Temu browsing app lures new people, coupon codes for current consumers

3 situations a day, 39-yr-outdated Ashlee Nordquist, an optician in Fargo, North Dakota, logged in to the browsing app Temu to feed her fish. 

If she fed plenty of fish, by tapping on a floating bag of fish meals on her mobile phone monitor, Temu experienced promised to mail her a totally free products of her picking. But Nordquist stored running out of fish foods. To get additional, she essential to refer a new consumer to the application. So, she introduced Temu to her close pals and coworkers. “It’s not charity. They are not just supplying away cost-free factors to be wonderful,” Nordquist explained to Relaxation of Environment. “Referrals are the solution component to successful the games.”

Following generating more than a dozen referrals, and enjoying plenty of rounds of Fishland as well as other online games on Temu, Nordquist won a bounty of freebies: a spouse and children hotpot-and-grill combo, a modest hotpot-and-grill combo (she located the initial 1 far too significant), a digicam drone, a storage organizer, and a meat slicer. Most not too long ago, in February, her fish-feeding regime landed her a free of charge guitar — a reward for her friend’s daughter. 

“Referrals are the magic formula component to profitable the games.”

Temu, the U.S.-based mostly subsidiary of PDD Holdings, which operates a sister site in China as Pinduoduo, has topped application store charts since its start very last September. In significantly less than 6 months, the app has achieved 24 million downloads, many thanks to intense promoting, low-cost pricing, and addictive referral strategies in the form of cellular game titles. In February, Temu informed suppliers about its Canada start. “The aim of Temu is to bring Chinese source chains to the environment, beginning with the U.S. internet site,” the business stated in a message to suppliers, in accordance to a screenshot observed by Rest of Entire world. 

Pinduoduo, started in 2015, had used a related method in its home marketplace of China — rock-bottom pricing and the gamification of the procuring encounter — to come to be one particular of the country’s most well-known e-commerce platforms. In just one match, customers improve virtual fruit trees with their pals to earn authentic bins of fruits. In a different, they spin a wheel to win money handouts, following bringing in new buyers to the app. The web site also launched the “give me a cut” campaign, the place customers generate absolutely free goods by building some others click on on their Pinduoduo one-way links.

When these ways enabled Pinduoduo’s rapid progress for the duration of the pandemic and subsequent worldwide financial headwinds — its active user foundation briefly eclipsed Alibaba’s in 2020 — they also gave the corporation a controversial track record, increasing fears of achievable regulatory hazards. Chinese world wide web consumers have complained about becoming pestered by good friends and household to click their referral inbound links. Other folks have accused Pinduoduo of tricking them by making the games look substantially less complicated than they essentially are. In 2021, a law firm sued Pinduoduo just after he remained trapped .9% away from profitable a prize on the application — Pinduoduo afterwards clarified the share wanted to be .9996427% if exhibited in full. The court docket ordered the business to pay out 400 Chinese yuan ($59) as payment for infringing on the consumer’s ideal to know. 

Inspite of controversies, a number of other Chinese e-commerce companies have gamified their buying knowledge. Adhering to Pinduoduo’s lead, e-commerce large JD.com, Alibaba’s shopping system Taobao, and shipping application Meituan have all launched their own virtual fruit farms. Overseas, quickly-style platform Shein also allows people to gain factors as a result of games and referrals. 


Together with these strategies, Temu has launched a manufacturing facility-to-customer design that keeps price ranges reduced. It sources merchandise from Chinese suppliers, then sells them right to U.S. people. Temu handles all intercontinental shipping and delivery, then pays suppliers after shoppers have gained their items.

Temu supplier Awan Yang, who manages a bag factory in the southern production hub of Guangzhou, told Rest of Entire world he started out doing the job with Temu soon soon after its start mainly because he believed PDD Holdings would spend greatly in overseas expansion. Between Oct 2022 and February 2023, the manufacturing facility bought all-around 3,300 women’s luggage by Temu, on a income margin of 15% to 25%, Yang stated, noting that Temu would offer the bags at 2.5 to 3 instances the original rate.

Just as Pinduoduo succeeded in a Chinese market place at the time dominated by Alibaba and JD.com, Temu could set up by itself in the U.S. as a “low-priced supermarket,” mentioned Ashley Dudarenok, founder of China-concentrated digital advertising organizations Alarice and ChoZan, to Relaxation of Globe. Temu is not out there striving to replace industry bigwigs like Amazon and Shein, but simply just offers an additional channel for American individuals to shop on the web, she claimed.

When compared to their Western counterparts, Chinese tech firms are a lot more eager to expand their solutions by enormous advertising and marketing campaigns, wrote Connie Chan, a typical partner at venture money business Andreessen Horowitz, in an evaluation of Temu. Before this thirty day period, the company made its Super Bowl debut, with an advertisement that confirmed viewers how they could “shop like a billionaire” on the platform. Getting a massive variety of early shoppers has helped practice Temu’s recommendation algorithms and create individualized product or service lists as addictive as TikTok’s “For You” web page. “It’s literally shopatainment … customers are significantly more probable to invest time — and consequently money — with applications that they get pleasure from expending time with,” Chan wrote.

Even though introducing online games to the application can enable raise engagement and raise downloads, Western consumers may perhaps be considerably less keen to pay back for games than their Chinese counterparts, Allison Malmsten, a China sector analyst with Daxue Consulting, advised Relaxation of Environment. Soon after all, Nordquist referred to as the game titles “a hustle” — even though they were being enjoyable, the best goal was to acquire benefits, which needed expending a wonderful deal of time and hard work. 

In North Dakota, many of Nordquist’s good friends have grow to be avid Temu people. They even created a group chat to trade gaming tips. Even though feeding her fish for freebies, Nordquist also bought numerous things herself: fishing equipment, an organizer, a transportable washing machine, some hooks, a pack of sponges, an electronic iron, a vacuum sealer, and other homeware — which price tag her a complete of $450. 

Nordquist utilised to acquire these items from Amazon or Walmart, but now prefers Temu for its small price ranges. They can go as low as a person-eighth of what her regional supermarket charges, she stated. “I felt like I was having robbed, buying at other places.”