This is part of our Southeast Asia Ramadan series, where we explore eCommerce insights for Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore as well as looking into how to overcome logistics issues associated with last mile during Ramadan in countries like Singapore too. For all of these in one convenient package, check out our SEA Ramadan Guide 2020!
The Ramadan month is a sacred time for Muslims. During this period, Muslims adjust their schedules to include more time for prayers, fasting and doing charitable deeds. Additionally, many Singaporean Muslims start preparing their homes and families for the upcoming Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebrations by shopping for a variety of goods, such as food, new clothes, and gifts for their relatives.
With a mature digital infrastructure and a tech-savvy population, it comes as no surprise that Singapore’s eCommerce economy has been thriving and is expected to expand by 48% to $9.98b (US$7.4b) by 20221. In 2017, a Visa study2 found that 78 per cent of Singaporeans shop online at least once a month — in part fueled by an impressive GDP per capita of USD 63,9903, the highest among Southeast Asian countries.
14%4 of Singapore’s citizen population are Muslims, which translates to roughly 600,000 people. Thus, there exists a sizable market for eCommerce retailers to tap into this consumer segment in the country.
In 2018, it was reported that there was a surge in online retail sales and traffic which began 10 days into Ramadan, and lasted through the 10 days before Hari Raya Aidilfitri5. While sales cooled off during the week before Hari Raya Aidilfitri, there was a reinvigorated interest and activity in the one to two weeks following that. Hari Raya is one of the major online shopping events in SG. In fact, HIJENTITY, a Muslim lifestyle and fashion company that owns the brands Tudung People SG and Homies in Jannah, mentions that the increases in sales during Ramadan can be substantial.
According to Filzah Zainal, HIJENTITY’s Head of Marketing and Operations, “In Singapore, our sales during Ramadan can be around three times our revenue for a normal month.”
Some of the most popular websites for Ramadan shopping include FashionValet and Zalora for fashion, where discounts and promotions are plentiful to attract customers. Common promotions during this period are themed around packages and bundling, such as ‘buy 2 to get a free gift’, or ‘buy 1 to get 50% off the next purchase’.
In addition, during Ramadan, Criteo6 has reported higher surges and lower declines in mobile web sales. Hence, if you’re a brand or retailer, it would help to optimise your mobile presence, such as through easy-to-navigate pages and a seamless checkout experience. To find out Singapore’s other top shopping periods, check out our recently updated Singapore eCommerce guide.
Singapore’s government recently announced circuit breaker measures7 to stem the spread of COVID-19. These measures take place on the 7th of April 2020 which will last for the month of April as of the time of this writing. During this period, many will be working and studying from home as schools, offices and business premises that do not provide essential products and services will be closed. Social gatherings are discouraged with even places of worship being closed.
Similar to what can be expected in Indonesia and Malaysia, Singaporeans will be adjusting to their new home-based lifestyles, complete with changes to what they’re likely to buy online during this period.
The circuit breaker extends into Ramadan, but if it isn’t extended should not bleed into the Hari Raya Aidlifitri celebration periods. Many in Singapore hope that the situation will improve sufficiently for celebrations to go on as normal in time for Raya.
Regardless of COVID’s influence, popular eCommerce platforms in Southeast Asia like Lazada8 tend to ramp up their promotions on special occasions such as Ramadan, it would be good to find out what sort of products consumers are looking for. This is so that you can make the most out of these promotions and cater to the demand of consumers.
Now that we know the key facts and figures about the Singaporean eCommerce market, let’s find out which products are expected to be in high demand this Ramadan.
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During Hari Raya, Muslim families customarily visit the homes of their relatives and friends with new clothes to mark the beginning of the festivities. In the weeks leading up to Hari Raya, there is a 67 per cent increase in online retail sales in Southeast Asia which according to Criteo, is led by the fashion and luxury category9.
For females, traditional clothing includes the Hijab, Baju Kurung or Kebaya, usually adorned with vibrant accessories and footwear. The hijab is an example of a one-size-fits-all item that is great for online shopping because there is no need for women to try them on to ensure a good fit.
Filzah from HIJENTITY adds, “Unlike apparels, tudungs do not have a range of sizes: S, M, L in terms of cutting. When someone trusts the brand and knows what to expect from the experience, they’ll come back for more.”
For males, their traditional clothing includes the Baju Melayu, Samping and Songkok, which are the top, bottom and headwear respectively.
As Muslims in Singapore love fashion, some even enjoy colour coordinating the clothes that their family members wear when it comes to visiting or hosting open houses. This means that if you offer the same colour across different outfits for both male and female consumers, there’s a high chance families might be able to purchase all their outfits just from your store.
In an earlier article on how Singaporean women shop online, we’ve seen that female consumers in Singapore tend to be open to newer brands as long as they cater to their needs. An example of this would be the newer brands on Zalora’s modest wear page, which includes products ranging from Bokitta hijabs to Zalia basics.
The various frames, cuts, lines and fabric textures10 appeal to many Muslim women in Singapore, and can be one way for newer merchants to showcase their fashion line. Similarly, brands such as Hijup which are already popular overseas are also gaining the interest of Singaporean Muslims through their vast array of fashion items.
On the other hand, big names in the fashion industry that do not meet the demands of consumers would naturally not fare well in Southeast Asia. For instance, Mango’s Ramadan collection was criticized for being way too casual for the festive occasion of Eid, and also not modest enough11.
