This week TikTok launched their new ‘shop’ feature, allowing users to shop in the app. Outside of Twitter and maybe Snapchat (but who’s using that these days?) it seems that shopping and social media apps are becoming increasingly similar. So, what does this say about society and consumerism?

Well, it’s difficult to say. When Instagram launched its shopping feature, and rearranged the app to make it more central, it was met with confusion and a sense of ‘we are not here to shop’. That being said, the update has not been phased out, suggesting that Instagram found the focus on shopping to be successful. 

Other than business-focused discussion on Linkedin, I’ve not seen much said about TikTok choosing to integrate shopping too. Businesses must find it somewhat effective at attracting customers on Instagram but, I’ve yet to see any store carry their entire range on the Instagram ‘view shop’ feature. For them, updating the social media shop is just another job on top of marketing and keeping their website updated. A lot of businesses have reported success upon focusing their marketing on TikTok, so surely that suggests the current model of social media marketing and a link to the business website is working well enough to not need to add another job to your to-do list, especially as a small business owner?

Apps to shop people’s clothes are not new- years ago an app called ‘The Hunt’ was designed for users to post the outfit of someone they’d seen online, mostly Instagram or Tumblr, and other users would reply with where to buy said outfit. Needless to say, you’ve probably not heard of it because it didn’t take off. Currently- 21Buttons is probably the ‘go-to’ app if you really want to shop someone’s outfit but, I wouldn’t say it’s an integral part of the fashion community. In general, if you want to know where someone on Instagram got their outfit they’ll either have tagged it or, someone in the comments will probably answer for you. 

This is all based on the most simplistic of observation and user analysis but, it seems like users don’t want to be bombarded with the ability to constantly shop. The majority of conversation I have seen about Instagram is that actually, everyone hates the algorithm and the distance it has moved from its original purpose, which was pretty much just to keep a scrapbook for your family and friends to view in real-time. If anything, the constant flow of ads and edited content has made people despise the app and everything it has become. It’s odd that an app like TikTok, so clearly in its prime, would choose to alter the basic nature of its purpose so much. 

It begs the question, is nothing safe from the thralls of consumerism? When you follow people on social media that focus on sustainability and conscious shopping it can seem like the world is moving in a better direction but decisions like this from the currently most influential platform for young people, it looks like that may not be the case.