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New TikTok Feature: Image Search for TikTok Shop

TikTok is testing out a new feature – Read for more details

Online shop with TikTok?

TikTok is making a determined push to become a major player in online shopping, aiming to maximize its revenue opportunities. However, many users are still puzzled about transitioning from watching short-form videos to making purchases within the app.


Despite the challenges, TikTok is gradually making progress. A recent report by Dash Hudson reveals that TikTok Shop has climbed to the ninth-largest online beauty and wellness retailer in the U.S. and the second-largest in the U.K.


User spending within the app is also on the rise. Nevertheless, TikTok has yet to achieve the same level of in-stream shopping success seen in its Chinese counterpart, Douyin. Douyin is the Chinese version of TikTok, both of which are owned by the Chinese tech company ByteDance.

Launched in September 2016, Douyin operates exclusively in China, offering a platform for users to create, share, and discover short-form videos, much like TikTok. Despite their similar interfaces and functionalities, Douyin and TikTok are separate entities, each tailored to comply with the regulatory environments and cultural preferences of their respective markets.

About the new feature

This week, TikTok has expanded its test of image search functionality, enabling users to search for product listings based on a visual example. Screenshots show that users can now tap the camera icon in the search bar of the “Shop” tab, allowing them to take a photo or use an image from their camera roll to find similar products.

TikTok has been testing this feature in selected markets over the past year, with some users sharing their experiences.

TikTok’s motives

While image search itself is not a novel concept—Google, Pinterest, and Amazon offer similar features—this addition is another step in TikTok’s ongoing effort to shift user behaviors around product discovery within the app.

In Europe, TikTok’s initial push into shopping in 2022 faced setbacks due to internal conflicts and limited user interest, leading to a scaled-back approach. The company restructured its shopping strategy for the region last year but has reportedly put these plans on hold to focus more on the U.S. market, where there is increasing shopping interest.

The driving force behind this push is the success of Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, where in-app sales are the largest revenue generator. In 2023, Douyin’s e-commerce sales reached nearly $300 billion. In contrast, TikTok users spent an estimated $3.8 billion in the app in the same year, a 15% year-over-year increase, indicating growing traction but still far from ByteDance’s expectations.

For more on TikTok’s latest feature updates, read here.

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