TikTok comes for Google as it quietly rolls out image search capabilities in TikTok Shop
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TikTok comes for Google as it quietly rolls out image search capabilities in TikTok Shop

After leading the social media landscape, TikTok appears to be interested in challenging Google’s dominance in search. The company confirmed to TechCrunch that it’s testing the ability for users to take or upload a photo to find similar products in TikTok Shop.

The feature, which was first spotted by X user Jonah Manzano, is available to all users in the United States and Southeast Asia. Users who have access to the new feature will see it in the form of a camera icon in the search bar in TikTok Shop.

Say you’re at a restaurant and really like the plate you’re served on. You could open up the TikTok app and snap a picture of it to find similar items available for purchase on TikTok Shop. Or say you’re online shopping and find a top you like that’s too expensive. You could save the image and then upload it to find something similar with a cheaper price tag. 

While you have always been able to search for specific items on TikTok Shop, you no longer have to rely on textual descriptions. The ability to use image search for shopping is something that Google has offered for years with Google Lens, its visual search tool. Image search is also currently offered by Amazon, another tech giant that TikTok is looking to compete with.

Two images of TikTok's new image search capabilities in TikTok Shop
Image Credits: TechCrunch/Screenshot

TikTok has already made strides in cutting into Google’s search dominance, as executives at the tech giant said back in 2022 that TikTok and Instagram are eating into its core Search product. With this new feature, TikTok is not only trying to get people to use its app when looking for new products, but it’s also hoping people will make the purchase through TikTok Shop. 

The company isn’t just coming for Google or Amazon with this new feature; it’s also looking to compete with other companies that offer image search tools for shopping, such as Klarna or even startups like Cherry.

TikTok recently revealed that TikTok Shop now has more than 15 million sellers worldwide, including over 500,000 in the U.S. It spent more than $400 million on platform safety and created a team of more than 7,500 people to help keep TikTok Shop safe.

TikTok has been betting big on e-commerce, as it sees TikTok Shop as its next big potential revenue source. The company’s e-commerce efforts are also a way for it to keep users on its app as opposed to others. By building out and expanding TikTok Shop’s capabilities, TikTok is hoping people will spend more time and money on its e-commerce product.

The company is expanding its e-commerce efforts despite facing a potential ban in the U.S. In April, President Biden signed a bill that will ban TikTok if its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, fails to sell it within a year.

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