Temu, an up-and-coming shopping app, has been making waves in the retail world. It made headlines by securing not one but two advertising slots during the Super Bowl, paying a staggering $14 million for each 30-second spot. This feat is even more impressive considering that Temu launched in the US just last September and expanded into the UK in April. Despite being relatively new, Temu has rapidly gained popularity, amassing over 7 million downloads in the UK alone and reaching a global total of more than 117 million downloads.

One of the key factors contributing to Temu’s success is its founder, Colin Huang. With a fortune of $24 billion, Huang is one of China’s richest individuals and has a track record of entrepreneurial success, including helping to set up Google in China. He has applied his expertise and business acumen to Temu, which is owned by Pinduoduo (PDD), a Chinese ecommerce company.

Temu sets itself apart from traditional online retailers by offering clothing and household goods at seemingly impossible prices. It achieves this by shipping directly from warehouses in China, cutting out the higher costs associated with logistics networks in Western countries. By leveraging its parent company’s close relationships with Chinese suppliers, Temu is able to dramatically undercut its Western rivals in terms of pricing.

What’s interesting about Temu is its unconventional approach to product offerings. Unlike established online marketplaces that feature well-known brands and curated product lists, Temu’s website presents a seemingly random assortment of bargain gadgets, garments, and toys. This approach, coupled with aggressive marketing tactics and limited-time “lightning deals,” creates a sense of urgency and a fear of missing out (FOMO) among consumers.

The strategy seems to be working, as more than 7 million Britons have installed Temu, according to data from research company Sensor Tower. Globally, it has become one of the fastest-growing apps of all time. Monthly spending on the platform has skyrocketed from an estimated $192 million in January to an impressive $700 million in June. Analysts predict that total spending on Temu could reach a staggering $10 billion this year, a milestone that took Amazon 12 years to achieve.

Temu’s eye-catching orange packaging has become a familiar sight in delivery vans and on doorsteps. Social media platforms are flooded with influencers sharing their “Temu hauls” of imitation AirPods, extra-strong magnets, and 98p water bottles. With its aggressive pricing, free delivery, and relentless marketing campaigns, Temu has emerged as a formidable competitor to major online sellers like Amazon.

However, Temu’s rise is not without its challenges. While other platforms have attempted to attract Western shoppers by shipping directly from China, none have experienced the same rapid growth as Temu. Its success can be attributed to a combination of factors, including aggressive pricing, free shipping, and its parent company’s extensive network of manufacturers. Nonetheless, Temu’s current business model operates at a significant loss, with Wired reporting an average loss of $30 per order, considering the average order value is just $25. As a result, industry experts expect prices on the platform to rise in the future.

Despite the financial challenges, Temu can afford to sustain these losses for now. Its parent company, Pinduoduo, reported tripled profits of $1.2 billion in the first quarter of this year, driven by the success of its Chinese operations. Temu reportedly aims to break even by 2025.

However, Temu’s journey is not without obstacles. Its Chinese ownership has attracted scrutiny, especially in light of the Communist Party’s tech crackdown in 2021. Although Temu claims to have been founded in Boston and recently moved its headquarters from Shanghai to Dublin, US politicians have raised concerns about the app’s potential ties to forced labor in Xinjiang. Additionally, some US states, such as Montana, have taken measures to ban TikTok and discourage the use of Chinese apps on government devices. In March, Pinduoduo was even removed from Google’s app download store over security concerns.

Despite the challenges and potential controversies, Temu has undoubtedly rattled Amazon. The retail giant has refused to include Temu in its famous price matching scheme, citing the company’s failure to meet the required standards, particularly in guarding against counterfeits. As a response, some Chinese sellers have claimed that Amazon has started discounting goods in an effort to compete with Temu’s aggressive pricing strategy.

Amazon has spent the past two decades training consumers to expect fast delivery and a vast selection of products. However, Temu’s disruptive approach and unbeatable prices pose a significant threat. While its longer delivery times may be a downside, users are captivated, spending an average of 28 minutes per day on the app, nearly double the time spent on Amazon.

As Temu continues to challenge traditional retail norms and disrupt the market, it remains to be seen how it will navigate the scrutiny surrounding its Chinese ownership and potential controversies. Nevertheless, it has already left an indelible mark on the industry, prompting Amazon to adjust its strategies and leaving many wondering if Temu could ultimately become the new heavyweight in online retail.