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Douyin vs TikTok: decoding the unique features and marketing strategies of the two sister apps

With a network consisting of more than 1 billion users at the end of 2022, China holds the world’s largest number of netizens. The country boasts an extremely developed system of social media platforms, each with its own distinct features. These platforms offer a wide range of services to users, from simple social media functionalities to in-app payments. One prominent example is Douyin, which was launched in 2016, whereas its western counterpart, TikTok, has seen the light only one year later. Although the two apps may initially appear similar, they differ in some significant ways.

TikTok and Douyin under a common parent company

Generating a revenue of more than 85 billion USD in 2022, the short video app market in China is very profitable. Therefore, the competition among the companies is fierce. Since 2016, Bytedance dominates the market with its platform “Douyin” (抖音), which counted approximately 730 million MAUs at the end of 2022, and more than 44 billion downloads on the Huawei app gallery as of June 2023.

The distribution of downloads in the country is quite homogeneous, with more people concentrated in low-tier cities, especially 2nd and 3rd tier, accounting for approximately 41% of the total users. The same company released Douyin’s western counterpart TikTok through the 1 billion USD acquisition of an older short-video app, As of 2022, TikTok generated over 9.4 billion USD in revenue, while the downloads from iOS and Android combined reached approximately 246 million downloads in Q1 2023.

Douyin vs Tiktok
Source:, designed by Daxue Consulting, Monthly Active Users of Chinese short video platforms as of November 2022

Douyin vs TikTok: two faces of the same coin

Despite the apps seem identical at first glance, the differences between Douyin and TikTok are extremely marked. First, TikTok is not available in China. On the contrary, Douyin is also available in the West.

One notable contrast is the “Douyin Window” (抖音橱窗) feature exclusive to Douyin. It enables users to make real-time in-app purchases during livestreams using “Douyin Pay” and other e-payments services. This allows users to buy products directly within the app.

Furthermore, on Douyin merchants can upload short videos to showcase their products, making it convenient for users to shop without leaving the app.

Video length also sets the platforms apart. Douyin, being a shopping app, permits videos up to five minutes long. On the other hand, TikTok primarily focuses on shorter videos. However, TikTok recently extended its video length limit to 10 minutes.

Attracting more Gen Z: TikTok has a younger user base than Douyin

The differences between Douyin and TikTok go beyond their core functions: their user bases are also a significant factor that sets these platforms apart from each other. TikTok boasts a huge Gen Z user base, with people from 18 to 24 years old accounting for 43% of the consumers. Younger generations also represent Douyin’s backbone, however, with roughly 33% of the total users, Gen Z presence in the Chinese platform is weaker.

The two apps differ even when the users’ gender distribution is concerned: Douyin has a stronger male presence, accounting for 54% as of November 2022; while, in the same period, 57% of TikTok users were female.

Differences in trends and marketing: Douyin is pushing on creating its own shopping mall

In occasion of the 2023 618 festival, Douyin expanded its e-commerce offerings within the app, introducing multiple self-operated businesses. On 2023 January 28th, the platform ushered in its “Douyin supermarket” (抖音超市) and a self-operated beauty products store allowing users to purchase the items promoted during the event directly on the short-video app.

In addition to beauty items, the the short-video platform now offers a fast-fashion shopping section called “飞云织上” (Feiyunzhishang), as well as a section dedicated to selling wine, called “抖音电商酒类旗舰店” (Douyin e-commerce alcohol flagship store).

Douyin shopping mall
Source:, homepage of the “Douyin shopping mall” (抖音超市)

Leveraging the popularity of influencers to boost sales

The Chinese platform effectively leverages brand ambassadors, KOLs, and KOCs to promote products and raise awareness. In contrast, TikTok lacks a robust in-app e-commerce network, relying mainly on famous influencers for product promotion.

In the first half of 2022, TikTok attempted to introduce live commerce in the UK and other European countries. However, the initiative faced challenges as influencers did not support the project, resulting in a flop. This was primarily due to the fact that Western users are not accustomed to this type of purchasing method, especially considering that the TikTok user base predominantly consists of younger individuals with lower purchasing power.

Douyin vs TIktok
Designed by Daxue Consulting, summary table of the differences between TikTok and Douyin

Douyin vs TikTok: so similar yet so different

  • China has the world’s biggest netizens base, and its short-video market is extremely developed.
  • As of 2023, Douyin and TikTok (both developed by Bytedance) are dominating China’s and the world’s short-video apps market.
  • TikTok and Douyin share the same parent company, but differ in many aspects.
  • Douyin has its own self-operated e-commerce where users can carry out in-app purchases.
  • Gen Z is the backbone of both apps, representing around 40% of users in each platform. Douyin’s users are mostly males, whereas TikTok has a stronger female presence.
  • At the beginning of 2023, Douyin expanded its e-commerce introducing self-operated businesses, which initially mostly dealt with beauty products. Later the same year, more sections were added, such as a self-operated fast fashion section and a program specifically developed for selling wine. Meanwhile, TikTok tried to launch a live commerce project in the UK and the EU, but failed.
  • Douyin’s marketing strategy relies on brand ambassadors and KOLs to promote different products. Whereas TikTok hasn’t got such a developed e-commerce network and still depends on influencers.