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Fulfilled by TikTok: How Businesses Evolve

17 Aug 2023

Dan Tull


TikTok Takes Its First Steps On The Evolutionary Chain

In the ever-changing landscape of commerce, adaptation is the key to success. Just as the tech giant Google metamorphosed from its origins as a humble search engine into an expansive tech powerhouse, businesses today continue to seek innovative ways to diversify and thrive. 

In recent developments, social media giant TikTok have unveiled 'Fulfilled by TikTok' (FBT), a groundbreaking logistics program poised to reshape the way merchants operating on TikTok Shop in the UK connect with their audience and propel their enterprises forward.

FBT is a dynamic logistics solution tailored for the UK market, streamlining the entire process from storage to delivery, and allowing merchants to transcend the complexities of supply chain management. With FBT, the intricate web of order fulfilment is unwoven, granting merchants the freedom to channel their energy into pivotal facets of their venture – from strategic marketing initiatives to enriching content creation and the relentless pursuit of product innovation.

Engaging directly with buyers, the platform's instant messaging service fosters a direct line of communication, while a dedicated team of customer service professionals stands ready to amplify support, ultimately translating into elevated customer ratings. 

This is certainly a sensible and useful next step for TikTok, and it also demonstrates that businesses don’t have to be bound by their original purpose. Therefore, let’s have a look at some of the most successful brand pivots from the past decade. 



Unsurprisingly, Amazon is on this list. When Amazon started out, their mission was clear, it was an online bookstore. As time went on, the strengths of Amazon’s logistics and supply chain were recognised as the key metric to the success of the business, and thus more features became available, such as Amazon Marketplace that we all know and love. 

Interestingly, the developments didn’t stop there, and Amazon started making movements into the technology sector, cornering their own slice of the market with the ever popular Kindle and eventually the smart home market with Alexa. Now we even have big budget TV shows being produced by Amazon Studios. Truly, a far cry away from a digital bookstore. 



This one might come as a surprise, as whilst Instagram has found such success in most people's pockets as the go to social media platform for photo sharing, did you know that it originally started as something completely different? 

Instagram's journey begins with the creation of "Burbn" by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger. Originally conceived as a location-based social networking app, Burbn allowed users to check in, make plans, and post photos. The app was built around the idea of combining elements of social interaction with mobile photography.

While Burbn showed potential, Systrom and Krieger recognised that the photo-sharing feature was gaining significant traction among users. They decided to focus on enhancing this aspect of the app and simplifying its functionality. This decision marked a pivotal shift in the app's direction.

The founders stripped down the app's features to prioritise photo sharing. They also noticed that users enjoyed applying filters to their photos, enhancing their visual appeal. This led to the introduction of the iconic filters that would become a hallmark of Instagram. In October 2010, the revamped app was relaunched under the name "Instagram," a blend of "instant camera" and "telegram." 

Instagram's success paved the way for the development of an entire ecosystem, including third-party apps for editing, analytics, and scheduling posts. This ecosystem further enriched the user experience and expanded Instagram's reach. Instagram's evolution continued with the launch of IGTV, a platform for longer-form videos. This move aimed to compete with emerging video-sharing platforms and capitalise on the popularity of video content.

This is a great example of how an initial idea may just need a slight touch of refinement to reach its fullest potential. 



Another tech giant on this list (There’s a theme here!) that started out life as something seemingly humble and specific that then expanded a tremendous amount. 

Google was founded in 1998 by Larry Page and Sergey Brin as a search engine with a mission to organise the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful. Its innovative PageRank algorithm revolutionised online search by providing more relevant and accurate results.

Google's first major diversification move was the introduction of AdWords in 2000, a pay-per-click advertising system that displayed ads alongside search results. This marked the beginning of Google's monetization efforts and established the company as a leader in online advertising.

Google expanded its services through strategic acquisitions. In 2006, it acquired YouTube, the world's largest video-sharing platform. This move not only broadened Google's reach but also positioned it as a dominant player in online video content.

In 2005, Google launched Google Maps, an innovative mapping and navigation service that changed how people interacted with geographic information. This laid the foundation for location-based services and later led to the development of Google Earth and Google Street View.

The launch of Google Cloud Platform (GCP) in 2008 took Google into the world of cloud computing. GCP offers a range of cloud-based services including computing, storage, and data analytics, competing with industry leaders like Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure. Google introduced G Suite (now known as Google Workspace) in 2006, offering a suite of cloud-based productivity and collaboration tools such as Gmail, Google Drive, Docs, Sheets, and Slides. This move aimed to compete with Microsoft Office and cater to business users. 

Later, Google ventured into hardware with products like the Nexus series of smartphones and later the Pixel line. The acquisition of Motorola Mobility in 2012 provided Google with valuable patents and hardware expertise.

What’s The Running Theme Here?

The success of all these businesses (and many others) has been defined by being able to adapt to the market and pivot their service offerings. This does not necessarily mean abandoning the original mission statement, but it does mean that they have been open to entering into new markets. These markets are often competitive, so success is not guaranteed but there are some great lessons to be taken away from these success stories. 

  • Risk Mitigation: Diversification spreads business interests across different industries or markets, reducing the impact of fluctuations in a single sector and protecting against unforeseen challenges.
  • Steady Revenue Streams: Operating in multiple markets or offering a range of products/services helps maintain consistent revenue streams, even if one area experiences a downturn.
  • Market Opportunity: Diversification allows businesses to tap into new markets, customer segments, and emerging trends, expanding their customer base and revenue potential.
  • Innovation and Adaptability: Exploring diverse areas encourages innovative thinking and adaptation to changing environments, fostering long-term growth and competitiveness.
  • Portfolio Synergy: A diversified portfolio can create synergies among different business units, optimising resource allocation, sharing expertise, and maximising overall operational efficiency.

With the implementation of Fulfilled by TikTok, we are witnessing the first big steps from one of the biggest social media platforms into a diversified space. TikTok has thus far remained a single service business, staking its entire revenue structure around content creation. With FBT, they are now stepping into the world of e-commerce and logistics which will present its own challenges and rewards. 

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