Amazon commands a vast, dominating empire in the world of e-commerce. While its marketplace has proved a boon for businesses trying to get off the ground, many of the more successful companies are now looking beyond the e-commerce giant's fences, spurred by a desire to compete on their own terms.
This trend has mushroomed as online shopping burgeoned over the past five years. Businesses such as mattress maker Casper, men's personal care brands Harry's and Dollar Shave Club, footwear and apparel makers Allbirds and Zaful, gadget store Banggood, and power-bank maker Anker are just a few of the multitude of brands that choose to leverage their own web stores, social media presence and supply chains to build their business and identity without having a marketplace like Amazon get in the way.
Every investor and e-commerce exporter we spoke with noted the genius of Shein's supply chain management.
Shein, an online-only apparel store that sells the latest in fashion at very affordable prices, is a shining example of this trend. It's a rage among budget-conscious young adults across Europe, Asia and the Americas: The app was downloaded 14 million times in the United States in March, according to Apptopia, and currently dominates the shopping category in app stores in over 50 countries.
Its success is proof of its belief in bringing the latest trends to the masses as quickly as it can. In the past couple of decades, brands like Zara, H&M and Forever 21 earned themselves the “fast fashion” moniker when they turned the tables on global behemoths such as Gap and Calvin Klein by drastically shortening lead times — the time it takes for clothing to reach the store floor from the designer's desk.
Shein takes this fast fashion mindset one step further: While brands like Zara and H&M take about three to four weeks to bring clothing from the ramp to the store, Shein uses a combination of real-time customer and predictive analytics, hyperaware fashion designers and an extremely quick and agile supply chain based in China to bring the latest fashion trends from Instagram, Facebook, Reddit and TikTok to its online store in just a week or two.