TikTok’s Chinese version Douyin announced on Tuesday that its online sales more than tripled for the year ending in April, an impressive growth rate for the e-commerce upcomer when other majors are slowing down due to an economic downturn in China.

Why it matters: Chinese short video platforms like ByteDance-backed Douyin and Kuaishou are quickly taking away the market shares of e-commerce giants like Alibaba, JD, and Pinduoduo, thanks to their widely popular social content.

  • Douyin chose to announce sales numbers and growth plans on the eve of China’s 618 shopping festival to build momentum for the mid-year spending frenzy, a local media outlet in Chengdu reported.

READ MORE: 618 is not just about e-commerce platforms anymore

Details: Douyin’s gross merchandise value (GMV) surged 320% year-on-year in the year ending in April as the company sold more than 10 billion products, president of Douyin E-commerce Wei Wenwen said (in Chinese) at a Douyin e-commerce conference on Tuesday.

  • At the online meeting, Douyin rebranded the concept of “interest e-commerce” as “full-field interest e-commerce” after rolling out the idea last April. The company hopes to highlight its ability to attract consumers through multiple channels such as short videos, livestreaming, its search function, and more, said Wei at the conference.
  • The firm didn’t give a specific GMV figure, but people with knowledge of the matter told Caixin that Douyin achieved more than RMB 800 billion GMV in 2021 and is expected to bring in between RMB 1 trillion and RMB 1.2 trillion this year. However, the company said the figure is “inaccurate” in response to Caixin. 
  • Douyin E-commerce, which became a stand-alone business unit only two years ago, achieved fast growth by tapping into Douyin’s 600 million daily active users. Douyin generates more than 200 million short videos and holds 9 million livestream sessions per month in a bid to convert user attention to sales. 
  • Douyin’s Wei said she believes plenty of opportunity remains in the sector and that the platform aims to take more than 50% of the industry’s growth market in the future.

Context: Although still holding the lion’s share of the market, Alibaba, JD, and Pinduoduo are recording decelerated growth as they face macroeconomic headwinds, regulatory challenges, and pandemic control measures.

  • Alibaba’s global consumer-facing businesses generated RMB 8.3 trillion in GMV for the year ending in March, remaining relatively flat compared to the RMB 8.1 trillion recorded a year ago. In 2021, Pinduoduo’s GMV increased 46% year-on-year to RMB 2.4 trillion, while JD’s GMV grew 26.2% year-on-year for the same period. Kuaishou’s GMV increased 78.4% year-on-year to RMB 680 billion in 2021.
  • Douyin’s e-commerce sales dwarfed its global sibling TikTok, which reportedly achieved nearly RMB 6 billion GMV in 2021.

Emma Lee

Emma Lee (Li Xin) was TechNode's e-commerce and new retail reporter until June 2022, when she moved to Sixth Tone to cover technology and consumption. Get in touch with her via lixin@sixthtone.com or Twitter.