When it comes to online shopping, affordability is one of the biggest draws to new shoppers. In the last few years, Shein has burst into public consciousness (and into Gen Z wardrobes) as a seller of fashionable clothes at rock-bottom prices. Many of their clothes have been featured in TikTok and Instagram videos, featuring Gen Zers hosting haul videos of their buying sprees.
In September 2022, Temu leaped into the fray as the newest US online shopping site. Their prices were not only competitive with Shein, but their products were of higher quality at lower price points than more established e-commerce marketplaces. Both Shein and Temu offer incredible deals you won’t find anywhere else, but there are important differences between the two.
Here’s a deep-dive comparison between Shein and Temu, the hottest shopping apps on the market:
Different Variety Of Products
Shein has become notable for selling on-trend fashion items at bottom-level prices. They offer various categories of clothes, including dresses, tops, swimwear, and shoes. Many of their clothing items are inspired by popular brands, but produced by contract manufacturers in China.
Temu is an online marketplace with headquarters in Boston, Massachusetts, and part of the Nasdaq-listed multinational conglomerate, PDD Holdings. Temu offers a curated selection of products at wholesale prices sourced from merchants and brands across the globe. Unlike Shein’s narrow focus on fashion/apparel-related items, Temu offers a variety of everyday merchandise that includes categories such as:
- Tools & Home Improvement
- Health & Household
- Beauty & Health
- Toys & Games
- Women’s Underwear & Sleepwear
- Office & School
- Industrial & Commercial
- Women’s Curve + Plus
- Baby & Maternity
- Men’s Clothing
- Sports & Outdoors
- Musical Instruments
- Pet Supplies
- Women’s Clothing
- Men’s Underwear & Sleepwear
- Jewelry & Accessories
- Bags & Luggage
Temu has a much wider variety of products than Shein, making it more similar to an online big box retailer. While you can find a plethora of affordable clothing on both Shein and Temu, Temu offers access to pretty much any product under the sun.
Different Supply Chain and Production Models
When Shein began, they mainly sourced their clothing from China’s wholesale clothing market in Guangzhou. As the China-based company grew, they secured their own supply chain system of over 3,000 manufacturing partners and suppliers.
Although Shein doesn’t own these factories, their order volume is large enough that many of the factories are essentially serving only Shein. Shein is able to keep its prices low by selling most of its products directly to consumers and by limiting its orders to small batches at a time, which means that they often run out of items rather than risk wasting money on items that don’t sell.
Temu is a third-party online marketplace in the US. It hosts a lot of small businesses on the platform and connects them to consumers through its digital platform. Many of these merchants are top-notch manufacturers with years of experience supplying some of the world’s top brands and are now selling their products directly to consumers with the help of Temu.
Though Temu launched only in September 2022, it was able to ramp up its portfolio very quickly by leveraging the sourcing and logistical capabilities of PDD Holdings. In 2021, PDD Holdings processed 61 billion orders and had a roster of more than 11 million merchants.
Beyond being just another place for vendors to sell things, Temu has applied PDD Holdings’ “Next-Gen Manufacturing” model to help manufacturers upgrade their product development.
By sharing timely consumer insights with manufacturers, Temu is helping its suppliers become more precise in pinpointing demand. The result is a win-win: better market intel means a higher likelihood of creating hit products, which draws more consumers to the platform in search of unique and interesting products.
Different User Experience
The final difference on the list is the user's experience on the site. Shein is tightly curated, using an algorithm-driven recommendation system to drive users to certain products. They also implement marketing strategies that harness social media sites like TikTok or Instagram to attract Gen Z and Millennial buyers to their site.
Temu’s website is structured more like a marketplace or online big-box retailer. Their homepage displays various sections highlighting certain brands, discounts, and upcoming holiday items. At the top of their home page, you can browse through the different categories to see the types of products that interest you.
Temu is primarily a discovery-based platform that personalizes what products are shown based on individual preferences. But you can also utilize the search bar if you’re looking for a specific product or a custom category. Temu also allows you to browse through similar products whenever you look at an individual product listing. If you’re interested in a particular store, you can look at a full listing of their products to see what else they have to offer.
If you’re deciding between shopping on Temu or Shein, consider the above differences to help you make your choice. Both companies are quite competitive when it comes to apparel, but for all other merchandise, Temu has the products you’re looking for.
Photography by: Courtesy of Temu