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In this article, we’ll be exploring four ways Singaporean women shop for women’s fashion online, and how you can leverage on their shopping habits to gain a foothold in one of Southeast Asia’s biggest eCommerce markets.
For merchants who are looking to enter the Southeast Asian eCommerce market for the first time, Singapore’s open economy and digitally-inclined population1 could make it one of the easier countries, to begin with.
Singapore facilitates high levels of cross-border shopping and shipping via eCommerce, where revenue is expected to amount to US$2.8 billion2 in 2020. The annual growth rate of eCommerce in Singapore is 9.1%, while the market’s largest segment is Electronics & Media with a market volume of US$1.9 billion in 2020.
Another one of the largest segments in the eCommerce market in Singapore is Fashion with a market volume of US$325.5 million, and revenue from this segment is expected to show an annual growth rate of 6.9%3. This means that if you’re a merchant looking to sell your fashion products online for women in Singapore, there might just be ample opportunities for you to enter the market. You can also find insights like these in our downloadable guide to Singaporean eCommerce and Shipping tips, too.
Before we zoom into the four ways your potential customers shop online, let’s briefly find out what the consumer demographics are in the eCommerce women’s fashion market in Singapore.
Compared to the rest of Southeast Asia, the average Singaporean woman is more affluent and willing to spend on premium brands.
In Singapore, women’s average income amounts to SGD$61,6534 a year according to a survey of Glassdoor salaries, which is much higher than the average income of females in neighbouring countries like Malaysia and Indonesia, whose annual income amounts to around SGD$9,0005 and SGD$2,7006 respectively.
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Additionally, in 2018, Singapore ranked 4th on Euromonitor International’s Wealth Index7, with a per capita gross income set to reach US$45,072 in 2030, an increase of 43.6% in real terms over 2018. Growth is largely associated with stable economic development, an expanding high-income consumer class, and a high savings rate that contributes to increasing assets.
In a country where GDP per capita is among the highest in the world, it is no surprise that women in Singapore are generally more exposed to a number of regional and global brands.
According to Euromonitor8, the availability of a plethora of premium and luxury brands, as well as high disposable incomes, have led to female consumers being sensitive to exclusivity and quality.
Over 2009-14, average unit prices rose significantly for handbags (32%), real jewellery (20%), and women’s outerwear (9%)8 – indicating premiumisation in these categories. This is good news for merchants looking to sell high-end or mid-range priced women’s fashion, as consumption is likely to also increase with the rise of disposable income in the country.
In addition, while the median age of females9 in Singapore has increased steadily over the past few decades, reaching 41.1 years old as of 2019, the largest proportion of eCommerce users are between the age of 25-34.
This means that if you are a merchant entering the Singaporean women’s fashion market using various channels both online and offline, considering the median age of women as a whole can be helpful. However, if you are entering the eCommerce women’s fashion market in Singapore, it would be good to take note of the age group of the largest proportion of eCommerce users instead.
Knowing your target audience’s age can help you manage the way your business interacts with them, such as through social media for younger age groups, or through more traditional means of advertisements for older age groups. It can also help you decide the characteristics of your products, such as delving into sustainability to capture the attention of millennials.
Nonetheless, women between 25 to 44 years old8 constitute the biggest segment of the female population in Singapore, thus making the situation ideal for most fashion brands targeting young working adults. Furthermore, it’ll be helpful to note that the tropical climate also plays a huge role in determining the nature of fashion demand in Singapore as locals would tend to want to wear breathable clothing all year long.
Now that we’ve gotten a better understanding of the consumer demographics, it’s time for us to explore the four ways your potential customers shop online.
According to a survey by PwC, 55 per cent, or more than half of online shoppers in Singapore10, indicated that the main driver for buying online is that the products are often cheaper. With many eCommerce platforms and retail sites offering free online delivery and international shipping when spending above a certain amount these days, women also save transport costs when purchasing online.
To mitigate the risk of buying wrong sizes or ordering the wrong products, online shopping platforms that offer free returns help women to not spend more than necessary when shopping online. This means that online shopping is often seen to be as easy if not easier than shopping at retail stores, and hence can be used as a way to attract customers.
