Will TikTok’s sister app Lemon8 become the go-to channel for retailers?

TikTok’s parent company ByteDance has been pushing its social network Lemon8 in the UK and the US, helping it climb into the top 10 on America’s app stores. Will it become a new channel for retailers – or will Lemon8 be forgotten as quickly as it appeared?

Lemon8 is not new in itself – but it’s certainly a novelty to users in the West. The app stealth-launched in the US and UK markets back in February and is set to formally launch in May. It became available in Japan back in 2020.

By 2022, Lemon8 boasted five million active monthly users worldwide, expanding to Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Singapore.

ByteDance had initially distanced itself from the app, marketing Lemon8 as a product owned by a Singapore-based company Heliophilia Pte. However, a bit of research quickly revealed that Heliophilia’s address is at TikTok’s local headquarters, with Alex Zhu, former TikTok CEO, heading the app before its purchase by ByteDance.

While TikTok’s current CEO, Shou Chew, testified before the US Congress amid looming TikTok ban, ByteDance began actively promoting its alternative platform, hinting that it can be as successful as the sister company.

“ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, invites you to become a launching creator on their new Lemon8 platform before it officially rolls out in the United States!” one pitch read, according to the New York Times.

Lemon8 is described as a “lifestyle community” app, featuring a crossover between Instagram and Pinterest. It’s a video and photo-sharing social media platform catering to users’ interest in food, beauty, wellness and travel.

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Similar to TikTok, Lemon8 uses AI-powered tech to provide tailored video recommendations for users. It also offers separate categories, such as fashion and home décor, which makes it a more appealing platform for targeted advertising and commerce.

In many ways, Lemon8 is similar to another platform, Xiaohongshu [Little Red Book], the Chinese social commerce platform with 260 million monthly active users. But while it occupies a big space in China’s social networking and e-commerce market, Lemon8 is eager to repeat its success in the West.

While Lemon8 can’t currently boast of any big user names, many micro-influencers are already on the platform. A hashtag #Lemon8partner featured on many posts suggests that Lemon8 paid creators to start posting on the app to manufacture the platform’s popularity.

Lemon8: a new channel for retailers?

According to data cited by Fast Company, Lemon8 has been downloaded 17 million times globally since its March 2020 launch, and then 650,000 times in just the United States over the past week and a half.

Overall, this made Lemon8 the top lifestyle app on the App Store and No. 7 among Google Play’s lifestyle apps.

Retailers are already actively opting for TikTok to connect with potential consumers, which became the most popular platform for social media-related shopping in early 2023.

With its strictly segmented categories and an AI-powered algorithm, Lemon8 might seem like a perfect tool for retailers to increase brand awareness and engage with customers.

However, the app might not be quite there yet. It’s currently unclear how can content be monetised on the platform. Additionally, investors might be hesitant to pour their money into ByteDance-affiliated app amid recent controversy with the US government.

Although Lemon8 now relies primarily on splashy advertisements and influencer endorsement through its sister app, there is something the platform borrows from Xiaohongshu – “zhongcao” or “planting grass.”

In literal terms, it relates to the desire to buy something after seeing a peer or influencer recommend it. Whether Lemon8’s version of zhongcao performs well in the UK is yet to be seen.

Once Lemon8 officially launches, retailers eyeing the platform will have to consider its specifics, such as the app’s reliance on influencer marketing rather than content creation. Brands will likely have to pay influencers to showcase their products – but if TikTok does face additional bans, Lemon8 might serve as a valuable replacement with a similar algorithm.

Apps & MobileArtificial IntelligenceBig TechNews


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