Shein dethrones Amazon as the most downloaded US shopping app

It’s hard to imagine a clothing company could upset Amazon, but Shein(Opens in a new window) (pronounced “shee-in”) did, at least in terms of app downloads.

The China-based company has overtaken Amazon in terms of overall app downloads in 2021, but the first half of 2022 marks the first time it has eclipsed Amazon in the US – with 22.4 million Shein downloads compared to Amazon’s 22 million, according to a new report from Apptopia(Opens in a new window).

It’s a small margin, but significant for a company founded barely 10 years ago. Shein has grabbed headlines for its explosive growth, fueled by expert digital marketing and sales that make you think, “How is this possible? Thousands of new items are uploaded to its website every day, quickly landing in the shopping carts of Gen Z shoppers in 150 countries.(Opens in a new window).

Top shopping app downloads, USA, 2022

A narrow margin of 400,000 downloads pushed Shein above Amazon. (Credit: Apptopia)

But while the website’s photograph shows perfectly fitting clothes in an idyllic setting, many shoppers said they received ill-fitting and poorly made clothes, or not received any packages at all, according to Euronews.(Opens in a new window).

Add questionable work practices, such as 12-hour days of sewing clothes continuously, like PublicEye(Opens in a new window) reports, and Shein’s shine fades pretty quickly. The brand has gone from being the holy grail of e-commerce – a place where shoppers can find something they love at the cheapest price they’ve ever seen – to headlining “fast fashion”. .

SHEIN website, clothing offers

Shein’s latest items, all of which are under $30. In the sale section, most items are between $5 and $10. (Credit: PCMag)

Fast fashion is broadly defined(Opens in a new window) like cheap, mass-produced clothes designed to satisfy passing trends. It is a negative term, usually associated with unethical environmental and labor practices. The antidote to this is known as “slow fashion,” where shoppers — many of whom are also Gen Z — are increasingly fighting back by seeking American-made and second-hand clothes.(Opens in a new window).

So why all the app downloads? For perspective, Amazon’s clothing business still generates more revenue than Shein. In 2021, Shein raised $16 billion, according to Bloomberg(Opens in a new window). In 2020, Amazon’s apparel business had already hit $41 billion in revenue, eclipsing retailers like Target and Walmart as the top online clothing store, MarketWatch (Opens in a new window)reports. Once you add Amazon’s other product lines, purchased through the same app, Shein comes out of the water with a forecast of $730 billion in retail sales for 2022, Insider Intelligence(Opens in a new window) estimates.

SHEIN, Google app store

The Google App Store description reads: “Consider us your one-stop destination for all things trendy!” (Credit: PCMag)

Still, Shein deftly maneuvers the digital world, engaging her target audience with apparent ease. Consumers are encouraged to download the app to receive notifications for flash sales and coupons. Celebrity partnerships with Khloe Kardashian, Lil Nas X and Katy Perry inspire confidence in their followers. (Although many celebrities who have associated themselves with Shein have received backlash from fans for supporting him and his unethical and unsustainable practices, PageSix(Opens in a new window) reports.)

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Shein also has an influencer program(Opens in a new window) for non-celebrities. Anyone with a social media account can sign up in exchange for product offers and exposure opportunities on Shein’s Instagram.(Opens in a new window), who has 25 million followers at the time of this writing. Less formally, Shein lures anyone with a potential moment in the spotlight with, “Get featured using #SHEINforall or tag @SHEINOFFICIAL.”

For example, Instagrammer @SweetInstabella (44K followers) posts while wearing Shein. She links to the products and offers her personalized discount code provided by Shein: “Izabela”.

With this vast marketing machine, millions of people are exposed to Shein offers every day. The low-priced selection — with thousands of items in the latest colors, prints, and silhouettes — easily translates into sales among Gen Z shoppers looking for bargains. Everyone loves a bargain and downloading an app is a small price to pay to access a world of fashionable haircuts.

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