Singapore: Shipping Guide and eCommerce Market Insights

Your country cheat sheet covering shipping tips, customs clearance and import duties for your eCommerce international shipping needs, eCommerce insights, and more

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SHIPPING TO SINGAPORE

Southeast Asia (SEA) has been heralded as the next land of opportunity for eCommerce. With fast-growing markets like Indonesia looking ripe for cross-border sales of your eCommerce goods, it would ideal for your shipment to sail through customs, reaching your customers safely and on time.

Dealing with customs in Southeast Asia could be challenging seeing that each country has its own set of customs regulations, import duties, paperwork and taxes that need to be complied with.

However, compared to its neighbouring countries, shipping your products to Singapore is relatively straightforward.

 

Country IDSG
Capital CitySingapore
Official LanguageEnglish, Malay, Mandarin, Tamil
CurrencySingapore Dollars (SGD)
Population Size5.7 million

 

Singapore’s eCommerce market value is US$2.3 billion at present and is expected to grow to US$3.7 billion by 2024 after adjusting for 2020’s recent events.

Consumers in Singapore are well-off with high disposable income. This allows them to spend more online as well.

The number of mobile internet users are also growing over time, leading to an increase in mobile online traffic in Singapore. This makes the booming mCommerce industry in Singapore an ideal growth environment for online businesses.

This is a living page that will frequently be updated with insights about:

 


PART 1: CUSTOMS CLEARANCE IN SINGAPORE

1. Singapore’s De Minimis Rate, Import Taxes and Customs Duties

Singapore maintains a de minimis value threshold of SGD400 on inbound B2C eCommerce goods.

The De Minimis Rate in Singapore is SGD 400

De minimis rate is the threshold where lesser or no taxes are levied on imports entering the country. This rate takes into account the shipment’s value, shipping fees, and insurance costs if any, which makes up the CIF value.

However, this exemption only applies to goods shipped via air freight. So goods entering Singapore via cross-border trucking or sea freight are still subject to import duties and taxes.

You may also check the tariff amount for your commodity here.

 

Next: Restricted and Prohibited Goods

2. Restricted and Prohibited Goods

Restricted items that require licenses before going through customs clearance:

  • Therapeutic products
  • Tableware and kitchenware of porcelain or china
  • Rough diamonds
  • Gramophone records
  • Mastering equipment and replication equipment for any of the following such as CD
  • Toy guns/pistols/revolvers/walkie-talkie, and more

Singapore Customs has a website where you can look up the HS Code of your product and see if there is any licence that you would need to apply for prior to importing them into Singapore.

Prohibited items that cannot be imported into the market:

  • Chewing gum
  • Firearms and explosives
  • Endangered animal products
  • Prohibited telecommunication equipment
  • Controlled drugs, and more

This list may change depending on government regulations. Visit the official customs page for the latest information.

 

Next: Required Customs Documents

3. Required Customs Documents

Documents required by Singapore’s customs clearance include:

1. Packing List

This gives product details, shipment volume in kilogram or cubic meter, and serves as a checklist to ensure shipment has been packed correctly or not.

2. Commercial Invoice

This gives total shipment value usually in US dollar. Helps to determine the import duties and taxes, and eligibility of shipment.

If you are shipping without a logistics partner that can clear customs on your behalf, you may need to include the following shipping documentation as well:

  • Certificate of origin
  • Bill of lading or airway bill
  • Insurance policy
  • Other relevant permits, licenses, and certificates

 

Next: Section 2: How to Ship to Singapore from Various Countries

PART 2: HOW TO SHIP TO SINGAPORE FROM VARIOUS COUNTRIES

steps in cross border shipping

Shipping from one country to another, be it an eCommerce delivery or a full container moved via sea freight follows a general set of steps:

You can click on any of the links above to find out more about each step

 

Next: 1. First Mile Delivery in the Origin Country

First-mile Delivery in the Origin Country

The first-mile stage in international shipping refers to the first stage of the shipping supply chain, where it either leaves the merchant’s address, be it a storefront, office, or warehouse. Prior to your goods leaving your storage facility, the product has to be packaged and labelled appropriately to facilitate smooth cross border shipping.

Great preparation can help minimise the chances of your shipment going missing or getting damaged during delivery. Generally, you’ll want to do the following:

  • Engage the right shipping partner
  • Packaging your products
  • Choosing the right service levels
  • Providing shipping details
  • Printing and attaching shipping labels and documents to your package(s)
  • Hand over shipment to carriers

If you’d like a more in-depth to each of these steps, you can find more at this preparation guide for merchants.

You can also find out more about what the first mile entails in our first-mile article.

