Online shopping in Singapore
It never rains but it pours.
Lately, it seems that most of my devices have come to the end of their life. Frustratingly they all broke while we have been stuck at home and a lot of the shops are closed meaning that I’ve had to rely on getting everything online. Usually, this isn’t a problem as I like to do a lot of research online then find the right product to fit and buy either online or in-store. ⠀
Unfortunately, Singapore doesn’t have the greatest eCommerce backbone, especially with small businesses, so when they were advised to close in May and June it left consumers with limited options. Some of the larger stores have an online presence but product selection is outdated, minimal and typically I found a lot of products out of stock.
I’ve turned to marketplaces like Shopee and Lazada to get a few things but most of these marketplaces are filled with drop shippers who are sending products direct from China and Korea which isn’t ideal if something breaks and needs to be replaced immediately as the lead times are a few weeks.
So far I’ve replaced a set of routers, a new MacBook arrived because my battery warped the case of my 15″ which is back from Apple and up for sale on Carousell. My Harmon Kardon Soundstick desktop speakers started sounding like mud so they were replaced with the iLoud Micro Monitors from IK Multimedia. The gas lift has gone in my Wilkhahn office chair so that as replaced with a Neue Chair from Secret Lab. My Belkin powerboard has fallen off the underside of my desk countless times and the other day I had my Synology NAS report bad sectors on one of the drives so I’m in the long process of rebuilding the RAID array as the drives have just arrived from Amazon in the US.⠀
eCommerce can be a bit of a strange beast, for some companies, it looks really simple to set up a store and the money will just keep rolling in. Very rarely does it work like that and the number of hidden tasks needed to start a store can be really overwhelming. Just to set up a basic store, you would need to have organised or at least thought about:
- shipping rates, countries and logistics,
- payment merchants and their fees,
- prices inclusive or exclusive of tax,
- are you going to sell simple products, variable products, or affiliate products (dropshipping),
- product prices, categories, quality descriptions optimised for search engines and high-resolution photography
- integrations with third-party services like MailChimp or Active Campaign,
- coupon codes, referrals, buy-one-get-one-free promotions,
- related products, upsells, cross-sells,
- and so much more…
The actual set up of the technology is the easy part, the time and effort need to be into the products and making it as easy as possible for people to find what they want, pay for those goods and have clear information on how much and when it will be delivered.
Unfortunately, in many cases, this is lacking in the eCommerce sector in Singapore. Everyone wants to offer the same features and functions Amazon has now, from their day one launch.
I don’t have any specific answers on why eCommerce is so backwards in Singapore, with one of the highest mobile and internet penetration rates in the world, the technology and infrastructure is there and ready to go. The only reasoning that I have is that the shopping experience is cultural and buying habits have not yet undergone the changes that places convenience over experience, for many it’s still a valuable experience to go to a shopping mall to browse and purchase products, sometimes as a bit of an escape, and with the location of shopping centres in Singapore so close to residential environments its not inconvenient, and with the late opening hours people are able to get out to the shops until 10pm.
This circuit-breaker and COVID-19 period seem to have changed the experience with a lot of companies having to rely on the online space as their only form of sales and consumers having to shop online. Those who do not adapt will be left behind and there will be new exciting businesses and business models to come out of this new situation as well. It’s an exciting time to in this space, I can’t wait to see what unfolds…