With Singapore’s mature digital infrastructure and a tech-savvy population with high disposable income relative to Southeast Asia, it comes as no surprise that the country’s eCommerce economy is thriving. The Digital 2021 Singapore report found that 79.7 per cent of Singaporean internet users aged 16 to 64 shop online.1 This is in part fueled by a GDP per capita of USD 57,797 in 2020, according to the World Bank, the highest among Southeast Asian countries.2
Google and Temasek’s 2020 e-Conomy SEA report estimates that Singapore’s internet economy can grow by 19% compound annual growth rate from US$ 9 billion to US$ 22 billion in 2025.3 In 2020, digital gross market value (GMV) grew from US$ 6.3 billion in 2019 to US$ 7.6 billion in 2020 - when excluding travel. This shows that eCommerce is still doing well in Singapore and is also good news for you if you’re looking to expand your online business to Singapore.
Additionally, Google and Temasek’s report3 predicts that Singapore’s eCommerce market will grow from US$ 2.0 billion in 2018 to US$ 7 billion in 2025. That’s five times the industry’s value in 2016. As a cross-border eCommerce merchant, this positive outlook on Singapore’s market should also be good news for you if you want to expand your store into Singapore.
Singapore’s internet economy may have shrunk from USD 12 billion in 2019 to USD 9 billion in 2020, but that was largely due to online travel bookings dropping sharply due to the pandemic situation. When travel is removed, Singapore’s internet economy actually grew from USD 6.3 billion in 2019 to USD 7.6 billion in 2020, driven by online shopping.4
Singaporean’s Love of Online Shopping
Here are some key statistics of online shoppers in Singapore:
Out of the country’s 5.29 million internet users, 79.7 per cent have made an online purchase in the last month.5
Of the top 20 websites by total visits and page views, three are eCommerce sites: Lazada, Shopee, and Amazon6
Millennials between the ages of 25 to 34 make up the largest percentage (34.3 per cent) of online shoppers in the country. This is followed by shoppers between 35 and 44 years old (23.9 per cent), 18 to 24 years old (23.3 per cent), 44 to 54 years old (14 per cent), and 55 to 65 years old (4.4 per cent).7
Singaporeans especially like to shop during major online sales, important holidays, and other key dates.
Although different market research reports offer different findings on the market sizes of these verticals, our research shows that the products bought online the most in Singapore generally fall within these categories:
Fashion and beauty
Toys, DIY, and hobbies
While this overarching view can help identify the top product categories, no two shoppers, let alone country markets, have the same tastes. Let’s find out what you can do about this information after taking a deep dive into specific products that do well in each category.
Singaporeans are prolific cross-border online shoppers, but you’ll still need a way to ship your products overseas to them.
Have a chat with us to find out how we can help you ship products internationally to them!
1. Consumer Electronics
Singapore is a country that’s crazy about technology, as seen in the consumer electronics and media sector’s estimated valuation of US$655 million this 2021, with a compound annual growth rate of 8.51 per cent year on year growth (CAGR 2021-2025).8*
*Statista had changed their valuation methodology, so the number shown in this year’s update is not comparable to the values we used in previous years.
According to Euromonitor, Samsung and Apple continued to lead the consumer electronics market with a combined share of 45 per cent in 2020. However, they are facing more pressure from smaller companies, as their share of the market fell from 50 per cent back in 2019. Low priced players like Xiaomi, Oppo and Huawei are listed as major threats to Samsung and Apple’s dominance.9
Euromonitor also shared that eCommerce as a channel for Singapore consumer electronics purchases grew from 11 per cent in 2019 to 15 per cent in 2020. As discussed in our earlier 2020 Singapore COVID-19 article, eCommerce for a time was the only option available during the full lockdown period that year. This was also partly driven by major eCommerce players like Shopee initiating more online sales and bundling offers to drive sales volumes.10
During the earlier part of the year, online offers for computer peripherals related to setting up home offices were also seeing increased interest as the need to work from home increased as seen in the Google Trends graph.11
If consumer electronics happens to be one of your product verticals, it helps to pay attention to what Singaporean competitors are doing on the eCommerce front in order to learn how you can take your slice of Singapore’s eCommerce pie.
