From start-up to becoming top free mobile app: TikTok success story

by October 22, 2019 0 comments

In what could be seen just a short span of time, short-video app TikTok, from the Chinese company Bytedance, has become one of the most downloaded and successful apps. And while it looks like an overnight success, the story behind this successful app is interesting too. The short-video app was first conceptualized with Vine back in 2012.

Although Vine was shut down, it was in 2016 when other short-video apps such as Kuaishou and Douyin were launched. And seeing the tremendous success of Douyin in China, Bytedance planned to expand into the international market in September 2017 by launching the international version of Douyin, which is called TikTok. And by January of 2018, it emerged as the top free mobile app in several countries including India.

So, what made TikTok so successful?

Well according to Counterpoint Research, TikTok’s success can be attributed to two main reasons. First, Bytedance learned from its counterpart Douyin’s experience before launching TikTok. Douyin gained huge popularity and was an extremely successful product locally. Thus, Bytedance decided to carry its experience from Douyin into TikTok. Secondly, Bytedance acquired a Musical.ly, a short video sharing site which already has large users in the US and in India. Thus, with the acquisition of Musical.ly, Bytadance was able to able to tap its userbase for TikTok quickly.

But, there were a few challenges also. While the US represented a more mature market where internet use was driven heavily by apps such as Facebook and Instagram, TikTok users were mostly teens which were a very different user group as compared to Douyin’s broader user age group in the domestic market. The teen user group gave Bytedance a difficult time to monetize the app.

And the fact that every region has different laws and regulations created additional operational challenges. In February, TikTok was fined by the US Federal Trade Commission for using children’s personal data. In May, a ban on the TikTok app cost the app nearly 15 million users in India after Google and Apple removed it from their respective app stores following a directive from the Supreme Court.

With over 600 million internet users, India is the largest market for TikTok. According to a study by Sensor Tower, the removal of the app for nearly two weeks put a significant blow to the app’s user growth in India, bringing to a halt to what has been the app’s best month yet in the country.

And despite the multiple challenges, TikTok has shown that Chinese companies can also drive internet waves to cultivate a new concept and TikTok’s success gives hope for more global successes from China.

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