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Inside Shein’s Influencer Marketing Strategy

9 minute read

Shein, founded in 2008 by Chris Xu under the parent company Shenzhen Globalegrow, is a global fashion powerhouse. Their real-time fashion platform offers everything from stylish clothing and makeup to trendy tools and accessories. Operating in over 150 countries with a workforce of over 10,000 employees, Shein achieved a staggering revenue of $30 billion in 2022, doubling from the previous year and multiplying tenfold since 2019.

So, what’s the secret to the company’s eye-watering growth?

At Storyclash, the leading AI-powered influencer marketing platform, we decided to use our analytics capabilities to examine Shein's influencer marketing performance and strategy. Watch the on-demand webinar here (in German), or keep reading to get the main insights.

Shein: The TikTok of E-Commerce

Shein is renowned for its fast and affordable fashion, with prices that cater to budget-conscious shoppers. However, the brand has come under fire, with reports suggesting workers struggle with 18-hour workdays and unfair compensation. However, regardless of what goes on behind the scenes, there is no denying that the brand is wildly successful. 

With an estimated valuation of $100 billion, Shein is worth more than H&M and Zara combined. Shein is also the top-ranked fashion website globally, with an average page time of 7 minutes and 44 seconds and 8.61 pages per visit. Shein is the most downloaded shopping app in the US and ranks high in popularity in Germany and Austria. 

So, what’s the secret to their success? Here are a few things the brand does right:

  • App-centric shopping experience with gamification

Shein offers an engaging app-based shopping experience, encouraging users to log in frequently with bonuses and discounts.

  • Real-time on-demand manufacturing: 

Shein's cutting-edge software enables them to track sales and communicate directly with their factories, so they can produce small batches of products in near real-time. This ensures quick turnaround and reduces excess inventory.

  • Spotting trends early

Shein's smart algorithm scours social media for the latest fashionable styles. Once identified, the information is immediately shared with their team of around 800 designers, who bring these trends to life.

  • SHEIN X program

The brand offers designers the opportunity to create and distribute their own creations in partnership with Shein. 

  • TikTok know-how

Shein's deep understanding of TikTok and its users, honed through their experience with Douyin, the Chinese version, ensures their campaigns are a hit on the platform, boosting brand recognition and engagement.

  • Influencer-first approach

Last but not least, influencers. Shein has many influencer-powered collaborations, co-creations, and events. From the digital music festival "Shein Together Fest" to summer pool parties and pop-up store openings, these partnerships amplify brand visibility and create meaningful connections with their audience.

Social media at Shein

Shein has established a strong presence across various social media platforms, including TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. Alongside their global account, they have also set up accounts in over a dozen countries, spanning Europe, America, and more. 

The primary target audience for Shein's social media accounts is Gen-Z, a generation known for their strong affinity towards social apps and being constantly online. Shein recognizes this and strategically tailors their content to appeal to this demographic— as you can see when it comes to their content and visual style. 

Shein heavily relies on user-generated content (UGC) and influencer-generated content (IGC). They leverage the power of their engaged community by showcasing real people wearing their fashion items through a mix of videos and images. In terms of visual style, Shein's social media accounts embrace a vibrant and youthful aesthetic. 

The brand’s strategic use of UGC/IGC, Gen-Z understanding, and enviable ability to create an authentic connection with their target audience have contributed to their social media success.

Influencer marketing at Shein

As the brand is social media savvy, it’s no surprise that they have mastered the art of influencer marketing, too. In fact, Shein places #10 among the top German brands in 2023 based on creator mentions. However, it’s worth noting that the engagement rate is fairly low at 3.5%.

Check out the full report from Storyclash to get more campaign data and statistics.

Shein has built strong relationships with influencers by offering high affiliate rates, ranging from 10% to 20% of the sales they generate. This generous compensation structure motivates influencers to promote Shein passionately, creating authentic and impactful content that resonates with their followers. 

The combination of strategic partnerships and attractive affiliate rates could explain Shein’s positive retention rate for influencers. Storyclash data shows that 27% of Shein's Instagram collaborations are long-term- TikTok tells a similar story, coming in at 26%.Only 44% and 37% of Shein's collaborations on Instagram and Tiktok respectively were one-time collabs.

In terms of formats, SHEIN prefers Instagram feed posts to stories, with a ratio of almost 70/30. 

Which influencers does Shein work with?

Shein collaborates with a diverse range of influencers who (more or less) fit the brand and (more importantly) cater to their target audience. On Instagram, Shein mainly partners with creators who are:

  • Aged 18-30
  • Female
  • Located in Germany (78%)
  • Hip yet thrifty style

Shein seems to prioritize reach and frequent visibility over brand fit.

Working with over 13,000 creators globally, it looks like the brand has adopted a “quantity rather than quality” approach.

The large number of creators can make it challenging to manage quality standards and maintain consistency—areas where the brand seems to struggle. It’s also a possibility that Shein’s reputation makes it harder for them to find suitable partners.

