly within the application without having to leave it. The advantage of this platform is that it allows linking the store to another platform of the group like Toutiao, Huoshan, or Xigua for example.

Douyin plays a lot with actors like the KOLs who are relevant to get the attention of the younger generation, who identify with these personalities. The app has contracts with the most influential Asian figures. Allowing brands wishing to use Douyin for marketing content to play with their influence.

3. Share products from Douyin

If your account is already a verified company account, things are easier. If not: to access this feature you need to go into your settings to « manage account » and « identity verification ». 

And then go back to your settings and go to « 商品分享功能 » and then you need to fill an application to use the feature (click: 立刻申请). If everything is good you will probably just need a few hours to get your account to have the access to this feature. 

However, you need to pretty rapidly add products to your account’s store: add the product, and then create and upload the video in which you will link your product (you have 12 days to do so) otherwise, your feature will not be working anymore and you’ll have to go through the process again.

If this is a good way to get some pocket money, this allows access to pretty « cheap » stores, no « brands » are available, and products are usually low budget. 

4. Linking your Taobao

The following steps allow you to link the Taobao store to your Douyin account : 

  • Go to settings « 设置 »
  • Choose Toolbox « 电商工具箱 »
  • Choose the option to connect to Taobao « 淘宝账号绑定 »

You’re done linking your accounts together! Adding items is pretty similar to the Douyin classic store process, you just have to click on the Taobao option to make sure you can link some products from your Taobao store.

To go further: What’s Douyin? 

Douyin also called TikTok in Western Countries is an application created by the Chinese group Bytedance in September 2016. The application allows the production of creative videos (production, music, editing, and effect). Even if people tend to believe that the two platforms are identical, they actually bear two different products. The Chinese can only download Douyin, the foreigners can only download TikTok (this distinction is made to avoid the problems of censored content to which foreigners are not subject in their country). 

For the anecdote, the application was developed in just 200 days in just one year, yet Douyin has brought together a community of nearly 100 million users and has become the second most downloaded application in China. It was a year later in September 2017 that the brand decided to set up abroad under the name “TikTok” and 11 months later in August 2018, Toutiao bought the application and the two applications merged. In October 2018, TikTok became the most valued startup, valued at 75 billion dollars.

The platform is formidable, once connected just swipe to preview the videos that start automatically, an addiction that allowed Douyin to reach the summit!

Who’s watching Douyin videos? 

Douyin’s audience is based on very young people: 52.8% are under 24 years old, and 27.9% are between 25 and 29 years old. Women are also significantly more present than men on the platform with 66.4% female users. Moreover, 64% live in cities of 1st, 2nd, or 3rd rank (which shows people with potential means to consume e-commerce products).

So it’s a good way to target digital natives or Chinese millennials. Brands can take advantage of this interactive platform to ensure that users participate in marketing campaigns.

Creating an official account for brands 

Douyin created a specific official account for brands that wanted to be represented on the platform and also start launching their own marketing campaign. The total fee for creating this account is only 600 RMB. This feature allows your account to add the « verified » icon next to your brand name, which allows your account to gain visibility and credibility! Also once you are verified on Douyin, your account in Jinri Toutiao can also be verified automatically by affiliating your accounts together.

Why is it so important to get your account verified?

It gives you to access some very interesting features like access to specific data on Douyin users, more control over sales, and content distribution.

Having a corporate profile also allows you to:

  • put the link to your company’s website so that users can easily reach your website
  • verify accounts can be shown at the top of the research for selected keywords (there is a kind of an SEO strategy growing here).
  • You also are able to pin relevant videos on top of your company’s Douyin page whereas basic users can’t.
  • Finally, as a verified account, you are able to upload longer videos, more precisely videos that can be as 1 minute long (against 15 seconds only for basic users). 
  • « Dou place » allows the company to target its ads to a specific audience. This feature works like a tool similar to Facebook advertising. The brand sets up a budget and specific target audience, Douplace is able to give the company an estimated number of clicks and engagement.

Using Douyin ads 

Douyin like all the big platforms generating a lot of traffic offers ads solutions. There are three different ones.

  • The first type of ad is the ads that appear in the video feed when users use the platform. Videos can last up to 60 seconds (if the account is verified) and can integrate an internal link to the Douyin platform. The cost of these ads is in cost per thousand impressions or cost per click.
  • “splash ad” which is actually advertising that starts before opening the app for a few seconds. These ads have been launched a maximum of 4 times a day. The payment of this type of ad is either between 800,000 RMB and 1 million RMB or in cost per mille (CPM) between 50 and 60 RMB.
  • campaigns in partnership with KOLs, are very interesting because they bring the attention of their community (consisting of 10,000 to several million fans!). The price depends on their popularity and the type of content you want them to create. Most often on Douyin KOL campaigns begin with a contest to engage users to do the same to win the prices of the companies at the origin of the campaign. But the company can also give the influencer free rein, allowing him to play on the knowledge he or she has of his community to find out what is most enjoyable and what works best.
  • Last but not least, brands can create their own stickers or other designs that users can embed in their videos to create their content.

KOLs Strategies on Douyin

Like any other social network, on Douyin, KOLs are booming. So, for any brand that wants to raise awareness around their company, establishing a KOL strategy is very important. 

KOLs have strong communities that identify with their personality and behavior, which makes their advice, and reviews much more authentic and relevant to their audience. Moreover, most of the KOLs are operating on different social networks, creating different communities on each of them, so when working with a KOL on Douyin, it is also possible to switch the campaign and raise awareness on other social networks.

To make your brand visible and raise attractively your brand must leverage the Chinese social network ecosystem, with Weibo and WeChat of course but also new platforms like Douyin, which has proven to be full of opportunities and new challenges for Chinese as well as international brands. This excuse new feature of the « shopping cart » on Douyin’s platform might be the thing that will push brands to invest more and more in this new marketing ecosystem.

Do you want to start selling on Douyin?

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  1. Douyin is really useful in China today, I guess they will beat WeChat …
    Bytedance(Douyin toutiao) became the world’s most valuable startup

    1. Marketers are investing into mainly KOL on douyin, and Douyin providing entertaining content to reach new consumers.
      Douyin is getting more and more popular, and is a new media for Brands.

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