Shein’s Rise Shows That Amazon Isn’t Unassailable

Over the past twelve months, the Chinese online retailer Shein has been recording some impressive achievements. Back in October 2020, Euromonitor International declared Shein to be the world’s largest online-only fashion retailer. In May, App Annie and SensorTower shared data showing that Shein’s app had overtaken Amazon in downloads on Google Play and Apple App Store worldwide. While both apps have settled around parity in the following months, it’s hard not to recognise that Shein has established itself as a global retail powerhouse.

We have seen impressive figures from Chinese retailers before. However, many feel that Shein has the potential for a greater international reach than any that have come before, making the comparisons to Amazon all the more fitting.

Although Shein’s focus has primarily been on fast fashion, the platform does stock a broad range of products in a number of different categories. What’s particularly interesting are the strategies that have driven the platform’s success in recent years. Their extensive in-house data-mining operation is perhaps unsurprising, given that their CEO has an extensive SEO background. Still, over time it has proven able to quickly identify trending fashion search terms and popular competitor products. This data allows the company to be incredibly reactive in bringing new products to market.

Proactively, Shein has shown an enviable ability to use social media and influencers to reach younger consumers. Its profile on TikTok alone is above and beyond what most international brands could only dream of, and this has allowed it to enjoy huge popularity among an audience that other large platforms often struggle to reach.

By focusing on areas where Amazon has traditionally been weaker (fashion, trends, responsiveness and social media), Shein has built an impressive global online brand that seems set to go from strength to strength. Only time will tell if others can use their example to find new ways to go up against the retail giant.