While SHEIN may not be the household name in eCommerce that Amazon is in the U.S., it has managed a feat that few other retailers have pulled off: It managed to displace Amazon from the top spot in terms of app downloads.
PYMNTS’ latest Provider Ranking of Shopping Apps reveals that as of last month, fast-fashion app SHEIN holds that No. 1 spot, while Amazon is at “hot on its heels” at No. 2 as it beefs up its eCommerce offerings with things like third-party subscription boxes. Walmart, notably, holds the No. 3 spot.
And PYMNTS isn’t the only data source putting SHEIN in the top spot. Sensor Tower and App Annie rankings also reflect that Amazon has been bumped from its top eCommerce post on both iOS and Android in the U.S.
SHEIN’s pinnacle position comes as something of a surprise, because its ascent to a $15 billion valuation and to the top spot in the app stores happened in a fairly low-profile manner that has not only not courted media attention, but at times has sought to actively avoid it.
At times referred to as the “Tik Tok” of eCommerce, the firm is known for exerting tight controls on its commerce process, with every element of its production chain — from prototype to procurement to manufacturing — under its direct supervision, highly digitized and carefully integrated. As a result, SHEIN is known for being able to push out hundreds of new products tailored to consumers’ needs in near-real-time.
SHEIN’s position atop the ranking lists as of May can be seen as a long time in the making. It briefly topped the Android chart in late April, according to reports.
Much about SHEIN remains a mystery. Its investor list is not public information and is unconfirmed by the company, though Chinese media reports have named AFCO Asia, Greenwoods Asset Management, IDG Capital, Sequoia Capital China, Tiger Global and Xiaomi founder Lei Jun’s Shunwei Capital among its backers. It is also unknown how much it is spending on marketing to attract so many new consumers worldwide — or how many of those downloads are actually translating into consumers who are active users of the app.
The app does, however, draw a lot of buzz from millennials and Gen Z users who praise its wide variety of goods and low prices, according to reports. Last week’s much-beloved options, among the 6,239 new items that made their debut, included a floral backless halter top (US$5), purple dinosaur-print PJs (US$10) and a fitted butterfly-sleeve dress with pearl trim (US$22).
The bigger question is: Will SHEIN have the staying power to keep hold of its top spot, given that Amazon has historically worked hard to reclaim that top spot over and over again, as players like Wish have managed to capture some headlines by bumping the eCommerce giant to the No. 2 position? And while it is not quite the digital powerhouse that Amazon is, Walmart is well-ensconced in the mix, holding fast to the No. 3 spot with plans to take on and (if it succeeds) topple Amazon — or at least displace it from the top spot.
SHEIN has made an impressive move into the market since its founding in 2008 — and it clearly doesn’t suffer from a lack of ambition when it comes to taking on the global eCommerce stage. But the competition is fierce, and it seems SHEIN will no longer be able to get away with quietly creeping up on a market that hasn’t paid it much attention for the last 13 or so years, even as consumers have increasingly been noticing it and loving it.
Because SHEIN’s landing of the top spot officially announces its competitive presence — and loudly. It will be interesting to see how the commerce world responds.
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