Despite being a Little Red Dot, Singapore is a major e-commerce market in Southeast Asia. This city-state with a population of roughly 5.88 million people has the highest average e-commerce basket size in the region, at US$91. The country also has an exceptional mobile subscription penetration rate of 150 percent, making locals ever-connected to the digital world.
High credit card usage and openness to mobile wallets have also eased the adoption of online shopping in the country. The country also has among the best logistics infrastructure in the world, making it attractive for e-commerce operations within Southeast Asia.
Culturally, shopping is often considered a national pastime in Singapore. This propensity for consumerism has led to a relatively mature online shopping market, which now includes niche e-commerce platforms. For example, the country’s top e-commerce players include timepiece seller SkyWatches and e-furniture site FortyTwo.
That means e-commerce merchants from outside the country would do well to be present in both major marketplaces, such as Lazada, Shopee and Qoo10, and in relevant specialty platforms.
Singapore’s Major Online Shopping Days
Singles’ Day (11.11)
Lazada’s Singles’ Day sale, held on November 11 every year, has undoubtedly taken Southeast Asia by storm. Singapore is no exception. Interest in the sale has been soaring in the past couple of years. From 2016 to 2017, online sales in Singapore during 11.11 rose by 60 percent. Comparing Singles’ Day 2017 to the same day in 2018, iPrice Group observed an uptick in shopping activity.
Lazada isn’t the only platform that holds this sale, although it did garner 59 percent of search queries related to “11.11 promo” in 2018. Platforms such as Qoo10, Shopee, Zalora, and Klook also received significant shopping interest during the sale. Local platform Ezbuy notes that its sales tend to increase by 50 to 100 times during Singles’ Day compared to the rest of the year.
Beauty, fashion, electronics, and homeware items tend to be highly popular during the sale. For local platform Qoo10, sellers of beauty products, footwear, and gadgets had the highest number of sales in 2017. If you’re a seller on any of these platforms, this would be a good period to prepare new marketing and delivery plans to cater to the sharp increase in online shopping demand.
Great Singapore Sale
Singapore has held the month-long Great Singapore Sale (GSS) annually since 1994. From mom-and-pop stores to major chains and international brands, retailers across Singapore participate in the sale, offering discounts that can come up to 70 percent of the original prices.
Of course, e-commerce platforms and online merchants have jumped on the bandwagon. GSS is no longer the exclusive domain of offline retailers. In fact, in 2018, Lazada went the extra mile by holding GSS pre-sale and a GSS Last Chance sale, aside from the main event.
Discounted electronic goods are among the most coveted items during GSS.
While GSS typically runs from June to July, last year saw an extended sale period in celebration of the event’s 25th anniversary. GSS 2018 ran from June 8 to August 12. However, while e-commerce platforms performed well during GSS last year, reports of lacklustre sales in brick-and-mortar stores have prompted GSS organisers to consider revamping the format.
This outcome has also prompted the event’s organizers to adopt an omni-channel strategy, launching an app that allows shoppers to find deas and download coupons. This is a sign of recognition that Singaporeans are increasingly using online channels for shopping, which is good news for e-commerce store owners serving Singapore.
GSS will return to a one-month format in 2019.
Black Friday & Cyber Monday
The weekend after Thanksgiving is a major shopping period, with Singaporeans looking to both overseas and local e-commerce platforms to find good deals. While these sales originated in the USA, they have become increasingly known globally. A survey of Singaporeans showed that 82 percent of respondents knew about the Black Friday sale, and 49 percent intended to participate in the sale in 2018.
In 2017, Qoo10 reported a total sales value of $10.1 million during the Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend—a 50 percent increase compared to the previous year. ShopBack, a cashback site, saw higher average spending during the same weekend compared to Singles’ Day. This is partly due to the fact that more international merchants participate in Black Friday and Cyber Monday compared to Singles’ Day. Consumers’ shopping basket sizes tend to be higher for these international merchants.
The same survey of Singaporeans (mentioned earlier) showed that the average Singaporean spends more than S$225 on Black Friday, with a preference for clothes, electronics, and shoes. Prices were marked down by an average of 55 percent globally, and 53 percent in Singapore.