Additionally, among all the benefits of online shopping, convenience is another main factor that drives Singaporeans to consistently purchase clothes, shoes and other products online. In other words, people in Singapore enjoy the whole experience of shopping at the comfort of their homes or offices11, and having an ordered item delivered right where they are.
Compared to shopping at physical outlets, online shopping allows busy women in Singapore to save time when purchasing clothes. There is no longer a need to travel down to the physical outlet just to grab a piece of clothing, and browsing online allows women to also skim through the entire rack much faster and skip the queues.
However, having an online store might just be the first stage towards establishing a solid consumer base in the country. As an example, Singapore-based fashion company Love, Bonito has launched its permanent flagship store at Singapore’s Orchard Road as well as its largest brick-and-mortar store at Funan Mall12 after seven years of being a purely online store.
Furthermore, Love, Bonito also allows customers to ‘click-and-collect’ items they have selected online at retail outlets which may make things more convenient for customers who are not home to receive the delivery parcels. This is akin to Pomelo Fashion’s ‘Pomelo Pick Up’13 that allows customers to shop from thousands of clothes online, try on at any Pomelo physical outlet, then only pay for the clothes they love.
According to Rachel Lim, co-founder of Love, Bonito14, a physical store provides a platform for them to enhance their customers’ touch point, provides a space for their community to mingle and learn, enables them to interact with their customers face to face and increases their customers’ brand loyalty.
In a survey conducted by Brizfeel15, over half of the consumers said the biggest drawback of online shopping is not able to touch, feel, and try a product (51%), followed by lack of physical shopping experience (24%), possibility of damage for fragile item (11%), and lack of interactivity (5%).
This means that retailers might find it disadvantageous to solely rely on a single channel for their business, and may need to diversify and offer an excellent customer experience to their customers regardless of channels to stay competitive.
Yet, online shopping remains significant in the buyers’ journey such as in the case of MDS Collection, which offers both online and offline retailing, and an additional online subscription service16 that makes each piece much cheaper than buying in their physical store. This caters to women who shop frequently and would still like to try out the clothes before purchasing them.
Furthermore, shops that started offline had seen an increase in consumer interest after expanding their channels digitally, and have even branched out beyond retail websites to mobile apps and more. One such example is Charles & Keith. From 2012 to 2015, it observed that its site visits from mobile devices had jumped from 20% to 55%17, which motivated the brand to develop its own mobile shopping app.
In addition to expanding into new markets, Charles & Keith uses diverse platforms (the app, website and physical stores) to reach more consumers and in different channels. Through this and other efforts, Charles & Keith’s consumers were able to enjoy a smooth, seamless, omni-channel shopping experience — leading to an increase in sales from $97 million in 200818 to $400 million in 201919.
Hence, while it would be best to make use of various platforms both online and offline to meet the demands of your customers, starting out online could still be a good way to gain traction in the market.
A report released in 2017 by Google and Singapore’s Temasek reveals that Southeast Asians spend the most time online globally14, with most of this time spent on social media sites. Therefore, in addition to the regular eCommerce websites we have been acquainted with, ‘social commerce’ is becoming increasingly common in the market — which is defined as the act of buying and selling on social media platforms.
According to the State of Social Commerce in Southeast Asia report, almost 6 in 10 consumers in Southeast Asia say that more than one-quarter of all their online shopping is influenced by social media20, with the two most popular channels triggering a purchase being Facebook (78%) and YouTube (52%).
In addition, 44% of these social shoppers say they have made three or more online purchases in the past month as a result of seeing social media posts or ads. On a similar note, a 2016 report by Bain and Company14 showed that 150 million people in Southeast Asia shopped through social media, compared to only 7 percent of the United States’s 287 million Internet users.
One of the latest trends in social commerce is the direct integration of shopping functionality into the content display on social media3, enabling high-speed, “inspire and sell” customer conversion (e.g., Instagram Checkout). The audience is increasingly shifting from desktop to mobile, and improving the mobile browsing and checkout experience is becoming crucial.
Furthermore, while the amount of time Singaporeans spend on social media is roughly on par with the global average of two hours and 16 minutes21, the majority of this activity is dominated by millennials or individuals between the ages of 23 and 38 in 201922.
This means that it is important to remain up-to-date with the latest features on social media platforms as well as understand how users interact with your content so as to to capture the attention of potential customers. For starters, millennials tend to distrust online ads and put more stock in reviews23, making it important to make customer reviews and user-generated content visible on your social media pages.
