Temu purchasing app lures new buyers, coupons for present shoppers

A few instances a day, 39-yr-outdated Ashlee Nordquist, an optician in Fargo, North Dakota, logged in to the purchasing app Temu to feed her fish. 

If she fed ample fish, by tapping on a floating bag of fish foods on her phone monitor, Temu had promised to ship her a cost-free product or service of her selecting. But Nordquist retained working out of fish food stuff. To get extra, she essential to refer a new person to the app. So, she launched Temu to her near close friends and coworkers. “It’s not charity. They are not just offering away free factors to be wonderful,” Nordquist advised Rest of Environment. “Referrals are the magic formula component to successful the video games.”

Just after generating much more than a dozen referrals, and taking part in innumerable rounds of Fishland as nicely as other games on Temu, Nordquist received a bounty of freebies: a spouse and children hotpot-and-grill combo, a small hotpot-and-grill combo (she found the first 1 too large), a digital camera drone, a storage organizer, and a meat slicer. Most just lately, in February, her fish-feeding schedule landed her a absolutely free guitar — a gift for her friend’s daughter. 

“Referrals are the magic formula ingredient to successful the video games.”

Temu, the U.S.-based subsidiary of PDD Holdings, which operates a sister web page in China as Pinduoduo, has topped application shop charts since its start past September. In considerably less than six months, the application has realized 24 million downloads, many thanks to intense promoting, low cost pricing, and addictive referral campaigns in the sort of cellular video games. In February, Temu educated suppliers about its Canada launch. “The target of Temu is to bring Chinese supply chains to the planet, beginning with the U.S. website,” the business mentioned in a message to suppliers, in accordance to a screenshot observed by Relaxation of Globe. 

Pinduoduo, founded in 2015, had applied a equivalent technique in its household current market of China — rock-bottom pricing and the gamification of the purchasing practical experience — to develop into a person of the country’s most popular e-commerce platforms. In a single video game, users develop virtual fruit trees with their good friends to earn authentic boxes of fruits. In a further, they spin a wheel to earn hard cash handouts, right after bringing in new users to the application. The site also released the “give me a cut” marketing campaign, the place people gain cost-free products by producing other folks click on their Pinduoduo inbound links.

Even though these techniques enabled Pinduoduo’s quick expansion all through the pandemic and subsequent global financial headwinds — its lively person base briefly eclipsed Alibaba’s in 2020 — they also gave the business a controversial name, elevating worries of achievable regulatory hazards. Chinese internet end users have complained about remaining pestered by buddies and family members to click on their referral back links. Many others have accused Pinduoduo of tricking them by producing the game titles look a great deal less complicated than they actually are. In 2021, a lawyer sued Pinduoduo soon after he remained stuck .9% absent from successful a prize on the app — Pinduoduo later clarified the proportion wanted to be .9996427% if exhibited in total. The court ordered the company to shell out 400 Chinese yuan ($59) as payment for infringing upon the consumer’s right to know. 

Despite controversies, many other Chinese e-commerce organizations have gamified their procuring expertise. Following Pinduoduo’s lead, e-commerce giant JD.com, Alibaba’s buying system Taobao, and shipping app Meituan have all introduced their have virtual fruit farms. Abroad, quick-fashion platform Shein also allows end users to make factors via video games and referrals. 


Along with these methods, Temu has introduced a manufacturing facility-to-shopper model that retains costs minimal. It resources products and solutions from Chinese suppliers, then sells them right to U.S. individuals. Temu handles all worldwide shipping, then pays suppliers soon after individuals have received their goods.

Temu provider Awan Yang, who manages a bag manufacturing facility in the southern manufacturing hub of Guangzhou, advised Relaxation of Environment he commenced operating with Temu soon after its start due to the fact he thought PDD Holdings would invest heavily in abroad progress. Involving October 2022 and February 2023, the manufacturing facility offered around 3,300 women’s baggage as a result of Temu, on a profit margin of 15% to 25%, Yang mentioned, noting that Temu would market the baggage at 2.5 to three occasions the authentic rate.

Just as Pinduoduo succeeded in a Chinese marketplace after dominated by Alibaba and JD.com, Temu could establish alone in the U.S. as a “low-priced grocery store,” explained Ashley Dudarenok, founder of China-concentrated digital marketing organizations Alarice and ChoZan, to Relaxation of World. Temu is not out there trying to exchange field bigwigs like Amazon and Shein, but simply just presents an further channel for American shoppers to store on the web, she explained.

In contrast to their Western counterparts, Chinese tech companies are a lot more willing to develop their products and solutions by way of enormous promoting campaigns, wrote Connie Chan, a common associate at enterprise funds business Andreessen Horowitz, in an examination of Temu. Previously this month, the corporation manufactured its Super Bowl debut, with an ad that confirmed viewers how they could “shop like a billionaire” on the platform. Having a large number of early prospects has helped prepare Temu’s advice algorithms and build personalized item lists as addictive as TikTok’s “For You” page. “It’s literally shopatainment … buyers are significantly far more very likely to devote time — and for that reason cash — with applications that they get pleasure from spending time with,” Chan wrote.

While introducing online games to the application can help strengthen engagement and boost downloads, Western customers may well be fewer ready to shell out for video games than their Chinese counterparts, Allison Malmsten, a China market analyst with Daxue Consulting, explained to Relaxation of World. Following all, Nordquist named the video games “a hustle” — although they were being exciting, the greatest target was to acquire benefits, which necessary expending a excellent offer of time and work. 

In North Dakota, quite a few of Nordquist’s friends have turn out to be avid Temu users. They even designed a team chat to trade gaming strategies. Although feeding her fish for freebies, Nordquist also acquired lots of items herself: fishing gear, an organizer, a portable washing machine, some hooks, a pack of sponges, an electronic iron, a vacuum sealer, and other homeware — which charge her a full of $450. 

Nordquist utilized to get these goods from Amazon or Walmart, but now prefers Temu for its reduced charges. They can go as small as a single-eighth of what her community supermarket rates, she explained. “I felt like I was finding robbed, purchasing at other areas.”