What do TEMU and Pinduoduo want? A blessing or a plague? Applying Walkthrough Methods to Analyze Chinese "Social-Commerce" Models

Zheng, Jinhou, Media, Culture, and Technology - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Swartz, Lana, AS-Media Studies (MDST), University of Virginia

This thesis examines the innovative advertising interactions of China's Pinduoduo and its sister application, TEMU, utilizing the Walkthrough Method to showcase the unique strategies these platforms employ to attract users. It reveals how e-commerce culture with distinct Chinese characteristics adapts to and thrives in the U.S. market by meeting consumer needs. The thesis argues that Pinduoduo and TEMU success relies on the Chinese stable and well established infrastructure. The integration of logistics systems with social systems will create more economic value. It allows more people to participate in online practices. Through a comparative analysis of Pinduoduo and TEMU, this thesis demonstrates how these platforms intertwine technology and culture to innovate interaction methods within shopping software, enhancing both the entertainment and integration of the shopping platform experience. The thesis argues that both TEMU and Pinduoduo focus on building strong user relationship chains, using social networks for promotion and increasing user engagement through emotional and gamified interactions. Therefore, it can be considered as platform capitalism that employs digital hustling to exploit users' attention and keep them on the platform. User behavior can be cultivated through gamified scripts, enhancing receptivity to advertisements through engaging interactions. It also critically examines the potential ethical impacts and the exploitation of users’ social networks within their gamification strategies. Additionally, this thesis discusses the potential socio-political challenges faced by technology companies with Chinese backgrounds in international markets and the competition between nations in the digital realm. The Chinese-style online interactive culture brought by TEMU will further influence American e-commerce practitioners. This thesis contributes to filling the research gap on Pinduoduo abroad, aiding American scholars in studying the innovation of e-commerce culture distinctly marked by Chinese characteristics and its effects on digital marketing.

MA (Master of Arts)
TEMU, Digital Hustling, Pinduoduo, Platform Capitalism, Gamification, WeChat, Social Commerce
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