 

Next: Origin Country Customs Clearance

Origin Country Customs Clearance

As your shipment arrives at the origin country’s port or airport, the parcel would need to be cleared by local customs for export. This is where the customs officers will inspect the parcel’s contents and shipping documents. If you’re planning to ship with B2B, you may want to check if you need to produce specific customs documentation for export on your local customs websites. You can find a list of these on our Customs Clearance in SEA resource page.

 

Next: Freight or Mid-mile to Singapore

Freight or Mid-mile to Singapore

When it comes to freight options, shipping your goods to Singapore can generally be done in two ways – air freight and sea freight.

For merchants shipping B2C parcels, air freight is the faster option, especially if you don’t have a consistent order volume and need your parcels to reach the destination country quickly.

On the other hand, sea freight is generally more cost-effective for shipping in bulk. However, it is slightly slower than air freight. When managing your inventory, you’ll need to take into account the estimated delivery date so that you can plan out your supply chain accordingly.

We’re currently building guides to ship to using different mid-mile methods to Singapore from various origins.

More are on the way, so be sure to check back often:

 

Next: Customs Clearance in Singapore

Customs Clearance in Singapore

Once your item arrives in Singapore’s airport or port, your shipment will be transported into a customs warehouse for clearance. This is where the customs officers will inspect your parcel and shipping documents and determine if your product is allowed to enter Singapore.

To clear customs for import into Singapore, you or your shipping partner would generally need to provide the following documents:

  • Certificate of origin
  • Master airway bill or bill of lading
  • Insurance policy
  • Receipt of payment of import duty and import-related taxes
  • Other relevant permits, licenses, and certificates

More information about this is available in this guide’s customs clearance section.

 

Next: Distribution and Last Mile in Singapore

Distribution and Last Mile in Singapore

Once your shipment has cleared customs, it will enter the distribution stage of the shipping journey. Your B2B shipments can be delivered directly to its destination. However, B2C parcels need to be at a transport hub to sort them out before the last mile journey can begin.

The last mile delivery stage is where your parcel will be sent from the destination warehouse to your consignee’s address. In Singapore, this stage of the delivery is done via vans. During the last mile delivery stage, your logistics service provider will ensure that your shipment is received by your consignee.

Different countries have different steps at origin customs clearance and different freight modes. To find out more about these for specific origin countries, check out our posts below:

 

Our next section covers Singapore’s eCommerce insights to power your online promotions and campaigns.

Next: Find out more What’s Driving Singapore’s eCommerce Market?

PART 3: SINGAPORE ECOMMERCE INSIGHTS

Why Singapore? Key stats of Singapore’s eCommerce market

Singapore’s eCommerce market value is US$2.3 billion at present and is expected to grow to US$3.7 billion by 2024 according to Statista. With developed infrastructures and world class airports & ports, Singapore’s market is a conducive environment for eCommerce activities to thrive.

But what else is causing the growth of eCommerce in Singapore?

Major Factors Driving eCommerce Consumption & Growth in Singapore

What are Singaporean's Digital Habits

 

3 Major Factors Driving eCommerce In Singapore:

1. Better Bargains

Singaporeans enjoy having access to better bargains and discounts online.

  • In a study by PwC in 2016, 60% of Singaporeans access social media to tap into promotional offerings and reviews before making the purchase.

They are also able to find more product variety from cross-border eCommerce purchases.

  • 73% of online shoppers in Singapore have bought items from overseas online stores

 

2. Popularity of Cashless Payment

Singaporeans prefer to pay using the following methods:

  • Credit cards (67%)
  • E-payments (10%)
  • Cash on delivery (5%)
  • Bank transfer (10%)

Singaporeans tend to favour using credit cards as it allows them to maximise the rewards programme offered by their credit card provider.

 

3. Low Barriers to Entry

  • Currently, e-wallets are still in a nascent stage in Indonesia and are slowly getting picked up by online retailers.
  • The agent-to-consumer method is also popular, in which shoppers would pay for purchases via sales agents’ online payments and then pay the agents in cash.
  • Alternative finance is also flourishing. For instance, Kredivo offers an online credit card that only requires one’s mobile phone number for registration. It allows buyers to pay in instalments either online or offline.

Next: Meet Singapore’s Major Online Shoppers

 

Sources:

Google & Temasek | Hootsuite/We Are Social | PwC | Worldpay | Ipsos/Paypal | Singstat

Who are Singapore’s Online Shoppers?

Why do Singaporeans Shop Online?

1. Loves Discounts

Online discounts tend to be more attractive than those found in physical storefronts. For instance, Lazada’s discounts go as deep as 90%. This makes shopping online an attractive platform for Singaporeans to get the best deals. On top of that, Singapore’s high internet speeds mean that the ability to access multiple eCommerce storefronts to compare prices between them is easier than ever.

