What I Learnt About TEMU And South Africa in The Last 24 Hours!
Photo Cred: Pexels

Exploring TEMU’s pervasive advertising in South Africa revealed a mixed landscape of innovative business models, consumer divides, and other insights.


Johannesburg, South Africa (25 March 2024) – I wrote a very light-hearted post yesterday about TEMU’s omnipresent advertising in our lives and, in the process, learnt a lot about the platform (and other platforms like this).

Temu is an online marketplace operated by the Chinese e-commerce company PDD Holdings. It offers heavily discounted consumer goods, mostly shipped directly from China. Launched first in the US in September 2022, Temu has expanded, marking its presence in 49 countries, including Australia, various European nations, the Latin American market, and South Africa by January 2024.

It honestly feels like they are everywhere right now. It doesn’t matter what social media space or even online searches we are on; TEMU is there, just lurking with some bizarre advert for a product I really don’t need.

So I posted about it. Just for laughs.

“Dear Temu,

Welcome to South Africa. I would love to teach you some colloquial words.

Well, just one in particular.


Okay. Love you. Totsiens.

Sidebar: Their bladdy ads are EVERYWHERE. But a friend ordered, so we don’t have to. All the sizes were wrong. The cuts were weird. And nothing fits her. So, there’s some advice for you.”

I also added a screengrab of me blocking them – which I really did. I visited their Facebook page and blocked it. And that simple action has stopped their adverts on my Facebook immediately. YAY for me.

Little did I know that the responses would flood in from that post, offering a fascinating window into the world of South African consumerism. I didn’t know much about TEMU or SHEIN before yesterday (except for seeing the incessant advertising), but I thought I would share what I’ve discovered to give you some perspective too.

The Ubiquity of TEMU’s Advertising:

It’s hard to deny that TEMU’s advertising is inescapable.

According to recent reports, the platform splashed out nearly $2 billion (over R37 billion) on Facebook and Instagram advertising alone last year. This staggering figure crowned TEMU as Meta’s top advertiser for 2023. Moreover, whispers in the industry suggest that TEMU has also secured a spot among Google’s top five advertisers.

So yes… it doesn’t just feel like they are everywhere! They are actually everywhere. R37 billion worth of advertising everywhere.

The Impact on Smaller Businesses:

While TEMU’s advertising prowess is commendable, it’s not all sunshine and roses for smaller businesses.

Many South African entrepreneurs voiced their concerns about the overshadowing effect of TEMU’s massive advertising spend. With TEMU dominating the digital advertising space, smaller enterprises find themselves struggling to reach their target audiences.

“Small businesses definitely can’t compete – globally, they’re running over 22,000 Facebook ads, and Temu South Africa is running over 460 Facebook ads. I can’t even begin to imagine how many other platforms they’re flooding with ads to drown out competition,” one social media user stated.

“Agree! I hate that all their ads pop up now when I’m searching for a product!! Only one or two local suppliers can be seen, which is not right in my opinion,” another social media user said.

“The last few weeks my sponsored ads are hardly showing on Google. Anything you search it’s just Temu! How are small businesses supposed to compete??” a concerned social media user commented.

Some even lamented how prominent online retailers like TAKEALOT and Woolworths were being pushed down the search rankings, making it harder for consumers to discover them when searching for products online.

“I was looking for something online and trying to get for Woolies etc ideas. And Temu just popped up only. It’s squishing all search options!” the social media user said.

The Rise of New Business Models:

Interestingly, TEMU’s dominance has given birth to “innovative” business models in South Africa.

Some South Africans have taken to buying products from these platforms and reselling them at a higher price. One intriguing anecdote involved a shopper purchasing a “designer” dress for R1,200, only to find another guest at an event wearing the exact same dress bought from SHEIN for a mere R250.

This is incredibly unfortunate for the consumer but seemingly quite profitable for the entrepreneur, which leads me to my next point…

The Divided Opinion on TEMU and Shein:

The online discourse revealed a spectrum of opinions on TEMU and its counterpart, Shein. Many consumers lauded the platforms for offering high-quality products at affordable price points. Some even admitted that financial constraints compelled them to choose these platforms over local retailers.

“I have ordered from both Shein and Temu and I have had great results with both. The ads do annoy me, but they make me place another order😂😂😂,” a social media user explained.

“I’ve ordered from Temu a few times. Wonderful products. They fit great, and super cheap. And got refunded a few times when items I’ve bought, have gone down in price. Even for orders I placed weeks ago,” another said.

“I would love to support local, but unable to match quality and price from Temu 😢! Our locals are buying from Temu too, Takealot is just Temu and Shein products being resold. and I wanted to support a local silicone bead lady, and realised she was buying all her product from Temu. Unfortunately, those of us with tight budgets can get better quality and affordability going this route 😢,” another social media user stated. 

On the flip side, there were those who vehemently opposed supporting TEMU and Shein. Reasons ranged from a preference for “local” products, dissatisfaction with incorrect product deliveries, concerns about the production process, and apprehensions about data collection practices.

“I don’t trust them at all. My husband ordered from them and the day after we were contacted by our bank that someone was trying to do fraudulent transactions with his card and it had to be cancelled. I am pretty sure it had something to do with Temu,” a social media user said.

“Unethical practices. Poor labour conditions. Squeeze their own suppliers. Detrimental to our clothing industry. Taking over Google ads, SA small business can’t compete. It’s good to be educated. Then make your own choices,” a social media user stated.

A Touch of Internet Trolling:

Lastly, in the middle the sea of insightful comments, I stumbled upon a rather puzzling remark from a troll saying that “I am just jealous.”

While its meaning remains elusive, it reminds us of the “toxic” nature of the Internet. No matter the topic, trolls will inevitably emerge from the shadows to spew their provocative comments.

So there you have it.

Whether you love them or loathe them, one thing is certain – TEMU, Shein and other platforms like this are undeniably shaping the retail landscape in South Africa and around the world.

And whichever side you stand on, they are not going anywhere.

So what do we do South Africa? How do we compete with a brand spending R37 billion on advertising? Would love to hear your suggestions in the comments.

Sources: Brent Lindeque | Good Things Guy 
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About the Author

Brent Lindeque is the founder and editor in charge at Good Things Guy.

Recognised as one of the Mail and Guardian’s Top 200 Young South African’s as well as a Primedia LeadSA Hero, Brent is a change maker, thought leader, radio host, foodie, vlogger, writer and all round good guy.

1 comment

  1. I dare say that this is a positive, Brent. The game of business is adapt or die. I am in advertising and marketing and I desperately want South African businesses to win.
    My recommendation as someone in the space is that people go from dropshipping to actually building a brand. The products they buy and resell on Takealot, they need to reinvent with the aid of manufacturers. There is a market for people who will pay a premium to have rare items. That’s where this is heading.

    To compete with the R37 billion in ad spend… I have a strong belief because I’ve seen it work, to invest in email marketing to people you want to resell and build a strong relationship with them. Loyalty programs will be necessary in order to give a few perks to those loyal customers that encourage recurring purchases.

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