Singapore’s e-Commerce Scene: Curtain Online Shopping?
by JADE WONG
Hailed as one of the Asia’s most developed countries, the online shopping scene in Singapore has boomed significantly over the years. According to market and consumer data think tank, Statista ¹, 4.1 million of the 5.86 million citizens of this island country are e-Commerce users in Singapore, up 3.0% from the previous year. To put that into perspective, every 7 in 10 people are online shoppers! The figure is set to rise to almost 5.1 million in 2 years. The online marketplace in Singapore is indeed lucrative, with the latest statistics boasting a revenue of US$ 4,989 million, an increase of a whopping 22% from the year before. In essence, the e-Marketplace in Singapore appears set to continue improving with no signs of plateauing anytime soon.
The rise of e-Commerce is not a new phenomenon, however: academic literature dating back to the early 2000s describes initiatives by the central government to facilitate the maturation of the online shopping industry including the development of indicative direction plans for e-Commerce, a National Information Infrastructure and an Information Technology focused project named “Singapore ONE” ². The authors attribute this early intervention into the then emerging industry by the government to the general consensus that Singapore is a knowledge-based economy – that is, a national economy driven primarily by technology, human capital and the tertiary service sector. Thus, Singapore’s investment into building upon online shopping platforms is unsurprising.
Pros and Cons
Companies however are advised to familiarise themselves with certain factors affecting this business model before diving headfirst into this supposedly remunerative industry. Chief of all to consider is Singapore’s relatively small local market; as such, online shopping practices are hardly expected to be as innovative or revolutionary as in Silicon Valley or China by sheer virtue of population size alone ³. In addition to that, competition in Singapore’s online shopping industry is also rather fierce with international e-Commerce giants like Ebay, Alibaba and Amazon having established their bases for some years already ⁴; as such, most small to medium enterprises and even some larger, more prominent business, decide to use these existing platforms to trade instead of creating their own. While this may be convenient, it is important to consider the additional charges that are incurred by enlisting third-party services.
Moreover, Wong (2003) also identified that government initiatives such as the ones listed earlier have seen slow development and improvement rates and may be insufficient to cope with the exponential advancements of the online shopping sector. Although the government may have previously been rigorous in their support of the emerging e-Commerce services, it appears that they may have since altered their approach – instead of providing How-Tos, the government now concentrates of enforcing regulations on this model. It is thus advisable for companies to familiarise themselves with the red-tape before proceeding to establish an online shopping model.
Even so, 80% of their population is tech-literate and half of the households have an average monthly income above S$9,293 ⁵; this, coupled with the country’s exceptionally low unemployment rates – 2.2%, compared to global average of 5.0% ⁶ – suggest that a majority of Singaporean citizens have both access to online shopping platforms and sufficient disposable real income, hence possess substantial online purchasing power. Further to that, Singapore’s fortunate position in between many shipping routes has made it extremely convenient for products to be shipped into the country. In fact, its strategic geographical location means that of the top 25 global logistics companies, 20 of them have either opened regional centres or have headquartered their operations in Singapore - this has doubtlessly contributed to the continued rise of e-Commerce on the island ⁷.
Suggestions to Companies
ValueWalk, which describes itself as a non-partisan site providing “unique coverage on hedge funds, large asset managers, and value investing” released a report in 2018 revealing that internet traffic on mobile devices generated by online shopping increases significantly every year – start-ups have used this information to their advantage to improve the on-the-go shopping experience for the consumers and many have jumped on the mobile app bandwagon. In the same report however, ValueWalk reported that despite the increase in traffic to these sites via mobile devices, Singaporeans were thrice more likely to confirm and pay for their purchases on computers ⁸. This trend occurs not only in Singapore, but can be seen around South East Asia with KPMG reporting that 57% of buyers continue to prefer using computers instead of mobile devices to make purchases ⁹. The Drum ⁷ suggests this may be due to mobile apps being les immersive and more inconvenient than desktop sites. Hence, it may be wise for companies looking to enter the online shopping market to look into simplifying the UI (user interface) of their mobile apps so deals can be closed more quickly; hence benefiting both the business and the customer.
Curtain Online Shopping Scene in Singapore
We have since discussed e-Commerce in general and will now look, in particular at the interior design scene in Singapore. According to Singapore Home Décor ¹⁰, a website dedicated to interior design ideas, the average price of an interior design project ranges from around S$34,000 for a new 3-room HDB flat to S$234,000 for a landed property. Considering the earlier data that the median household income in Singapore is around S$9,293 monthly, it is reasonable to suggest that only the top income earners can afford home refurbishments.
Here, at Acacia Fabrics, we believe that a comfortable and aesthetically-pleasing living space should be attainable and e-Commerce can help facilitate that. We understand that many Singaporeans are constantly on-the-go and designing their dream home may be a hassle but as pioneers of the otherwise niche curtain online shopping scene in Singapore, we’ve created a comprehensive, user-friendly online catalogue to ease the planning process for our clients; hence helping them save time and financial resources. Considering how popular the e-Commerce marketplace is in Singapore, we highly encourage curtain, upholstery and various home furnishing businesses to utilise this to the fullest extent – ease the process for your business and for your customers!
- Statista: https://www.statista.com/outlook/243/124/ecommerce/singapore#market-globalRevenue
- Chan, B. and Al-Hawamdeh, S., 2002. The development of e-commerce in Singapore: The impact of government initiatives. Business process management journal, 8(3), pp.278-288.
- Wong, P.K., 2003. Global and national factors affecting e-commerce diffusion in Singapore. The information society, 19(1), pp.19-32.
- Entrepreneur Campfire: https://www.entrepreneurcampfire.com/e-commerce-singapore/
- Seedly: https://blog.seedly.sg/average-singaporean-household-income-stand/
- World Bank Global Unemployment Statistics: https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SL.UEM.TOTL.ZS
- The Drum: https://www.thedrum.com/industryinsights/2018/06/12/what-makes-singapore-e-commerce-hub
- ValueWalk: https://www.valuewalk.com/2018/02/singapore-state-ecommerce/
- KPMG: https://home.kpmg/xx/en/home/insights/2017/01/online-purchase-behavior.html