Douyin has added portals that lead to online shops of its popular video posters. People browsing Douyin can now tap through to the personal store of the accounts they follow and purchase products. Previously, users wanting to buy from a Douyin publisher would see the products tagged and be redirected straight through to Taobao.

Why is such a tiny change worth reporting on? User experience and scale. Any additional step in the customer journey will see users abandon their purchase. Scale this up to Douyin’s 66 million active daily users–the short video app recently became the most downloaded non-game app in the world–and reducing customer drop off has a massive impact.

The development suggests not that Douyin or Bytedance apps in general are becoming online retail platforms in their own right, but that they are tightening their grip on sending traffic to existing retailers such as JD and Alibaba’s Taobao and TMall.

JD has been signing deals with all the big players such as Jinri Toutiao (a sister app to Douyin under rapidly internationalizing ByteDance), Qihoo 360, NetEase, Tencent and Baidu. The various agreements help JD suck in more traffic to its product pages. 

Alibaba tried to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in Jinri Toutiao in April, no doubt as part of plans to rejig the ways in which users are funneled through to retailers. Jinri Toutiao had 232 million active monthly users at the end of 2017.

However, looking at Jinri Toutiao’s shopping element, Tencent News reports (in Chinese) that there has been a reordering of shopping channels within the news app. Users have been migrated to having one-tap access to shopping within the app, but the ranking of shopping channels has been heading in Alibaba’s favor. The top three channels are now all Alibaba-owned, with JD in bottom position.

Douyin and rival Kuaishou have recently been accused of carrying videos of sellers pushing counterfeit goods. Sellers would show their WeChat account details for viewers to look up. Douyin promised to identify and stop such practices.

Frank Hersey is a Beijing-based tech reporter who's been coming to China since 2001. He tries to go beyond the headlines to explain the context and impact of developments in China's tech sector. Get in...

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