Temu is a relatively new player in the e-commerce business but has already established itself. The company, incorporated in the U.S. in 2022, is based on a business model similar to its competitors Shein, Wish and AliExpress, offering consumers direct access to products from China while relying on low prices. The mastermind behind Temu is Chinese e-commerce giant Pinduoduo, which has established itself as a competitor to online shopping pioneer Alibaba at home and now its spin-off AliExpress internationally. The company is part of China’s social e-commerce craze and has been able to win many buyers over with its promise of steep discounts if one can convince friends and family to purchase as well. The concept of rewards for referrals has been adopted for its international arm Temu, which might have contributed to the app’s allure.
How well Temu is received by consumers around the world shows in global app download numbers. When it launched in September 2022, the app had already been downloaded around 440,000 times worldwide in the Google Play and Apple app stores. By the end of 2022, it was the most downloaded free app in the United States. The launch on the European market in the spring of 2023 has further boosted downloads. One year after the company was founded, Temu registered more than 40 million global downloads.
Despite this success, Temu has been heavily criticized. Users complain about defective products and lost packages (also a problem on other direct-from-China apps) and there are also data protection concerns and doubts about sustainability and fair working conditions. The company, like Shein and AliExpress, has also been accused of undervaluing its parcels to avoid their buyers import fees, for example into the European Union.