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TikTok wants to open warehouses

Last week, Axios revealed that TikTok is looking to hire a bunch of people that can help the company build out fulfillment warehouses and an entire e-commerce supply chain system for its users. All of this was discovered through various job listings that the company has posted to LinkedIn.

Broadly speaking, this is I think interesting for two reasons. Firstly, it is an atypical approach compared to other social networks. Instagram allows people to sell stuff via its platform, but it’s done through an asset-light approach. What TikTok is doing is more Amazon meets social. (Though this is not my area of expertise and I’m going to need someone like Ben Thompson to do a deep dive into TikTok’s business model.)

Secondly, I like to think about the physical spaces that service our online activities and what any changes might mean for our cities. Today if you order something from UberEats, it may come to you from a ghost kitchen that is servicing multiple restaurant brands and various food apps, and has no front-of-house operations. Tomorrow if you order something you see on TikTok, it may come to you from one of their warehouses.

This is not any different than how Amazon works today, except for the fact that TikTok has this incredibly powerful and sticky social layer. If you take this to an extreme, it’s almost as if our physical spaces are slowly becoming back-of-house providers to front-of-house spaces that only exist somewhere online. Who needs Zuck’s metaverse, we may already be living in one.

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