Bytedance builds walls for its budding e-commerce ecosystem

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China’s tech world consists of multiple and loosely connected empires or ecosystems, led by three tech kings collectively known as BAT (Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent). While the old kings expand the scope of their kingdoms to capture more and more of our daily lives, a fourth fiefdom is quickly expanding its boundaries: Bytedance.

In the last two years, the rise of a new kind of online retail has created an opportunity for Bytedance to jump into the biggest arena in all of China tech: e-commerce. While livestreaming e-commerce is still small relative to overall e-commerce, the QVC-like format has seen massive growth since last year. With an edge in video, Douyin, the Chinese version of Tiktok, is riding the e-commerce livestream wave into the rich home waters of Alibaba, JD, and Pinduoduo.

The short video giant first got involved in e-commerce by referring traffic to e-commerce giants like Alibaba and JD. It was being paid for sharing the traffic, and kept its hands off the more lucrative e-commerce business.

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