In addition to working with a wide range of influencers, Shein leverages the power of celebrity marketing by partnering with big stars like Katy Perry, Lil Nas X, and Addison Rae. These celebs serve as brand ambassadors, endorsing Shein's products and embodying its fashion-forward image. Their association with the brand helps attract a massive following and expands Shein's reach to an even larger audience.

Top 3 influencer campaigns from Shein

Shein has run countless successful campaigns on Instagram and TikTok. Let’s take a look at the top 3 using exclusive data from the Storyclash platform.

1. Cocoolinaa

Shein’s collaboration with cocoolinaa featured the influencer, who has 175,2k followers, partaking in sports activities and wearing athleisure. The campaign was successful, driving €112k in media value. That said, the engagement rate of 17.5% was low compared to cocoolinaa’s other collabs. The average engagement rate for her branded posts is 20.6%

2. Lisarosii 

With 1.8 million followers, Lisarossi ran a hugely successful series of Get Ready With Me videos. The videos drove 4.3 million views and an estimated reach of over 577k.

3. Nina_lovestyle

Nina_lovestyle, who has 164k followers, has been working with Shein for over a year. She mainly posts Outfit of the Day (OOTD) style content, driving an engagement rate of 16.3% and €97k in media value.

Check out the full report here from Storyclash to see all the influencers Shein collaborates with, including performance data.

Shein’s top 3 influencer marketing strategies

Shein employs a range of highly effective influencer marketing strategies to engage its target audience. At Storyclash, we identified 3 in particular. Let’s dive in.

1. Sales-focused collaborations with discount codes

Shein partners with influencers to drive sales for selected products. The influencers share tracking links and personalized promo codes offering discounts such as 15% off on orders over €29 and 20% off on orders over €69. 

The campaigns tend to run for a longer period of time, giving influencers enough opportunities to drive sales and conversions. Shein has adopted this sales-first approach across Instagram, Instagram Stories, TikTok, YouTube, and YouTube Shorts.

2. Co-creations with influencers and designers

As part of the Shein X program, the brand invites influencers and designers to create exclusive collections. Past collaborations have involved creators like xLaetia (DE). Currently, Shein is working with Madison Fisher (US) on a co-creation project.

These collaborations enable Shein to tap into the creative talents of influencers and designers, resulting in unique and highly desirable collections that resonate with their audience.

3. Trips and events

Shein regularly organizes larger-scale events to celebrate its community and showcase new collections. 

One high-profile example is the Summer Pool Party by SHEIN, known as #SHEINXObeachIbiza, held on May 6, 2023. Shein invited creators from all over the world to post content to the brand’s respective country accounts, including Ireland, UK, Italy, France, and Germany. 

The event featured a fashion show at a beach club and lively partying at the O Beach Ibiza Club. Each creator had to post at least one feed post on Instagram or TikTok (with stories being optional) and the brand showed the content on their website

These trips and events not only create excitement and engagement but also generate valuable content that showcases Shein's products and brand experience.

By employing these 3 influencer marketing strategies, Shein is able to boost brand awareness and drive sales. While their approach is clearly effective, there are some things that we think the brand could do even better.

How could Shein improve their influencer marketing strategy?

- Improve brand perception

Many unpaid mentions have a negative tone, along the lines of, “Don't judge me, but I ordered from Shein!" This is possibly easier said than done, but the brand needs to take steps to improve its reputation so people talk more positively about the brand.

- Diversify campaign structure and messaging

Shein’s campaigns are highly sales-orientated. To take their influencer marketing to the next level, the brand could explore other campaign types such as brand awareness and employer branding.

- Incorporate sustainability in influencer collaborations: 

The brand would benefit from highlighting their commitment to important topics such as employee well-being, diversity, social responsibility and sustainable practices. That said, they need to be careful how they do this and authenticity is key.

Shein recently invited influencers to visit the brand’s factories, a move which resulted in criticism from the media and the public. 

- Evaluate and refresh Shein's YouTube presence

The brand needs a new strategy for their YouTube channel, which has a lot of old content from 2010. Fresh content would help engage and captivate the platform's vast audience.

Want to learn more about Shein?

Watch the full on-demand webinar to hear Storyclash CMO Eugen Knippel talk in more detail about Shein’s influencer marketing strategy and how it compares to competitors. The webinar is available in German language only.

For more webinars where Storyclash uncovers the secrets of great brands like Charlotte Tilbury, check out our webinars page.

About Storyclash - the brand behind the insights

Storyclash is the AI-powered Influencer Marketing Platform that helps your team drive sales and brand awareness. Discover authentic creators, measure the impact of your campaigns and manage all your data in one place.

Fast-growing DTCs like Bears With Benefits, Junglück or Kapten & Son, as well as large, established companies like Vodafone, Lululemon or Kaufland use Storyclash to get more out of their influencer marketing.