2. Item Availability

As mentioned in the previous section, Singaporeans turn to eCommerce in order to gain access to goods that can’t be found in physical stores, just like almost half of the global populace. According to PayPal’s 2017 study, 73% of Singapore’s online buys are from cross-border eCommerce, with 14% of Singaporean shoppers buying exclusively from foreign websites.

3. Treating Themselves

On their payday, Singaporeans like to reward their hard-work by going online to do some well-deserved shopping. This coincides with iPrice’s findings that Singaporeans like to treat themselves, and tend to do so at the end of the month where there is an increase in online shopping activity.

What are the expectations of Singapore’s online shoppers?

Singapore’s developed infrastructures allow for a conducive environment for eCommerce purchases. However, it means that the conveniences Singaporeans enjoy could be taken for granted. This means they have high expectations of the overall eCommerce experience.

Some of their expectations include having more flexibility and convenience when selecting their delivery addresses, along with the ability to return faulty items.

We take a deeper look at Singaporean consumer behaviour with our shopper’s persona, Meilian, in our article on Singapore’s online shoppers.

Next: Top eCommerce Product Categories in Singapore

 

Sources: | PayPal | iPrice

Top eCommerce Product Categories in Singapore

Vector showing consumer electronics, fashion, DIY and toys, and food and personal care

1. Consumer Electronics

  • Singapore’s consumer electronics and media sector’s valuation is US$1.9 billion in 2020, with a 24.5 per cent year on year growth
  • Among the most popular consumer electronics products sold online in 2018 were wireless/Bluetooth speakers, smart wearables, activity watches (analogue), and OLED TVs
  • Lazada’s best selling products in Singapore during its 11.11 Shopping Festival were the Logitech M220 wireless mouse, the Nintendo Switch, and the Xiaomi MI Roborock 2
  • Local brands like Razer and Creative, along with resellers like Courts and Qisahn, are opting for an omnichannel retail strategy in order to capture a bigger market share

2. Fashion

  • Fashion’s revenue amounted to US$326 million in 2020, growing by 9.9 per cent from the previous year
  • While eCommerce platforms like Qoo10 and Zalora dominate this product category, Singapore is also a hotbed for Brand.coms and omnichannel retail stores.
  • A report by PwC in 2016 found that the most popular out-of-country online purchases among Singaporeans were clothing and footwear

Want more insights on Singapore’s fashion industry? Find out more in our article on Singapore’s Women’s Fashion Trends!

3. Toys, DIY & Hobbies

  • Products in the toys, DIY, and hobbies segment is forecast to amount to US$219 million in 2020, growing by 7.8 per cent year-over-year
  • While Toys R’ Us shuttered around the world, it opened 3 new branches in 2017 within Singapore
  • If your products tend to attract a niche community, it helps to be active on social media sites and list on marketplaces like Etsy

4. Personal Care & Food

  • Although the smallest segment in Singapore’s eCommerce, it’s the fastest growing one at a 47 per cent growth rate in annual spending
  • According to a Shopee study that surveyed more than 3,000 male Shopee users in Singapore, an increasing number of men are turning to online shopping to purchase beauty and personal care products. Some notable products that men are buying online include pomades, toothbrushes, and acne patches.
  • Beyond the male demographic, these are the other trends we’ve picked up in the personal care product vertical in Singapore:
    • Cosmetics – 
      • Clean, safe, and Asian-centric ingredients attract Singaporean cosmetics shoppers
      • Google search and word-of-mouth recommendations influence Singaporeans’ cosmetics purchases
      • Mobile shopping apps are a viable sales channel for cosmetics
    • Skincare – 
      • Singaporeans trust Korean and Japanese skincare brands, but there’s room for new brands to innovate and enter
      • On-the-go shoppers appreciate easy to use products
      • Beauty Platforms like Sephora Dominate, But Fashion and General eCommerce Platforms Have Skin in the Game
      • Social Media Channels Will Help you Reach Consumers, But be Careful of Which Tactics you Use
    • Health Supplement trends – 
      • Young consumers prefer herbal capsules, while older consumers prefer tonics
      • Singaporeans prefer global brands for health supplements, but they are not brand loya

 

This is a summarised version of one of our articles on Singapore’s top products. To find out more, take a deep dive into Singapore’s top four product categories in eCommerce. For a deep dive into the personal care eCommerce trends in Singapore, we also cover various product categories here:

 

Next: Popular Online Shopping Platforms & Payment Methods in Singapore

 

Sources: Hootsuite/We Are Social | Lazada | PwC | Shopee

Payment Methods & Popular Online Shopping Platforms in Singapore

Payment Methods Available in Singapore

Financial inclusion factors and online payment behaviour in Singapore

  • 98% have an account with a financial institution
  • 64% use mobile banking
  • 54% purchase items online using mobile phones
  • 47% purchase items online using desktop

Preferred payment methods in Singapore:

  • Credit cards (67%)
  • e-payments (10%)
  • Cash on delivery (5%)
  • Bank transfer (10%)

Singaporeans tend to favour using credit cards as it allows them to maximise the rewards programme offered by their credit card provider. On top of this, Singapore’s authorities and banks are looking to convert Singapore into a cashless society by introducing platforms like PayNow.