Additionally, Singapore’s top social media platform is YouTube, followed by Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. It would be good to create a presence on a few of these platforms so that you can maximise your reach among your target. With 68 percent21 of internet users in Singapore watching online video every day, video content is also worth considering when marketing to consumers in the country.
Looking for more insights like these? Find out more about Singapore’s eCommerce landscape in our Singapore eCommerce guide!
Unsurprisingly, as of the third quarter of 2019, the most frequently visited eCommerce site in Singapore for fashion24 was Zalora, with 1,197,800 web visits in a month. Second on the list was Love, Bonito with 473,900 monthly web visits. Reebonz followed closely behind with 394,900 monthly web visits.
While Zalora mostly sells casual clothing from brands with mid-range pricing such as Cotton On and Adidas, Reebonz mostly sells luxury products from brands such as Prada and Versace. It would be good to look through the list of popular eCommerce platforms in Singapore so that you know which website would be the most appropriate for the products you are bringing into the market.
Additionally, Love, Bonito is a homegrown brand that is known for creating clothes for Asian women25, whom the founder felt had different body shapes and needs from Western women. What started off as a small venture eventually gained traction and is thriving both online and offline.
As this could suggest that Singaporean women are generally willing to accept smaller brands as long as it caters to their needs, it would be useful if newer merchants can adopt similar practices to better understand what female consumers are looking out for.
This is also highlighted in the fact that platforms like Zalora have their own page for modest wear26 with products ranging from Bokitta hijabs to Zalia basics27. The various frames, cuts, lines and fabric textures appeal to many Muslim women in Singapore, and can be one way for smaller merchants to showcase their fashion line.
Furthermore, according to a report by Econsultancy28, young consumers in Southeast Asia are no longer interested in following brands, making the brand experience more important than ever. Just 11% cite having a prestigious or famous brand as one of their top three attributes of an online store, while only 9% choose having a physical store.
This falls in line with the fact that Shopee and Lazada are still a few of the biggest general eCommerce platforms out there, yet host a large variety of brands not limited to prestigious brands. Some merchants on these eCommerce platforms are even small home businesses that managed to gain a following from their attractive products.
Hence, while newer merchants might need to work harder to get their brand experience perfect to gain potential customer’s attention and convert interest to purchase, consumers’ reduced preference for famous brands presents hope that newer brands can compete with existing ones.
In Singapore, 60 percent of online shoppers11 have been reported using Google and other search engines as their primary source of the information they need to make a buying decision. Another 14 percent prefer using video platforms such as YouTube and Vimeo to search for more information concerning a brand, product, or service.
The number of people using YouTube is projected to get even bigger in the next few years, more so as the popularity of the platform increases in the region.
In a 2016 report, PwC said social media is exerting a stronger influence on online shopping behaviour among locals. Some 57 percent of Singaporean shoppers10 use social media to read reviews (45 per cent globally, 60 per cent in the region) and access promotional offerings (44 per cent globally, 58 per cent in the region).
Singaporeans are highly social, with 3 out of every four people11 you meet in the country being active on at least one social network. This means that a good chunk of the users are thought to rely on the information they get from social influencers to make a buying decision.
Some popular fashion influencers in the country include Yoyo Cao with 383,000 followers on Instagram29, and Christabel Chua with 253,000 followers on Instagram30. These influencers are often known for being trendy with their fashion, hence engaging influencers of the same standing to promote your products could be a good way to enter the Singapore market.
By understanding how your potential customers in the Singapore’s women’s fashion market shop online, you might be able better appeal to your target segment. While Singapore may appear as a saturated market filled with large barriers to entry from competitors, the women’s fashion market is still a growing one that provides many opportunities for newer merchants to enter the market, as Love, Bonito and Pomelo Fashion have demonstrated.
Delivery is still an important part of the eCommerce experience. If you’re sourcing your fashion products from beyond Singapore, find an eCommerce shipping partner to help you with getting these eCommerce products delivered on time and on target to your Singaporean customers.
Popular eCommerce platforms and experienced logistics service providers who are well-acquainted with Singapore’s shipping rules and regulations can simplify much of your cross-border shipping process, making it much easier for you to start expanding your business in the country.
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