USD 100 billion. That was how much Southeast Asia’s internet economy was worth back in 2019, as reported by Google and Temasek’s e-Conomy SEA 2019 report.1 The Southeast Asian region has a population of nearly 670 million, and has shown rapid growth in terms of their national and internet economies. With rapid growth like this, there’s also room for medium-sized brands in Australia to get in on the action. We’ve also created a piece on Southeast Asia’s impression of Australian brands here.
But out of all these economies, the one with among the highest spending power per capita is Singapore. With its strategic position between major trade lanes, Singapore turned itself into a major financial and trading hub powered by a well-educated workforce. Google and Temasek’s 2019 report mentions that Singapore’s eCommerce market value was USD2 billion in 2019, and expected to grow to USD 7 billion in 2025.
While those estimates were developed before COVID-19 happened, the pandemic actually accelerated many countries’ adoption of eCommerce, with tech-savvy Singapore being no exception. Here, we break down the trends that Australian brands should know about when looking to expand your market presence in Singapore’s eCommerce sphere. But first:
According to the Department of Statistics Singapore (SingStat),2 Singapore’s median household income from work including Employer CPF contributions grew from S$ 6,342 a month in 2010 to S$ 9,425 a month by February 2020. Even if we discount this median by 10% to account for 2020’s later events, this median income is still among the highest in the Southeast Asian region.
With a strong middle class and a love of shopping best exemplified by the shopping malls of Orchard and Marina Bay Sands, people in Singapore more than welcome international brands. In fact, Apple is opening its third store in Singapore, and one that floats on the water at that.
Stores like Mandarin Gallery and others in Singapore regularly stock Australian branded clothing, and health and beauty products like Swisse, Blackmores, and Aesop can easily be found in Singapore’s stores. This means there’s also room for small to medium Australian brands to flourish within Singapore as well.
Singaporeans love shopping both online and at brick-and-mortar stores. Stores that are powered by Shopify also gain frequent Singapore traffic alongside well-known eCommerce giants like Alibaba (Taobao), Lazada, Shopee and Amazon. Getting started in Singapore is just a matter of getting onto these platforms and making yourself known to Singaporeans.
English is the primary language used in Singapore, so Australian brands won’t need to translate or go through too much trouble to localise marketing campaigns or materials to reach Singaporean audiences too.
In addition, Singapore has a high de minimis rate for products imported via courier of SGD 400. That means that parcels air-flown or brought in via courier from Australia into Singapore with a customs value lower than SGD400 are not subject to higher customs duties and taxes. This has the effect of encouraging cross-border online purchases by those living in Singapore.
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One major trend almost everywhere these days is the increased need for social distancing. The height of Singapore’s social distancing measures was its Circuit Breaker which began in April and ended on the 1st of June 2020. During that period, many non-essential retailers such as clothes or home & living stores needed to be shuttered.
A Nielsen press release on the 8th April 20203 highlighted that two in five respondents living in Singapore increased their online shopping activities and three in four mentioned that they will not return to the same levels of online shopping before the outbreak.
Online sales in April and July 2020 beat 2019’s Q4 online shopping peak period. November 2019,4 which has 11.11 and Black Friday, see online sales hit S$ 288 million. December 2020’s5 numbers were S$285.6 million.
Based on information from Singstat, in April 20206 when the Circuit Breaker began, total sales value on the Retail Sales Index and Food & Beverage Services Index was at S$2.1 billion, of which 17.8 per cent was online (S$373.8 million).
In July 2020,7 sales revenue recovered to S$3.3 billion, with online sales making up 11 per cent of all sales (S$363 million), which matches Nielsen’s findings earlier in April. So while online made up a slightly smaller proportion of overall sales since brick and mortar stores reopened, it’s still higher than 2019’s online peak.
What this means for Australian brands is that a larger pool of Singaporeans will be continuing to shop online more frequently moving forward. While you may not be able to capture most of them immediately, building your online presence through digital marketing and having online storefronts on popular shopping marketplaces like Shopee and Lazada are good places to start.
Janio Asia also partners with enablers and international partners like Global Shoppers International, so we can help to partner you with the right resources to get your cross-border eCommerce venture into Singapore started.
Despite the circuit breaker ending, not every worker in Singapore has gone back to the office. In fact, a recent poll reported by the Straits Times8 showed that Singaporeans are now adjusting to working from home more.
This could spell a great opportunity for brands selling more comfortable loungewear like shorts, t-shirts and other comfortable clothing like pyjamas to come in.
In Euromonitor’s April 2020 report, they covered that athleisure apparel is still doing well while most other non-sports apparel struggles in 2020’s climate.