Popular Online Shopping Platforms in Singapore

Brand.com Websites

  • Businesses sell directly to consumers from their own websites or stores.
    • This is especially useful for brands that want to maintain exclusivity and control
    • Some businesses choose to sell exclusively on their website
  • Business may opt for omnichannel retail where the website is seen as an additional sales channel on top of their physical storefront

 

Marketplaces

  • Different marketplaces in Singapore have different specialisations and cater to different demographics.
  • This is the space occupied by the likes of Lazada, Shopee, Qoo10, and Zilingo among others.
  • Depending on the platform, sellers may include both SMEs and individuals, and even the eCommerce company that hosts the marketplace.
  • Marketplaces can also include C2C sites like Carousell, where consumers can sell pre-loved goods.

 

More information about payment preferences and popular online platforms can be found in our article on Singapore’s online shoppers.

Next: Major Online Sales Events in Singapore

 

Sources: e27 | JP Morgan | Blackberry Messenger blog

Major Online Sales Events in Singapore

Singapore Major eCommerce Shopping Events

 

Singles Day, Black Friday & Cyber Monday, and the Great Singapore Sales are among the biggest sales events in the country.

  • Singles’ Day
    • Singles’ Day started in Nanjing University in 1993 when four single guys met on November 11th to discuss ‘how to break free of the loneliness and monotony of single life’. It soon grew popular among single Chinese youths.
    • Singles’ Day has since become an online shopping festival when Alibaba took the opportunity to launch “Double 11” deals to boost sales.
    • From 2016 to 2017, online sales in Singapore during 11.11 rose by 60 per cent.
    • Comparing Singles’ Day 2017 to the same day in subsequent years, iPrice Group observed an uptick in shopping activity in 2018 and an increase in basket size in 2019.

  • Black Friday & Cyber Monday
    • While the sales events originated in the USA, they have become increasingly known globally.
    • A survey of Singaporeans showed that 82 per cent of respondents knew about the Black Friday sale, and 49 per cent 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. This is a 50 per cent increase compared to the previous year.
    • Shopback’s 2018 survey showed that the average Singaporean spends between SGD 190 to SGD 214 on Black Friday.

  • Great Singapore Sale (GSS)
    • This sales event has been held annually since 1994, where retailers big and small can offer discounts of up to 70 per cent off the original prices.
    • eCommerce platforms like Lazada have hopped on the bandwagon, and even offered a pre-GSS and after-GSS sales period.
    • While eCommerce platforms perform well during this sales event, lacklustre sales from physical stores prompted GSS’ organisers to revamp the sales event.

Culturally Driven Shopping Seasons

  • Chinese New Year
    • Chinese New Year takes place at the beginning of the Lunar Calendar.
    • This is a major holiday in Singapore, where Chinese citizens account for 74.3 per cent of the Singaporean population.
    • Fashion retailers also 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.

 

  • Hari Raya Puasa
    • The Ramadan month leading up to Hari Raya Puasa is considered a sacred period for practicing Muslims in Singapore
    • Muslims dress their best during this season, allowing an opportunity for modest fashion ateliers to sell their wares before the celebration.
    • Homeware is a popular category in Singapore, as Muslims would prepare their homes to receive their extended families during the festivities.

 

Other popular shopping seasons include:

Event NameEvent Period
Lazada Birthday FestivalMar-Apr
Shopee’s 9.9Sep 9
12.12Dec 12
ChristmasDec 25

 

If you’d like to find out more, we cover each of these periods in more detail in our post on Singapore’s major online shopping events.

 

Next: Section 4: Public Holidays and Top Import and Export Countries

Sources: The New Paper | iPrice | Black Friday | Today Online | Straits Times | Market Interactive

PART 4: ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Non-working days in 2020

Saturday, Sunday and public holidays are non-working days. Please expect shipment delays on these days.

List of public holidays:

DateHoliday
Jan 1New Year’s Day
Jan 25-26Chinese New Year
Apr 10Good Friday
May 1Labour Day
May 7Vesak Day
May 24Hari Raya Puasa
Jul 31Hari Raya Haji
Aug 9National Day
Nov 14Deepavali
Dec 25Christmas Day

 

Singapore’s Top Import and Export Partners

EXPORTS
RankMarket
1China
2Hong Kong
3Malaysia
4United States
5Indonesia
IMPORTS
RankMarket
1China
2Malaysia
3United States
4Taiwan
5Japan

 

Sources: Office Holidays (2020)

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