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Despite a successful Singles’ Day, ByteDance faces internal divide over e-commerce strategy

Written by Song Jingli Published on 

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ByteDance’s e-commerce unit reportedly prefers a standalone shopping site similar to Tmall.

ByteDance revealed on Thursday that total gross merchandise volume (GMV) on its Douyin short video and livestreaming platform reached RMB 18.7 billion (USD 2.8 billion) between October 25 and November 11, during China’s Singles’ Day shopping festival. GMV on November 11 surpassed RMB 2 billion (USD 300 million).

More than 100 livestreaming studios reaped RMB 10 million (USD 1.5 million) in a single session while more than 1,383 studios collected RMB 1 million. The number of watchers for a single livestreaming session peaked at 4.28 million.

E-commerce giant Alibaba, which first coined the Singles’ Day promotion on November 11, generated RMB 498.2 billion (USD 74.1 billion) in its extended event from November 1 to November 11, while JD.com registered RMB 275.1 billion (USD 40.9 billion) in GMV over the same time frame.

While ByteDance’s performance is still dwarfed by the established players, it marks a great achievement for a company which is firstly famous for its content—news on Jinri Toutiao and short videos on Douyin—and a newcomer on Singles’ Day. The company first participated in 2019, creating a festival called Haowu Faxian Jie—which means ‘a good time to seek goods things’—but did not reveal any sales data. This year, ByteDance created a bonanza called Douyin Chongfen Jie—’a good time to treat and love your fans’—to persuade its users to shop while watching livestreaming.

Despite the success, ByteDance isn’t convinced on how to further develop the e-commerce segment.

Chinese media outlet Late Post reported on Thursday that the company plans to make e-commerce one of its priorities for next year, together with a search engine and longer videos. To avoid conflicts, it would combine its Dianshang Yinliu and Luban Dianshang units—which are in charge of advertisement and are directing users to third-party platforms such as Taobao or JD.com—with the newly established e-commerce department for Douyin.

Read this: TECH PANO | Singles’ Day signals China’s post-pandemic economic recovery

When contacted by KrASIA on Friday, ByteDance emphasized that Dianshang Yinliu and Luban Dianshang both belong to the monetization department, which is now in close cooperation with the e-commerce unit that was set up in June, indicating that they still operate separately.

Late Post wrote that ByteDance will build a shopping feature on top of the Douyin app, a plan that the company did not want to confirm. Critics of the idea argue that the change might erode Douyin’s advantage of first connecting its content with fans and only later with goods. Late Post also reported that “Bob” Kang Zeyu, head of the e-commerce department, would prefer a standalone e-commerce site similar to Tmall.

ByteDance responded to KrASIA that the department has not started to build such a site.

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