When Temu was introduced in September 2022, it didn’t take long for shoppers to realize the app didn’t quite look like standard online shopping platforms. With an interface that includes seemingly endless scrolls of unusual items, constant “lightning sales,” and even games and spinning wheels offering free rewards, the platform has a unique aesthetic. But it’s not so much this look as the extremely low prices offered on the platform that’s drawn so many consumers to try Temu.
Originally launched in the U.S., Temu has gained millions of users and has expanded internationally at a rapid pace. It began by expanding into Canada in February 2023, the same month it aired a prominent Super Bowl ad encouraging customers to “shop like a billionaire.” In March, the company launched in Australia and New Zealand. The latest expansion is into Europe, with the company recently announcing its availability in France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, and the U.K.
How has it been able to expand so quickly, less than a year into its initial launch? And how can it keep its products so cheap? For example, a recent Fourth of July sale on the platform advertised home decor, organizers, bathroom, and kitchen essentials starting at prices as low as 18 cents. Users could also browse patio and barbecue supplies and bathing suits starting at 28 cents. These prices are almost wholesale levels, and Temu offers a rotating schedule of similar sales across categories such as fashion, automotive supplies, electronics, appliances, and toys and games.
The company calls its business model Next-Gen Manufacturing, and it involves a combination of real-time retail insights based on platform activity, streamlined manufacturing practices, and a vast network of established brands and sellers at an international scale. This network has helped fuel global expansion while continuing to drive down prices.
Another important contributor to the company’s growth has been its ubiquity on social media channels such as TikTok, Instagram, and Twitter. Shoppers often take to social media to show off their “Temu hauls,” collections of dozens of items bought for budget prices. These videos have helped spread the word about how the platform works and how surprisingly inexpensive its goods can be. They also provide opportunities to review the quality of Temu’s products and get some insight into what to expect when making purchases using its app or website.
In one recent Temu haul video, YouTuber Twisted Gypsy revealed a total of 100 items bought on the platform, largely consisting of clothing, jewelry, hair accessories, and electronics ranging from $1 to $10. The video has been viewed over 100,000 times, and there are thousands more like it from other users across social media platforms.
Reviewers on Google Play and the Apple App Store also often highlight the draw of the haul and help inform those considering whether to use the app of what they can expect.
“I love this app! I was very skeptical as I have used other popular sites or apps and have been disappointed but this is different,” said reviewer Brittnee Pankey. “I have placed 4 orders (roughly 70 items) so far and I have only been disappointed with 2 items. I was immediately granted a refund for those items without having to return them. I have yet to have to pay for shipping and the coupons are awesome. Just read the specs on the products and the reviews before you order.”
In general, reviews of the app and its products show a clear-eyed expectation for what the purchased products should be like. Shoppers may associate low cost with low quality, but Temu maintains that its low costs are the result of helping its partner brands and sellers streamline costs, then passing on the savings to the consumer. Customer reviews often bear this out.
“I have spent about $150 so far on Temu. I have loved everything so far except for one thing and I have probably bought 30 items,” said reviewer Glorys123 on the Apple App Store. “I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of most things. Some were better than others but for the price I sure can’t complain. I will be back for sure. You can’t lose even if one thing turns out not so great because it is so inexpensive.”
While attention-grabbing ads such as the company’s Super Bowl spot have certainly helped spread the word about Temu, this sort of word-of-mouth coverage is also key for any startup tech company. Reviews and videos about the platform across app stores and social media channels have no doubt been instrumental to the company’s continued user growth.
It currently lists over 50 million downloads on Google Play, where it was selected as an editor’s choice. Its aggregate star rating sits at 4.7/5. On the Apple App Store, Temu is the No. 1 shopping app and has a 4.6 aggregate star rating with over 270,000 reviews.
Temu, a Boston-based company, could continue to expand its availability to other countries. As it plans for growth in its second year of operations, the company will likely look to continue to appeal to a customer base that values low prices in general, as well as the thrill of the deals that they can hunt via lightning sales.
There’s potential for the platform to become known as a sort of online dollar store. A recent Business Insider piece quoted Twitter users as explaining that Temu is like a mix of Amazon and Dollar Tree with its combination of a wide variety of products and rock-bottom prices.
However, superstar shopping app Temu will need to be careful not to alienate its customers by offering low-quality products. The company will also need to ensure that its lightning sales continue to offer good deals on products that people want. If Temu can do these things, it has the potential to become a major player in the online retail space.
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