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. In the last 12 months from June 2021, Singaporeans indicated they shop online nearly as often (57 per cent via mobile phone) as they shop offline for products as much as they do in physical stores (55 per cent). The most important factor for them shopping offline is the ability to touch and feel the product.12
Singaporean shoppers may either window shop offline before buying online, or click and collect with the option to try the product first before buying. This provides consumers in Singapore more ways to shop, meeting various needs like verifying the products’ quality or having various convenient ways to have their products sent to them.
The key takeaway from the omnichannel strategy is that these stores take into account the customer’s ability to try an item before committing to the purchase. So if you are running a purely online store, it helps to have a return policy for defective items. On top of this, established brands can also afford to provide deep discounts on platforms like Lazada, so this discount campaign may be something you can look into once your brand is established.
With that said, you may be hard-pressed to win over Singaporean customers easily. News about fraudulent sales of electronics via eCommerce13 are widely covered, which means Singaporean shoppers will be sceptical when an unknown brand or seller is introduced to the market. Because of this, you may need some time to establish your brand and earn your shopper’s trust.
Additionally, consumer electronics tend to be quite fragile. Nothing is worse than having your items damaged during transit before it arrives at your customer's doorstep. Having the right packaging and the right shipping partner could help minimise the chances of these things happening, and ensure a good purchase experience for your Singaporean customer.
Singaporeans usually have a healthy appetite for fashion. Statista estimates that in 2021, online spending on fashion could reach USD 640 million.14 Statista estimates that women’s apparel could be the largest segment when it comes to fashion.15
However, the lockdowns and social distancing restrictions heavily changed the fashion and beauty landscape. With prolonged periods of time spent being able to socialise with others, people’s fashion and beauty habits changed accordingly.
For a time, sportswear and loungewear were the go-to choice of apparel for those who adapted to healthier and more comfortable lives spent within one’s household. Tops were bought so that the visible half of people continued to look professional during weekly zoom calls.
In 2020, spending on luxury fashion dropped, but iPrice found that search interest in luxury brands in Southeast Asia grew during the initial COVID-19 outbreak which suggests that luxury spending could rebound once the worst of the pandemic ends.16 It also helps that compared to other Southeast Asian shoppers, Singaporeans are also the least price sensitive. This bodes well if you are selling mid-range or luxury goods, as Singaporeans can respect quality work and even share their satisfaction of your product with their peers if it exceeds their expectations.
In a report by Zalora, they also found that Singaporeans are increasingly conscious of how sustainable their purchases are. 63 per cent of Zalora’s surveyed customers indicated they will purchase sustainable products even if they were at least 5 per cent more expensive.17 For more info on what we learned about Singapore’s fashion industry in 2020, check out our post on Singaporean fashion consumer interests.
A few notable Singaporean success stories when it comes to fashion are brands like Love, Bonito and The Editor's Market. Originally starting out as blogshops, they have since expanded to gain brick and mortar shops.
This omnichannel presence jives with Singaporeans’ equal likelihood to shop offline and online along with how important testing and trying on products are to them before purchase.
3. Cosmetics and Personal Care
Statista estimates that Singapore’s personal care segment could reach USD 438 million this 2021. Statista also estimates that personal care users in Singapore could rise to 1.9 million users this year as well.18
According to the U.S. International Trade Administration (ITA) market intelligence report,19 US, France, Europe, Japan and China are the top suppliers of Singapore’s beauty and personal care market.
The report also posits that some of the growth trends for Singapore’s beauty and personal care industry include greater awareness of ‘clean beauty’ or natural and organic products that are ethical and sustainable. Indie brands and products with Asian ingredients, such as those from Korean brands, are also driving this industry’s growth in Singapore. We’ve also covered these trends in detail in our earlier Singapore cosmetics eCommerce market trends post.
For instance, brands like Shiseido, SK-II, Timeless, and Colourpop are quite popular. Some of these are available in Singapore. For those that don’t have local sellers, consumers in Singapore are willing to have them shipped internationally into Singapore.
This means that if you’re able to build a following for your brand, you’ll be able to serve the Singaporean personal care market through cross-border shipping. By extension, if your brand becomes successful in Singapore, this can act as a launching pad to enter other markets in Southeast Asia.
