ByteDance’s short video app Douyin will reportedly launch food delivery services in all major Chinese cities on March 1, following internal testing in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou. A clear indicator is that the Beijing-based tech giant, which is also TikTok’s parent company, has been recruiting senior operation managers for food delivery, solution-makers within the takeaway industry, and senior managers of live-streamed catering businesses.
Chinese web users quickly started discussing the topic on the country’s Twitter-like platform Weibo. One wrote, “This is a new idea for online celebrities. Cooking and live-streaming can ensure the freshness of food,” while another wrote, “It doesn’t matter who cooks. As a customer, I prefer high-cost performance.”
In response, a spokesperson for Douyin said that “food delivery services for group purchasing” are still being piloted in Beijing, Shanghai and Chengdu, and merchants in these three cities can set up operations on the platform. Depending on the pilot situation, Douyin will consider gradually expanding the pilot cities, although there is no specific timetable at present. The difference between group purchasing distribution and ordinary food delivery is that users can only choose group purchase packages that were already set up by merchants.
As early as last July, Douyin began to test the service in Beijing, Shanghai and other cities. After users fill in their address and pay, the order can be delivered directly to their home.
Throughout the past two years, Douyin has been constantly exploring the food delivery business sector. In July, 2021, a take-out business named “Xindong Waimai” was tested within Douyin. However, five months later, the internal testing was suspended, and related mini-programs were also removed from online shelves. At the end of April, 2022, Douyin started to set up local teams to provide convenient services that could meet daily user needs. Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Hangzhou and other Chinese cities served as the first batch of key cities for these efforts.
Douyin can no longer avoid competition with Ele.me and Meituan, two other major Chinese food delivery giants. In the very early stages, Douyin had no independent logistics operations, so orders placed by its users needed to be delivered by merchants themselves. These merchants even needed to access consumers’ private WeChat accounts and ask them to fill in their address and other information. On December 5, 2022, third-party distribution platforms like Dada, FlashEx and SF Express announced that they had formally reached cooperation with Douyin.
However, performance efficiency still represents Douyin’s primary shortcoming. When using Meituan and Ele.me, the average delivery time for meals typically falls within 40 minutes, a speed that depends on these platforms’ huge distribution teams and their ability to distribute multiple orders at the same time. Douyin’s partners, FlashEx and SF Express, lag behind professional take-out platforms in terms of scale and efficiency.
At the beginning of last year, Kuaishou, Douyin’s rival in the short video field, announced cooperation with SF Express to provide instant delivery services. In June last year, Xin Lijun, CEO of JD.com‘a retail arm, revealed that the e-commerce giant was studying the possibility of entering the takeaway field.