In the United States, mobile shopping leaders in 2021 slightly favored logistics heavyweights, but it’s wearing off. Amazon maintained its #1 position from 2020 and Shopify’s Shop app moved up one spot to #3 after a year of strategic partnerships essentially made the app a hub for tracking the transit of all your non-Amazon orders. 

You can find our full list of 2021 worldwide download leaders here, and compare them with 2020’s most downloaded apps.  If you need to fully understand what a download is and what it does/does not measure, we have that for you as well.

Walmart, who also prioritized a logistics play in 2020, launching same-day delivery and in-store pick up options, continued to deliver at making the mobile app necessary to the brick and mortar business. It ranked fourth. 

SHEIN replaced Walmart in the top 3, moving up from #7 to #2 – which prompts a look at what’s trending. And no, not what style of $7 crop top is selling most to the Gen Z buyers on SHEIN, but the mobile trends the Chinese etailer capitalized on to grow to become the second most downloaded shopping app globally and in the US.  

If you download the non-blurred version of our top charts, complete with YoY percent changes, you’ll notice SHEIN’s jump is the biggest in the US and second worldwide. We’ve already known of its dominance in the category of fast fashion, but it has now become a top ecommerce player in general.

US shopping leaders 2021

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SHEIN prioritizes fast fashion over fast shipping and offers a limited quantity stock for each item before it moves on to the next trend. The get-it-before-it’s-gone mentality creates thrill and encourages continual engagement. In the last year, SHEIN gamified more obviously and implemented pinwheels for daily sales and other gimmicks in the app.

The best SHEIN game is perhaps the one SHEIN shoppers made up themselves and play on social media: the SHEIN haul. Since most items cost less than $20, SHEIN shoppers can buy in bulk without breaking budget (plus SHEIN offers BNPL options Klarna and Afterpay). 

Across TikTok, Instagram and YouTube, unpaid and paid influencers alike try on dozens of items from their #SHEINHAUL for friends and fans. This social commerce creates infinite network effects from the community that participates. 

Gamification and social commerce show up throughout the Worldwide Download Leaders list – with the exception of Amazon which might explain its headlining fallout from #1 to #4. 

worldwide shopping leaders 2021

Right above SHEIN at #1 worldwide is Southeast Asian ecommerce marketplace, Shopee. Shopee leans into gaming. Its shoppers can play games individually and with other shoppers for Shopee coins to buy from the marketplace. There’s a game reminiscent of Farmville that’s, no surprise, pretty popular.

Below it, India fashion marketplace Meesho came out of nowhere to rank #3. Like SHEIN, Meesho benefits from influencer power. In Meesho’s case, it’s the sellers themselves, who sell at a rare 0% commission rate, announced in 2021. The creators take ownership of marketing, customer engagement and create social commerce. Flipkart, a Walmart-owned ecommerce app operating in India, gamified its shopping experience in 2021 after acquiring a gaming app at the end of 2020 and moved up the ranks from #7 to #5 last year.

The 2021 shopping app download leaders show us that it is no longer enough to have a functional app with a static shopping experience. Mobile shoppers need to be engaged and entertained. Who better to take inspiration from than social media and gaming apps?

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