Yet, while not all brands may be successful, one particular brand has certainly seen positive results in the Singaporean modest wear market. Following the launch of a hijab line in 2015, Japanese retailer Uniqlo re-partnered with British-Japanese designer Hana Tajima for a modest fashion collection. Tajima’s spring/summer 2018 collection12 included floor-length dresses with long sleeves, high-waisted trousers in linen blends, and airy tunics perfect for layering, with a price range of SGD10-6013.
The partnership between UNIQLO and Tajima14 first appeared in the company’s Fall/Winter 2015 line in Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Indonesia. Following its success, the collection later appeared in the U.S., U.K., and Philippines for Spring/Summer 2016, and is now in 15 countries.
Therefore, when entering the modest wear market of Singapore as a foreign brand, it remains crucial to understand the nuances behind consumer demands to stay on track in the industry. Doing so helps to ensure that your products will always meet the basic needs of your target segment, as well as ever-changing consumer preferences.
On the topic of cultural sensitivity, Filzah from HIJENTITY says, “When it comes to selling to the Muslim community, you’ll need to be culturally sensitive. That means understanding why they do certain things and catering to their specific needs. When Muslims wear tudungs they need to cover their chests, so our tudungs are designed with wide coverage.”
Many Muslims in Singapore purchase new clothes for Hari Raya also as a sign of ‘renewal’ to have a fresh start after the deep reflections during Ramadan, which includes repenting for wrongdoings and being grateful for what one has. Apart from purchasing new traditional clothes, Muslims also purchase new shoes, beauty products, and even new household items, which we’ll discuss in the next section of the article.
Additionally, being able to meet your consumer needs includes having the ability to get their orders delivered to them on time and on target. It would be good to work with experienced logistics service providers who are well-aware of the logistical environment where you’re shipping from, as well as in Singapore.
During the celebrations of Hari Raya Aidilfitri, households would be decorated lavishly and stocked with an abundance of food and snacks to welcome their guests. For many Malays in Singapore, the first week of Hari Raya is typically focused on visiting family elders, with later weeks for hosting their own open houses.
According to Criteo, the second best performing category during Ramadan is Home & Living15 — which includes things such as household supplies and furniture. Closer to Hari Raya, demand for express shipping options increases with more last minute purchases of these items.
Typically in Singapore, Muslim families tend to buy household supplies or new furniture to decorate their house for Hari Raya Aidilfitri. Green is a popular colour for these products, signifying peace and tranquillity.
They may also have to stock up on things like tissue paper, paper cups and even packet drinks and snacks to serve guests when they arrive. Dates, prawn crackers, potato chips, butter cookies, and kuih lapis are some common food that Muslims enjoy during the festivities.
With the proliferation of eCommerce platforms, Singaporeans are increasingly purchasing these items online. The COVID-19 outbreak in Singapore also contributes to increased online purchases. While many are hoping that the situation stablises before Raya, celebrations may be scaled down this year.
According to OCBC Bank head of treasury research and strategy Selena Ling, eCommerce will likely perform better this year as more consumers choose to stay home16. This falls in line with how RedMart is currently seeing unprecedented demand in Singapore due to COVID-19, with people purchasing up to five times more paper products, and up to six times more personal care and household supplies17.
Other, home and living products such as furnishings and even DIY hardware may see potentially increased sales. With the circuit breaker lasting a month, Singaporeans will need to spend a lot of time at home. To improve their living experience, they may spend on creature comforts like additional cushions, or even do DIY home improvement projects like giving a room a new coat of paint.
Hence, to tap into the growing demand for eCommerce shopping in Singapore this Ramadan, it might be helpful to look into the Home & Living category. New curtains, cushion covers, tissue box covers, rugs or dining sets are just a few things that Muslim families usually purchase each Ramadan, alongside bedsheets and air fresheners.
The Ramadan period is a good time to try different promotion and discount strategies to earn more sales for your eCommerce or omni-channel store. Even though there are several product verticals you can enter to tap on Ramadan sales ranging from fashion to toys, it would be good for you to constantly be updated with the latest trends in the market regardless of the vertical.
As the Mango example had shown, it’s vital to understand the cultural nuances when serving the Singaporean market as their beliefs may differ from that of other parts of the world. Hence, having local expertise on your team can certainly help you provide consumers with the products they’ll love.
Delivery is still an important part of the eCommerce experience. If you’re selling your products cross-border to Singapore, it’ll be helpful to find a shipping partner with customs expertise and local experience to help you with keeping your eCommerce shipments on time and on target for your Singaporean customers.
Popular eCommerce platforms and experienced logistics service providers who are well-acquainted with Singapore’s shipping rules and regulations can also simplify much of your cross-border shipping process, making it much easier for you to start expanding your business in the country. You’ll also want to look out for and make plans to deal with upcoming challenges to eCommerce logistics and last-mile challenges in Singapore, which you can check out in our recent article.
Ramadan aside, there are many other major eCommerce shopping events in Singapore. To find out more about promotions and discounts you can run and more, have a look at our Singapore eCommerce Guide 2020.
As a whole, if you’re looking to better understand the consumer trends behind the Ramadan market, it’ll be good to look at what young consumers and influencers are talking about on social media. By also looking at what other fashion, home and living, or toys brands who have succeeded in this market have done, you might find it easier to gain your potential customers’ support by replicating similar methods.
Want to learn more about Southeast Asia’s Ramadan opportunities? Check out our series below:
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