Amazon is a popular option for buying discounted items from the USA, especially during Black Friday and Cyber Monday. (In 2017, the e-commerce giant acknowledged its local popularity by offering Prime membership for Singapore.) Local retailers also hold sales, both within their offline stores and on their websites.
Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year (CNY) takes place at the beginning of the Chinese calendar year. It is a major holiday in Singapore, where Chinese citizens count for 74.3 percent of the population, respectively. The holiday is celebrated with street parades and family gatherings, as well as the giving of fruits and delicacies.
In Singapore, Taiwan, and Vietnam, CNY shopping tends to peak in the two weeks before the holiday itself. This allows people to buy gifts in advance, as well as purchase clothing and home decor for the festivities and for the new year ahead. With locals busy enjoying the festivities and participating in family rituals during the two days of the CNY public holiday, they spend less time shopping online on those two days. In fact, online sales begin to dip five days before CNY.
To boost online sales during the season and introduce e-commerce to older demographics, online platforms have made themselves visible during public CNY festivities in Singapore. This year, Shopee and Native, a tour-booking platform, set up booths at Chinatown as part of the CNY bazaar.
Meanwhile, platforms such as Amazon, Shopee, and Lazada, which made it a point to sell unique CNY-related items from heritage brands. Fashion retailers take the opportunity to sell modernised cheongsams, which are traditional dresses for Chinese women. Shoppers also like to purchase heavy home appliances during the CNY shopping period.
Smaller merchants can take a cue from these e-commerce giants’ steps and sell CNY-themed items. For example, those selling fashion can find clothing manufacturers who can make modern apparel inspired by the traditional Chinese aesthetic.
Hari Raya Puasa
Hari Raya Puasa marks the end of Ramadan, a month of fasting for Muslims, who make up 14.3 percent of Singapore’s population by religion. Muslims dress their best on Hari Raya Puasa, providing an opportunity for fashion ateliers and retailers to sell clothing in the weeks and days before the celebration.
Elegant, modest fashion for women is popular for Hari Raya Puasa celebrations. Zalora, FashionValet, and several other fashion e-commerce platforms and merchants run dedicated sales for Hari Raya Puasa. Homeware is also another popular category for Hari Raya sales.
There is no fixed annual date for observing Ramadan, as it depends on the Islamic calendar, which in turn is based on lunar cycles. Hari Raya Puasa 2019 will be celebrated on June 5.
Other Noteworthy E-Commerce Events
Types of promotions merchants can run
Hold minor sales days prior to a major shopping event. Not only does this help you build up anticipation; it also allows you to bring in sales with fewer competitors around.
On the day of a major shopping event, hold flash sales that last for an hour or two, complete with a counter indicating the number of products sold and the remaining available items.
Competitive arousal has been shown to positively affect online purchase intention, especially when paired with time scarcity. That means buyers don’t like it when they miss out on an opportunity to get a good deal, especially when they see that other consumers have already bought the same and when they know they’re running out of time to make a purchase.
Surprise boxes are like product bundles, except that people don’t know what’s inside of them. This is your chance to delight and surprise buyers, as well as introduce less popular items by including them in a box with more in-demand products.
To decide what to place inside your surprise boxes, analyse the items that your buyers typically purchase together or search for in the same browsing period. Take a look at Google Trends to discover trending searches, too.
One of Shopee’s 9.9 sales tactics is to hold themed days—24-hour periods focusing on major discounts for a specific product category. Aside from enticing consumers, this helps you simplify your supply preparation, as you’ll know which items will be in high demand on certain days.
Partner with cashback platforms
Cashback platforms like ShopBack are widely popular in Singapore. After all, with their ‘kiasu’ approach, locals can be quite ingenious when finding ways to not miss out on great bargains. (‘Kiasu’ is a local term that means the fear of losing out to other people.)
By partnering with cashback platforms, you can expose your online store or brand to a wider audience and encourage them to make a purchase.
High opportunity, high competition
Being Southeast Asia’s economic powerhouse, Singapore is an attractive pie for online merchants. Shopping has been ingrained into the locals’ lifestyle. While that’s a good thing, that also means that local retailers and online sellers are quite adept at competing for consumers’ wallets.
Increase your share of the Singapore e-commerce market by taking advantage of sales periods and tailoring your products and promotions to locals. Understand what makes Singaporeans click on the ‘purchase’ button and provide them with a pleasant and convenient user experience.
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