TikTok Shop Til You Drop

TikTok Shop Is So Easy to Use It’s Actually Dangerous

And not everyone’s happy about the app becoming a virtual mall.
TikTok Shop Is So Easy to Use Its Actually Dangerous

I have a love-hate relationship with TikTok. I’ll spend a few weeks addicted to my FYP, swiping endlessly in a black hole of content, but then I’ll grow tired of it. Recently TikTok and I have been very much in the “off” stage. But just when I was out, they pulled me back in. And it’s all thanks to TikTok Shop.

For the uninitiated, TikTok Shop is a nascent shopping integration on the TikTok app with a goal of, eventually, making the social media platform a one-stop shop for ecommerce. The vision is an entire ecosystem in which sellers can hawk their wares to consumers directly, creators can shill sponcon, and consumers can buy things, all without ever leaving the app. A TikTok spokesperson tells Glamour the new venture was dreamed up to meet customer demand and is aimed at “exploring new ways to enhance the TikTok experience.”

“We’ve seen the positive impact of TikTok Shop, and we’re excited to continue experimenting with this new commerce opportunity to support businesses of all sizes and enable our community to discover and engage with products they love,” the spokesperson says.

Right now TikTok Shop is still in the testing phase, with plans to roll it out to everyone sometime later this year. (I am one of the lucky ones; my account was selected to be in beta testing for the feature.) When the Shop first appeared in videos on my feed, my initial reaction was, “Oh wow!” And then, “Oh no.”

I’m no online shopping novice—I can swipe up and LTK and link in bio with the best of them—but TikTok Shop’s user experience is so seamless, so user friendly, it’s almost creepy. It’s definitely dangerous.

I came upon the Shop while scrolling through my FYP last week. The video was from a creator named Bethany, who was doing a try-on video of what she deemed the “viral TikTok Shop tank top.”

“The viral tank top that says you don’t have to wear a bra?” she says, showing off the green ribbed tank to the camera. “Let’s find out.”

I’d never heard of this tank top, nor was I previously aware there even was a tank top that TikTok had crowned as “viral.” (Really, can’t any piece of clothing become “viral” if you just say it with confidence?) However, I didn’t have to google to find this tank, or even search the app. There, with a helpful little shopping cart icon in orange right under Bethany’s face, was a TikTok Shop link to the tank.

Of course I clicked it. What loaded was quite possibly the easiest online shopping experience I have ever experienced. Not only could I see the aforementioned tank, but I could see its price and reviews (with photos!), all right there in the app. Adding to cart took one click, and I was immediately sent to a page where I could buy the tank top. Again, all still within the app. A few clicks later, I could add my address, credit card, and—bam, purchased.

My first thought was, Wow, this is so easy! It’s almost like one-tap shopping. Now when I see something while scrolling through TikTok—a baby shower cap that will make washing my daughter’s hair easier (spoiler alert, it did not), a ball ice cube tray (I’m tempted), an entire haul of clothes from random boutiques—I don’t even need to take the not-at-all cumbersome step of going to Amazon to purchase it.

That’s where the danger comes in: TikTok Shop may be breaking down my last line of defense, that split second between closing one app and opening another one when I can ask myself, “Do I really need this, though?”

While the ease and simplicity of the shop does give me a bit of a thrill, it also gives me pause. Is this shopping experience too easy? Like maybe the ability to buy literally anything that someone proclaims as “viral” on TikTok in as much effort as it takes to hit “like” on a post seems bad for both my personal finances and the environment?

That ease is how TikTok has been pushing Shop to sellers, writing on its website that hosting the entire purchase experience in the app means “higher conversion and sales.” To lure shop owners, they tout statistics like the fact that there are 47.6 billion views of the #tiktokmademebuyit hashtag on the app, that 92% of TikTok users have said they “take action” after seeing a product on the app, and that 90% are satisfied with their experience buying products they see on the app. While TikTok does approve all shops, it’s easy to set one up. All you need is a passport or driver’s license, and of course, a TikTok account.

Excited entrepreneurs have been posting about setting up their Shops, with one, HappySoulSisters, even making a video of their very first order, which has since been viewed more than 8 million times. In an update, the shop shared they had gotten 800 orders in just four days from their new storefront.

“This is insane,” they wrote. “Thank you to everyone who has ordered. You guys are amazing.”

Among potential customers, the reaction to the Shop rollout has been more mixed. As much as people love online shopping and the ease of use, some users have been complaining that TikTok Shop has turned their feeds into shops, ads, and consumerism. (TikTok didn’t comment on these complaints).

“Most of them are just straight up boring or annoying,” wrote one creator, who also dissed the meme game of most of these shops as basic.

“The TikTok Shop has literally made this app into one big ad,” wrote one unhappy TikToker. “Think you are watching TikTok? Wrong. You are watching someone market their dropshipping product.”

Others had similar concerns to mine, with one creator pointing out that it’s perhaps too easy to be able to shop at Revolve straight from the app. To emphasize, she proceeded to post multiple other Revolve haul videos, which, she notes, she ordered “right here on TikTok.”

If we aren’t all careful, that TikTok scrolling addiction could very likely turn into a scrolling and buying addiction. But in truth, it already has.

“Once u started shopping on tiktok u can’t stop,” wrote one person on Twitter. Ain’t that the truth.