When Shopee launched in Southeast Asia in 2015, its first few years of parabolic GMV growth were rightly heralded as unprecedented and as a game-changer for the region’s e-commerce landscape. Shopee quickly reached, and eventually overtook, Lazada’s lead as the region’s largest player, and their rivalry has defined the market ever since. Worthy contenders have emerged in the meantime – such as Tokopedia in Indonesia – but none have made the leap from local to regional prominence.
Not until now. For while mainstream media attention on TikTok focuses on its privacy challenges in Western markets, the company is rapidly recasting itself as a serious force in e-commerce in Southeast Asia. The most important takeaway: TikTok has become the most credible threat to Shopee and Lazada to date and will have a massive impact on how e-commerce is done in Southeast Asia.
Three recent insights support this narrative:
- The Information, a well-reputed American tech site, reported earlier in January that TikTok Shop’s Southeast Asia Gross Merchandise Value (GMV) reached US$4.4 billion in 2022, and grew more than 4x since 2021. This makes TikTok the fastest-growing e-commerce platform in Southeast Asia, and the first player ever to cross US$ 4 billion in GMV within two years. TikTok’s fast growth has undoubtedly been helped by the fact that the overall e-commerce landscape in Southeast Asia is much larger now than when Shopee or Lazada started, but that also means TikTok has had to compete in a much more crowded environment than they emerged in.
- TikTok has recently released a slew of new e-commerce features in Southeast Asia. One of those features is Shopping Centre, currently live in Indonesia, which adds a multi-seller e-commerce destination page to TikTok. The Shopping Centre home screen is nearly identical to the home screen of Shopee or Lazada, featuring navigation based on categories and search. This new functionality is useful for e-commerce journeys with more planning, product comparison, and consideration, which has previously not been TikTok Shop’s strong suit
- While many tech giants are announcing layoffs or hiring freezes, including Shopee which has carried out at least three rounds of layoffs, TikTok is hiring intensely for e-commerce roles in Southeast Asia. A search of its recruiting website carried out on 25th January 2023 shows a total of 556 open roles with the word ‘e-commerce’ in the job title across TikTok’s seven offices in Southeast Asia.
While TikTok is certain to grow its e-commerce sales rapidly in 2023 and become an increasingly important player in the region’s digital retail market, many questions remain. These include concerns about whether TikTok can expand its scope of e-commerce significantly beyond impulse-heavy shopping and offer a compelling search-led purchase experience, and whether it will be able to appeal to sellers who need to market their products in a highly branded and controlled environment.
Whatever happens next, we are here to help brands, retails, and investors make sense of it and act first. This includes our new MeterCubeTM for TikTok Shop subscription, which provides reliable and actionable TikTok Shop insights for online sellers on a recurring basis. MeterCubeTM for TikTok Shop includes dozens of actionable insights including:
- Continuously updated lists of the largest influencer and brand accounts on TikTok, categorized by market and category focus
- Comprehensive TikTok influencer insights including content engagement stats and affiliate insights
- Robust competitor insights including assortment and price/promotion tracking, live shopping sales insights, and reseller network mapping
- Market size and share estimates for individual consumer categories, updated every quarter
MeterCubeTM for TikTok is live for Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, and The Philippines. Please contact Simon Torring on firstname.lastname@example.org to hear more now.