SHEIN vs. Zara: Digital Transformation in the Fast-fashion Industry
In May 2021, SHEIN overtook Amazon as the most downloaded shopping app on the US iOS and Android app stores. During the pandemic in 2020, SHEIN achieved substantial sales growth and is now catching up with the fast-fashion giant Zara.
This case first briefly discusses the apparel and fast-fashion industry and the creation of the fast-fashion model by Zara. Then it covers SHEIN’s historical development and its “fast-fashion 2.0” business model—using big data and algorithms to identify customers and their preferences. The case also discusses various perspectives of SHEIN’s business operations: products and pricing, marketing and branding, and supply chain management. The case further discusses several challenges that SHEIN faces: product quality, transparency of company disclosure, environmental impact, and geopolitical risk. In the last section, the case presents several options that SHEIN may be able to pursue in the future.
The case is suitable for MBA, EMBA, and undergraduate students who are interested in competitive strategy, technology or digital strategy, innovation, blue ocean strategy, China strategy, global strategy (cross-border e-commerce), and the fashion industry. The case can be used in core strategy courses at different levels, as it covers various topics.