[imagesource: Getty Images]
More often than not, when you see something being sold online for a fraction of the usual price, it is a sign that it is too good to be true.
When something is too good to be true, it probably is, and one would therefore be wise to abandon that virtual cart at checkout and leave the website.
Except when influencers and everyday folk across social media are talking about the viral fashion brand, using it, loving it, punting it further, it becomes increasingly difficult to leave that cart alone.
This is exactly how Shein, the China-based online fast-fashion brand, has achieved such massive success.
Chris Xu, a search engine optimization expert, latched on to the powers of social media and the internet to make Shein a monstrous fast-fashion brand that is growing more massive by the day.
At the moment, Shein has customers in 150 countries and $11 billion in annual sales.
It has raced ahead of its brick and mortar competitors, becoming more valuable than Zara and H&M combined.
Over to Forbes to explain the business:
The business model is based on predicting fast fashion trends in real-time, vertically integrated manufacturing, viral marketing through social media influencers, and a logistics network that bypasses container ships and trucks. Shein is fast-fashion in the digital era.
The company uses algorithms that track browsing activity on TikTok, Instagram, Google, and other digital platforms. This information is turned into limited production, on trend clothing in about three days. Items are then marketed online and by thousands of commission-based social media influencers. Customers get their dresses, blouses and earrings five to seven days later in the mail.
Plus, the marketing schemes are off the charts:
…Tapping into the burgeoning influencer community to market its goods has been pure genius. And the company borrowed from TikTok’s experience by spending lavishly on digital ads to reach and remain top of mind with fickle 20-something customers.
You might have seen those infamous “Shein hauls,” where influencers model mountains of clothes alongside the sponsored hashtag, #SHEINcares – showing off an entire wardrobe for less than it costs to order takeout.
All of this has pushed the Nanjing firm into a $100 billion valuation, making it the third most valuable private company in the world.
Shein is behind only ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, and SpaceX, Elon Musk’s rocket company.
Although Shein’s success is undeniable, there are many valid criticisms coming its way.
Along with getting some internet-fashion predictions wildly wrong (like creating and selling swastika necklaces and smartphone cases with a handcuffed black man outlined in chalk on them), the brand is also causing serious environmental concern.
With clothes – made mostly from plastic-based fabrics like polyester – being churned out at such an intense rate, made to be used and then thrown out at the end of the season, landfills are becoming clogged with Shein products.
Then there’s the fact that fast-fashion brands are notoriously associated with sweatshops, with claims of Shein clothes-makers being worked into the ground to meet the demand of all those “fickle” customers.
The fact that Shein’s labor practices are still much of a mystery, as the company keeps those inner workings as vague as possible, speaks volumes.
Rather, local, slow-fashion brands with an eco-conscience, like Studio Candor, or thrift shops that recycle and upcycle pre-worn items are where we should be spending our money.
I am cheering you on as you leave that cart behind and refuse to feed the Shein machine.