Athleisure apparel appeals to Singaporeans’ more practical side as it offers style, durability, and comfort for life at the gym or at the office. For those continuing to go to the office, it provides time-saving benefits as it helps wearers quickly switch from work to sports without the need to swap outfits. Rising health consciousness is also seeing Singaporeans engaging in more fitness activities like running, pilates or yoga. Euromonitor also mentions that athleisure’s continued performance has encouraged brands to create more items targeted more at everyday wear.
In another report by the Straits Times,9 Singaporeans couldn’t wait to stretch their legs on the beach after being cooped up at home for a few months.
Encouraged by low community case numbers, many preferred to spend their leisure time at beaches like those at East Coast Park enjoying picnics or engaging in activities like biking and rollerblading.
In the Straits Times report, one of the interviewees mentioned: “At least here, there is wind and it’s open air. It’s not like a shopping centre where it’s closed and everyone is packed together.”
Another also mentioned: “If the numbers spike again, I’m definitely going to stay home but because it seems like things are under control, we decided to hang out and catch up here,”
With the recovery of retail spending and persistent online sales, brands that sell beachwear like Billabong or Cotton On are well-positioned to ride this trend.
In Euromonitor’s 2019 report10 on consumer health, younger Singaporeans’ fast-paced, stressful lifestyles have led to unhealthy habits like heavily relying on eating out and at times requiring sleeping aids. Many who rely eating out tend to have carbohydrate and meat-rich meals, which leads to gaps in nutrition which are filled by consuming dietary supplements and vitamins.
Apart from remedying unhealthy lifestyles consumption of these supplements and vitamins is also likely powered by Singaporeans’ belief in prevention being better than curing. Some in Singapore are also looking for natural and organic alternatives for health products, especially for children, as they believe these to be ‘cleaner’ and ‘safer’ by having fewer side-effects. All of which is good news for Australian brands like Swisse and Blackmores.
There is also a growing trend of Singaporeans leading healthier lifestyles, such as incorporating more fitness activities into their regimes. According to a Ken Research report in 2019,11 there could be an estimated 2.287 million people participating in sports in 2023.
This could support demand for sports nutrition which, as Euromonitor also puts it, has seen strong growth in internet retail by being able to offer wider ranges of products and brands at affordable prices – even from outside of Singapore. Having a stronger presence in the market to drive Singaporeans to their online sports nutrition stores could do big favours for brands like Australia’s True Protein or Max’s.
As we’ve previously covered in our Singapore cosmetics trends article, the ‘clean’ movement extends beyond health products and also towards skincare and cosmetics. Singaporeans are becoming increasingly aware of the harmful effects of synthetic chemicals and are conscious of what they apply on their skin as a result. This is also good news for Australia’s health and beauty brands who tout their clean and organic status, like Innersense Organic Beauty or Vapour Organic beauty.
As reported by SCMP,12 Euromonitor International has seen a growing preference for independent cosmetics brands among Singaporeans. And according to Daily Vanity,13 more respondents (97%) expressed a willingness to try new brands in 2018, compared to only 79% who were keen on trying out new makeup brands in 2017.
The preference for local brands isn’t strictly a matter of geographical origin, but rather of authenticity. Among Southeast Asians, Australian brands have a reputation for being authentic, so if you’re able to bring out the authenticity of your Australian brand, you can win over Singaporean online shoppers, too.
Following the trend from general health and beauty products, Singaporean parents look for products that they feel are best for their children, not necessarily the most expensive or luxurious products but products deemed ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ according to Euromonitor’s Baby and Child Specific Products Report 2020. Singaporean parents also lookout for products that can prevent skin irritation on their children’s skin.
Euromonitor also reported that Mummy Influencers are gaining popularity within Singapore. “Mummy influencers” are parents keen to take photos and post about their babies or children – as well as the products they use on social media platforms like Instagram. Influencers like Tammy Tay (instagram profile) and Tjin Lee (Instagram profile) are two good examples who also tag and mention these brands on their posts.
This is a great chance for Australian brands that sell baby accessories and clothing like TutuDeMonde and Yoli & Otis to feature their designs via sponsorships or partnerships with these influencers too.
Singapore is still recovering from recent events but these won’t be enough to take the wind out of their sails. Choosing what they believe is safe via natural and organic products, not afraid to explore indie brands and also taking fitness seriously for that quaran-tone body are all trends that Australian brands can take note of when selling to these resilient people.
Knowing the trends for your specific product vertical in Singapore is key to success. But no campaign is complete without considering your supply chain. With its years of experience and expertise, Janio Asia’s wide network of shipping partners has your Singaporean and Southeast Asian shipping needs covered. From customs clearance to fulfilment, our flexible B2B and B2C logistics services can cover your brand’s unique logistics needs.
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