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ByteDance blocks Douyin livestreamers from selling goods through Taobao and JD

The move, which the company said will serve to improve consumer safety, is another step for ByteDance towards making Douyin a fully-fledged e-commerce platform.

credit: DFIC

ByteDance has been working to establish its own e-commerce operations since early 2019, when it launched e-commerce platform Xiaodian, but is still far behind established players including Alibaba (NYSE: BABA) and JD.com (NASDAQ: JD)—having only set up an official e-commerce department in June. But that might be changing.

ByteDance confirmed with KrASIA on Friday that, as of October 9, the company will not allow Douyin users to share links to outside e-commerce platforms including Alibaba’s Taobao and JD.com when livestreaming. Such links could still be displayed inside short videos, however. Livestreamers can instead promote goods hosted on Xiaodian.

“To further protect consumers’ rights, our platform is strengthening its control over e-commerce livestreaming,” the company told KrASIA, explaining that images and all other information during livestreaming disappear instantly while information in short videos is easy to track.

China digest

The policy will inevitably force merchants—who often market products on Taobao, JD.com, and other platforms through using Douyin livestreamers—to open Xiaodian stores.

Douyin has, until now, been known as a short-video platform, with the vast majority of revenue coming from advertising. However, it has been making various attempts to enter the e-commerce sector.

The company rolled out Xiaodian in April 2019, first for users with at least 300,000 followers, allowing them to sell goods directly on Douyin to their fans. It later dropped this minimum requirement in March, granting anyone access. The number of Xiaodian stores has neared 1 million, Chinese media outlet Jiemian reported in May, citing unnamed sources.

In September 2019, ByteDance unveiled its Chuchuang feature, allowing influencers to showcase goods from external platforms including Taobao and JD.com on their personal pages and to promote goods inside short videos or during livestreaming, as reported by KrASIA back then. 

The company, which set up a central platform internally to integrate its livestreaming business in different apps, ventured into livestreaming e-commerce one year later, marked by Luo Yonghao’s attention-grabbing debut on the platform in April this year. Luo, founder of Chinese smartphone brand Smartisan, which was partly acquired by ByteDance, sold more than RMB 110 million (USD 15.5 million) worth of goods, including gadgets, snacks, and even laundry pods during his first ever e-commerce livestream on Douyin.

Learn more: Video | Will ByteDance erode Alibaba’s e-commerce dominance?