- Fanno is the new online shopping app launched by TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance.
- The platform is one of the ways ByteDance is trying to diversify its business.
- I bought $100 worth of products on the site, but the quality was often hit or miss.
A bizarre app has skyrocketed the App Store rankings in recent months, promising to deliver items ranging from toys to household essentials to customers at rock-bottom prices.
Fanno is an e-commerce app developed by ByteDance, the company behind the short video app TikTok. The app connects low-cost Chinese manufacturers with customers in five markets across Europe. It sells tchotchkes like fishing rods for $3.80 and “leather jackets” for $24, like AliExpress or Wish.com.
“It’s something [ByteDance] gotta try,” Rui Ma, a tech investor and creator of Tech Buzz China, told Insider. Already dominating in the short video space, ByteDance is looking for its next big thing, and e-commerce is a lucrative area to tap into. The potential is huge too: TikTok itself is getting into integrated e-commerce, and Fanno’s development could help ByteDance grow its shopping infrastructure.
Intrigued by the prospect of buying things I don’t need at Insider’s expense, I decided to give Fanno a shot.
Just after Christmas I downloaded the app and started browsing.
In all, I purchased 25 items, all for less than $100. I bought everything from nail polish and a smartwatch, to a pizza shovel that looked like a promising bet in my quest to make the best Neapolitans at home.
Introductory offers, a series of vouchers and free shipping reduced the cost of my purchase by 21%. If I had paid for the items at the ticket price shown on Fanno before the discounts, it would have cost me £86.41 ($117.51).
Placing an order was easy, with debit, credit and PayPal accepted. I was amazed at how many items I got for such a low price. Now it was a waiting game.
Considering the disruption to the global supply chain network and the impact this was having on the time it takes to ship items, I imagined I was going to be waiting a long time. It was. It took about two weeks for all my items to arrive.
Fanno is ByteDance’s latest entry into e-commerce, an area of growing interest among social media platforms.
Instagram and Facebook offer users the ability to purchase items directly within the app – something TikTok is doing with its own TikTok Shop platform, based on the e-commerce platform that its Chinese equivalent, Douyin, has since owned. years.
But Fanno is different – a standalone app, rather than something built into TikTok. Ma said Fanno is a useful opportunity for ByteDance due to the relative immaturity of the e-commerce market in the Western world compared to China. While the Chinese market is used to several e-commerce platforms from TaoBao and Alibaba, the Western market is still mostly dominated by Amazon. Ma sees the market as ready to be disrupted by a fast-growing insurgent like Fanno.
“It’s just one of those obvious ones that you have to try, given how the rest of the world is developing,” Ma said.
A ByteDance spokesperson told Insider, “Fanno is an early-stage e-commerce marketplace, which aims to provide profitable products to customers in a small number of countries in Europe. Reflecting the fact that it is Still a nascent proposition, Fanno is constantly evolving as we seek to reflect customer and merchant feedback to further refine the shopping experience.”
On January 19, my first package finally arrived.
It was a smartwatch from a Chinese manufacturer that was inspired by Apple or Samsung. The watch cost me £5.46 ($7.41) before I used a coupon, and £4.51 ($6.12) after – less than sales tax on some high-end watches. It looked stylish and was worth way more than it cost.
On my wrist, with its screen off, it was indistinguishable from more expensive smartwatches on the market.
The watch can track my pulse, blood pressure, oxygen level and step count, as well as a number of sports options. If I wanted to sync it to my phone by downloading an app, I could also access text messages. But I decided not to.
While there’s no suggestion that the watch app is doing anything malicious, after consulting with a security analyst, I didn’t feel comfortable linking it to my full phone. of contacts. Such a cheap watch, from an unnamed manufacturer, seemed too good to be true. I was worried – without proof – that the app could siphon off my data.
More than a dozen other items arrived on January 22, 24 and 25 in nine separate packages. There was an undersized pizza shovel, a retro games console that worked great, cheap, chintzy jewelry and clothes, and useful kitchen gadgets — although some didn’t work.
Overall, Fanno is an unusual app that has some use, but after getting enough packages, I started seeing its downsides.
They ranged from environmentally unfriendly packaging to false advertising to products that simply didn’t work.
A garden ornament I ordered arrived wrapped in enough plastic to cover a product four or five times its size. Some were packed in several bags. They also came in multiple deliveries. I started to worry that my postman would resent me for the number of repeat packages I was asking him to deliver.
“It’s not sustainable,” Oliver Bates, who studies last mile delivery and e-commerce at Lancaster University, told me. “It feels like a fully responsive model to the on-demand nature of shopping perpetuated by similar apps.” The rise of e-commerce is contributing to an increase in transportation, as delivery drivers ply the roads and ship items around the world. Transportation already accounts for 17% of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Boston Consulting Group.
The pizza peel I ordered was advertised as 33cm. Naturally I thought that meant the diameter, but it was the size from the top of the pan to the end of the handle, which meant that all I could return were personal pans for an all- small. I ordered a pen from the site, only to receive the screw-on tips of a pen rather than the real thing.
The quality of the items varied wildly and it is difficult to discern which will be good in advance.
Electronic devices that don’t require access to your data could be a safe bet, although I don’t know if they have passed UK electrical safety tests so should be monitored. Likewise, I thought all kitchen items would be safe, but the broken colander suggests not.
Ultimately, buying on the app is all about quality and getting packages beaten and beaten before they get to your front door. That said, Fanno is still on my phone and ByteDance keeps sending me push notifications prompting me to open the app. I haven’t purchased any other items yet – but if the price was right I might take another chance.