The Future. The bizarre TikTok trend where users livestream themselves as non-playable characters (NPC) in video games for tips may be a sign that American culture is ready for social shopping. That’s key for TikTok, which wants to become a shopping giant that could rival Amazon but hasn’t yet been able to capitalize on organic trends like #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt. While TikTok is trying to normalize and incentivize going live, the concept’s success may really be determined by how many influencers are willing to mix entertainment and commerce.
Bots and bags
Why could the NPC livestream craze be a precursor to TikTok’s shopping ambitions?
- TikTok expects to sell $20 billion in merch on the platform this year … but it’ll need livestream-shopping to take off to reach that goal.
- The company’s livestream-shopping is already a hit in Southeast Asia, but a test in the UK went poorly, making execs nervous.
- Still, the strange NPC livestream trend (some creators make up to $10,000 a day) has demonstrated people are willing to “go live,” and fans will organically show up and shell out cash.
The ultimate hope is TikTok can make livestream shopping catch on by tapping niche communities on the platform (think #BookTok or #FoodTok), where users will regularly buy items as they scroll through videos — with the company handling everything from payments to customer service. It’s a strategy TikTok calls “community commerce.”
That dream hasn’t panned out for rivals like Amazon, YouTube, and Meta, which have introduced and then quickly shuttered or curtailed live-shopping features. But maybe TikTok’s audience and algorithm are the missing ingredients.
So, don’t be surprised if popular NPC streamers start moving products by just lifting them and yelling, “Buy! Buy! Buy!” It could happen…