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What Fashion Needs to Know About Lemon8

The TikTok creator’s new app, Lemon8, is being billed as a platform driven by product recommendations. BoF explains what it is and what role it should play for brands.
Lemon8 (Getty Images/Lemon8)

Key insights

  • Lemon8 feels reminiscent of the early days of Instagram, featuring mostly static colour-corrected static images.
  • The app has only been downloaded just over 1 million times in the US since March.
  • Though it’s still small, its visual and purchase-centric nature should make it especially intriguing to fashion and beauty brands.

TikTok parent company ByteDance has already proved it can build a social media platform that dictates what users will watch. Now, it’s created an app to influence what they buy.

Lemon8, which ByteDance launched in Asia in 2020, became available to download in the US in February and is slated to get a wider marketing push next month. The app is designed as a hub for product and lifestyle recommendations, with a focus on areas like fashion, beauty, home and wellness. With a main feed featuring mostly static, colour-corrected images, the app feels reminiscent of the early days of Instagram. Industry experts have drawn comparisons to Xiaohongshu, a social commerce platform in China that is known for its peer-to-peer product recommendations.

Though there’s been buzz, Lemon8 is in its early days, with just over 1 million downloads since March, and a top 10 ranking among lifestyle apps on Apple’s app store in the US earlier this month, according to data intelligence platform Apptopia. (However, it’s since slipped as low as 27.) The company has yet to devise a plan to get brands on board, and despite its genesis as a shopping platform, it doesn’t yet support links. Some marketing insiders say that many brands aren’t even aware of Lemon8.

But Lemon8′s visual and purchase-centric nature should make it especially intriguing to fashion and beauty brands. And because it doesn’t sell ads, brands that want in will need to get creative, such as partnering with up-and-coming influencers to promote their goods.


“We’re going to see some brands with money to spend give it a try,” said Polly Wong, president of marketing services firm Belardi Wong. “If you can get scale, it’s a new channel for customer acquisition.”

What is Lemon8, and why should brands care?

Even without shoppable links, Lemon8 feels set up to help users make purchasing decisions. Users tout their favourite products in photos with overlaid text, which are accompanied by captions, often lengthy, that explain where the featured items are from and why the creators recommend it.

Already, Lemon8 has been courting fashion and beauty influencers, offering stipends to join the platform. (The company declined to disclose how much they’re paying, or how many creators they’ve paid.) Many of the creators that have joined Lemon8 — some on their own accord — are micro influencers with audiences in the tens of thousands or less on other platforms. Creators with large followings may be hesitant to sign up for Lemon8 without a clear way to monetise their influence, Wong of Belardi Wong said.

“It’s a good opportunity for [brands] to make some smaller dollar investments with those creators who are looking to make a splash,” said Stephanie Harris, founder and CEO at performance marketing agency PartnerCentric.

Having mostly smaller creators that focus on engaging a tighter-knit audience can also help the content on Lemon8 feel less like an obvious sales pitch.

“Most customers are comfortable with brands supporting influencers. They don’t want influencers to be influenced by the brand,” said Nora Kleinewillinghoefer, an associate partner in fashion, luxury and retail at consulting firm Kearney. “Gentle support … is critical.”

Some early influencers on Lemon8 are baking this ideology into their content strategy. Pamela Won joined Lemon8 in late March after seeing other creators talk about it on TikTok. Won, who is four feet 11 inches tall, now posts photos of her minimalist style geared toward petite body types at least three times a day.

Won, who has more than 3,000 followers on Instagram and over 2,000 on TikTok, has only 35 followers on Lemon8, and sees partnering with brands as part of her growth strategy, though she’s firm that brands must understand that not all her posts are designed to drive purchases.


“There’s an intimacy on Lemon8 because it’s still small with the potential to grow,” she said.

What are the complications?

There’s reasons for brands to be wary of diving into Lemon8 beyond its size, particularly as its parent ByteDance is in the crosshairs of Congress, where lawmakers have threatened to ban TikTok.

“Having the parent company of Bytedance and close sisterhood with TikTok is both a blessing and a curse,” Harris said. “Brands are going to have to think twice about investment in a platform where the parent company is embroiled in regulatory drama.”

With that in mind, some brands may hold off on signing up for Lemon8 before it has amassed a large user base. But in doing so, they risk missing an opportunity to capture a new audience and shape the types of trends that take off on the app, experts say.

“When TikTok came out, there were mixed views about how much [brands] wanted to adapt it,” Kleinewillinghoefer said. “For some brands that didn’t act quickly, they fell behind a little bit in how they were showing up to their [customers].”

Lemon8′s affiliation with ByteDance means it likely has guidance on how to cater to consumers in the US, the way TikTok was adapted from the Chinese app Douyin for American users. Lemon8 has been downloaded more than 4 million times worldwide for the year so far, according to data from Apptopia. Xiaohongshu, the app experts say Lemon8 is loosely based on, was downloaded over 19 million times on iOS devices in China year-to-date.

“With [Lemon8] being part of the TikTok family, they are really set up to gain success,” Kleinewillinghoefer said. “ByteDance knows what they’re doing [and] how to home in on the Western consumer.”

While there aren’t existing case studies of what success looks like for brands on Lemon8, the stakes are low for experimentation.

“It’s also a way for [brands] in this scenario to fail a little bit and make mistakes,” said Harris. “It won’t be on a large scale.”

Further Reading

Why Fashion Hasn’t Given Up on Social Commerce

Outside Asian markets, companies have yet to see lasting success in melding social media and e-commerce. But platforms and brands continue to adapt social selling to meet their respective consumers.

What Would a US TikTok Ban Mean for Fashion

TikTok’s CEO will appear before Congress on Thursday to defend the increasingly-controversial social media platform as talk of a stateside ban rises. Businesses and creators are bracing for impact.

How TikTok Won Over Fashion

Instagram has more users, but for a growing number of brands and creators, TikTok has replaced the Meta-owned social network as fashion’s go-to marketing platform.

About the author
Malique Morris
Malique Morris

Malique Morris is Direct-to-Consumer Correspondent at The Business of Fashion. He is based in New York and covers digital-native brands and shifts in the online shopping industry.

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