Surprisingly, men are one of the key drivers of this growth, which should be another sign for your business to look into catering to male customers in the country.
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, including pomades, toothbrushes, and acne patches.20 Of those surveyed, 70 per cent said they shopped online more than they did the previous year due to convenience, better prices, and product variety. This is also validated by a Statista study that a portion of Singaporean men also owned K-beauty products themselves.
This means that if you’re not currently selling to this customer segment, you could consider having a section in your online and/or offline store that caters to them.
Another segment that shouldn’t be overlooked is vitamins and supplements. Ever since the COVID-19 outbreak, interest has been high when it comes to immune boosting supplements and vitamins.21 While it may have peaked early during the outbreak in 2020, interest in these topics and products are still above pre-pandemic levels and could be expected to remain so until the pandemic subsides. Demand for vitamins and supplements should remain fairly high in the months to come as a result.
2020 also saw demand for an unexpected product category, skincare. Skin Inc suggests that these spikes in skincare demand could be driven by people recognising the need for self-care and good mental health during times of high anxiety during lockdown periods.
But, mixed with loosening restrictions allowing people to visit one another again, regular demand for these products could return. With the uncertainty surrounding whether social distancing measures will get tighter or looser for months to come, it still pays to keep a close eye on Singapore’s Covid situation and take cues from there.
4. Toys, DIY, and Hobbies
Statista estimates that online sales of toys, hobby and DIY products could reach US$ 348 million in 2021. Statista estimates that the largest segment could be DIY, Garden and Pets with a projected market volume of US$ 121 million in 2021.22
While DIY has been described as a ‘very sunset’ industry, DIY chain Selfix has seen eCommerce provide double digit growth between 2018 and 2019 when it began selling online. They combine this with around 13 or 14 physical stores run by a lean team.23
The demand for some of these products were also driven by the change in lifestyles brought on by the pandemic. Straits Times reported that among the 12 items purchased more in Southeast Asia between February and April 2020 were exercise bands, weight lifting, yoga and pilates, pet grooming and pet supplies and building toys. Art supplies like canvases and paintbrushes were also hot hobby items sold on Shopee and Lazada during those months.24
There are a lot of different niches within the toys, DIY and hobbies category, each with their communities surrounding them. If your products tend to attract a community of niche buyers, it helps to have brilliant content and an active online community to act as your products’ advocates. To attract these communities, it helps to list on eCommerce marketplaces like Etsy, Shopee and Lazada and buff up your inbound marketing strategy by having brilliant content that your niche community can relate to and engage with.
Opportunities for International Merchants and Brands
As covered in our Singapore eCommerce guide, the opportunities for international eCommerce merchants to do well in Singapore lies in how they cater to Singaporeans’ online shopping motivations to shop online. PwC's 2016 report explains that 55 per cent of Singaporean shoppers are motivated to purchase from overseas online retailers because of the lack of product availability within local stores.25 In their 2021 global consumers insights survey, this is likely backed up by 37 per cent of Singaporeans indicating that in-stock availability of items they want is important to them when buying items online.26
Because of this, it helps to know who you are targeting within the Singapore market, and how you can differentiate your products and online shopping experiences from your competitors in Singapore’s market. If you haven’t already done so, building a buyer’s persona to better understand them might be a good start.
Once you understand who you can target, you can find out how to better serve their needs. If you’re targeting a niche segment, you can cater to their unmet needs in unique ways through your products or selling experience. If you’re going for mass market appeal, you’ll need to find ways to make your products cheaper and/ or better than your competitors.
In addition, each of these product categories will present its own barriers to entry, ranging from differentiating your product listing from fraudulent sellers, to finding methods for consumers to try samples before buying. So it helps to do further research into the challenges of selling a product category before diving straight in.
On top of that, cross-border eCommerce merchants can take advantage of the country’s developed digital infrastructure and liberal customs and tax regulations, like the high de minimis threshold of SGD 400 for the value of a single shipment via air freight. This is where a reliable logistics provider can be of great help, providing the expertise to make eCommerce logistics and online delivery for eCommerce two fewer problems to worry about.
Looking to ship throughout Southeast Asia? Contact us to find out how.
Interested in eCommerce in Singapore? Find out more about Singapore’s eCommerce scene here: