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From the ones who shop online for products that are hard to find in local stores to the ones who thoroughly research listings to get the best buy online, Singapore’s shoppers are as diverse as its multiracial makeup. Because of that, Singapore’s eCommerce scene has been flourishing in recent years, driven by many factors ranging from the prevalence of cashless payments and its robust logistics infrastructure.
In fact, Singapore’s high average annual revenue1 per online shopper amongst Southeast Asian nations bodes well for international eCommerce merchants looking to dip their toes into Southeast Asian eCommerce. Because of the developed infrastructures in place, online sellers can get a taste of how eCommerce is like in a developed market like Singapore.
So let’s meet some of these online shoppers in Singapore, learn why they shop online, and find out which platforms they prefer.
Singaporeans are avid online shoppers, with nearly 3 in 4 of them having shopped online according to research by Hootsuite/We Are Social. Among them, 73% have bought from overseas online stores.1
Within this group, Singaporean women (57%) shop more than men (43%) according to Picodi’s 2018 study.2 Similarly, the study revealed that most online shoppers are young. Almost half of Singapore’s online shoppers are within the age group of 25-34 years old (46%). This is followed by the 35-44 year old age group (22%) and then the 18-24 year old age group (17%). Only 15% of Singaporean shoppers are aged 45 and above.
From this, you could derive that the typical online shopper in Singapore belongs to the digitally savvy generation. They are fond of using social media to communicate with each other and would interact with their favourite brands on platforms like Facebook and Instagram. These platforms can help you boost your brand if you are thinking of expanding and localising your online store into a Singaporean audience.
With the profile of a typical Singaporean shopper in mind, it begs the question, why do these young Singaporeans shop online? To answer this, let’s look into our Singaporean shopper’s persona, Meilian.
For Singaporeans like Meilian, a working adult in her late 20’s, there are some days where she is too busy at work to step into a mall for her dose of retail therapy, even if the Great Singapore Sale3 is going on. While Meilian does enjoy getting a good discount for her purchases, she prefers shopping online to look for the best discounts, like 25% of her Singaporean cohorts according to iPrice’s study.4
Additionally, she has found that online discounts tend to be more attractive5 than those in physical retail stores. For stores like Lazada, their flash sales can go up to 90%6, as opposed to some stores that rely on gimmicks like offering discounts only on the second item bought.7 On top of that, Singapore’s high internet speeds mean that the ability to access multiple eCommerce storefronts to compare prices between them easier than ever.
During the Singles Day Sale from 2016 to 2017, online sales rose by 60%.8 This means that online shoppers like Meilian would have anticipated and participated in the campaign period by grabbing as many discounted goods as she could.
With global eCommerce platforms widely available on Singaporean shores, sales periods known for their impressive discounts and promotions like Black Friday have also become commonplace for Singapore’s shoppers, where 82% of respondents knew about Black Friday9, and 49% intended to participate in the sale in 2018. This has also affected brick and mortar stores3 such that shops that conduct Black Friday sales have done better than the month-long Great Singapore Sale.
Meilian also likes to shop online to gain access to overseas goods. By buying from other countries, she is able to gain access to goods that are normally not found in brick and mortar stores, similar to why almost half of the global populace10 shop online. In some cases, products could be cheaper in other countries or released earlier there than they would in Singapore.
According to PayPal’s 2017 study, 73% of Singapore’s online buys11 are from cross-border eCommerce, with 14% of shoppers buying exclusively from foreign websites. Forrester Research12 places this number at 60%. Their study also reveals that Singaporeans like to buy products from Malaysia (40%), South Korea (25%), and Japan (18%).
It’s been a gruelling month at work for Meilian, and finally, the day has come – Pay Day. Knowing that hard work shouldn’t go unrewarded, she treats herself by going online to do some well-deserved shopping. This habit coincides with iPrice’s findings that Singaporeans like to treat themselves13 (19%), and tend to do so at the end of the month where there is an increase in online shopping activity.
To cater to Singaporean online shoppers like Meilian it therefore helps to have a variety of goods that are price competitive and hard to find. Now that you know why Singaporeans shop online, you’ll need to know how they shop online.
On top of that, Meilian follows her friends’ social media profiles religiously. She’s usually the first to stay on top of reviews and knowing which online shops to support and avoid based on her friends’ status updates.
iPrice Group reveals that 60% of Singaporean online shoppers would look for products via search engines like Google in their 2017 study.13 Usually already having a type of product or brand in mind, Singaporean shoppers would search for various reviews, features and price comparisons to make sure that they are getting the best product at the best deal possible.
On days where Meilian isn’t looking for a specific blazer to compliment her black shirt, she would consume content from her friends’ posts in the form of Instagram content and their #ootd’s14, which is the hashtag used for a person’s stylish outfit for the day.
In Hootsuite/We Are Social’s report in 2019, 79% of Singaporeans are active social media users.15 To add to that, Singaporean shoppers are the most vocal users amongst Southeast Asians16 when it comes to eCommerce shopping. They are most likely to complain if an eCommerce order goes wrong (34.7%) but they are also two times more likely than Indonesians to share their joy of eCommerce shopping if the delivery meets or exceeds their expectations.
This corroborates with iPrice and Parcel Perform’s findings in 201917 that Singaporeans are generally happy with the eCommerce delivery experience with 75% giving a 5/5 star rating, but this has to be backed up by timely deliveries within 0-3 days.
Because of this, Meilian tends to stay away from eCommerce stores that have bad reviews from frustrated customers, while going for those that her friends recommend highly. This forms part of their tendency to be meticulous about online listings, where 48% of Singaporeans would compare listings13 before making their online purchase, and 57% of respondents in PwC’s survey rely on reviews18 via social media in order to determine the authenticity of the product.
With developed infrastructures in place like high internet speeds and the prevalence of cashless payment methods, Singaporeans tend to take their comforts for granted. Because of that, they would have high expectations when it comes to the online shopping experience.
Singaporean shoppers like Meilian would want to have more flexibility19 and convenience in their online shopping experience. For instance, Meilian wants eCommerce platforms to give her options when it comes to delivery addresses because she might not be around to collect her parcel at home and would like it sent to the office instead. She would want her office receptionist around to collect a delivery on her behalf if she’s away on a business trip.
This goes in line with findings that state 52% of Singapore’s online shoppers want the ability to select a delivery location19 that is convenient for them. Among other things, around 63% of Singaporeans will also review a merchant’s return policy19 before checking out their carts online. This corroborates with our previous statement that shoppers like Meilian are meticulous about which online storefront they are shopping from.
To win over your Singaporean customers, it helps to address negative feedback in a prompt and personable way, while providing various payment options. On top of that, you should have an online storefront that can save multiple delivery addresses and have a robust return policy to optimise the online shopping experience for them.
Most Singaporeans do their shopping after work hours20, although Meilian sometimes unwinds by window shopping online during her 3pm coffee break. In order to not get caught shopping online during working hours, she would browse on her mobile phone to do her online shopping. However, she would prefer the larger screen of her personal laptop if she were shopping at home.
There are conflicting sources on whether Singaporeans prefer to shop online via desktop or on mobile. In a 2018 survey by Picodi2, they have found that Singaporeans preferred online shopping on desktops (62%) compared to their smartphones (35%). But the 2017 study by iPrice21 revealed that 60% preferred shopping on smartphones whereas 34% preferred shopping on desktops.
Thus, it helps to have your website optimised for both desktop and mobile screens, and it helps to take a leaf from Singapore’s popular online shopping platforms. The top 3 platforms, Qoo10, Lazada, and Shopee22, are good examples to follow with user-friendly interfaces on both desktop and mobile screens.
Locally, Singapore is a hotbed for e-commerce startups, and the largest ones consistently find themselves at the top spots22 by the number of average monthly visits they get. Prior to Q1 2019, Qoo10 has consistently topped the charts in Singapore e-commerce, with 7.9 million monthly web visits at its peak in Q1 2019. This number has since reduced to 6.9 million monthly visits in Q3 2019. Lazada toppled Qoo10 in Q3 2019 with 7.8 million monthly visits, and Shopee is slowly catching up at 4.1 million monthly visits, compared to 2.5 million visits in Q1 2019.
On top of this, Brand.coms also do well with Singaporeans, with notable ones including HipVan, a Brand.com furniture store with 266 thousand views per month on Q1 2019, and MDS Collections, a Brand.com fashion store with a subscription service with 114 thousand views per month.
Additionally, international shops like eBay and Alibaba’s various storefronts like AliExpress and Taobao are also popular amongst Singaporean shoppers. eBay enjoyed 823 thousand monthly visits on average in Q3 2019, while Taobao’s 11.11 sales raked in SGD 30 billion in 201723, showing evidence that the Alibaba-owned site is popular amongst Singaporeans too.
If you want to enter Singapore’s e-commerce market, you might want to consider which types of online platforms you would want to use to attract Singaporean consumers. Listing on online marketplace platforms like Qoo10 and Shopee means that you can participate in the platform’s discount campaigns and win customers over in the short term. However, if you’re in a more specific product vertical, such as fashion for example, then selling on platforms like Zalora and Zilingo can help attract the right type of audience.
However, to have full control of the brand experience, it helps to have a brand.com website of your own in order to not dilute your product’s branding and purchase experience for your customers. Brand.com’s works best when it comes to cultivating brand loyalty amongst online shoppers. Tools like Shopify and Magento can help to customise your storefront to give it a brand identity and helps you to stand out from your competitors.
Thus, with the right types of products, excellent service, and great international delivery, your e-commerce store can capture your share of Singaporean shoppers like Meilian. If you exceed their expectations, you stand the chance of getting a bigger return on investment with great reviews and advocates for your online brand.
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