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Retail in Singapore: One in five consumers make an online purchase every day

Published on 02/12/2020 by Anna Hammond

COVID-19 has disrupted economies around the world. According to the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI), Singapore’s GDP is expected to contract between 6% and 6.5% as a result. This could prompt additional measures from the government to lessen the damage in the incoming year.  Retail in Singapore experienced a record-breaking drop in May during the nation’s circuit-breaker measures to quell the spread of COVID-19, according to the Department of Statistics.

retail in singapore

Since then, retail in Singapore has been gradually opening up, which has brought hope to the retail industry, as we covered in our previous article unpacking the research. After speaking to 1,007 Singapore consumers, we concluded that primary growth opportunities for merchants today lie in eCommerce.

There has been a 28% year-on-year increase in active business entities that retail via the Internet as of June 2020, a significant jump from the 13.2% increase last year, based on the latest data from the  Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA).

With some of the largest shopping days of the year approaching we take another dive into the data with a view to the online shopper preferences that help brands convert their online traffic into sales.

A brief guide to retail in Singapore

Our survey revealed the nearly one in five Singapore consumers surveyed makes a purchase online every day. We broke that down farther to depict a fuller picture of the way into a Singapore consumer’s heart and wallet.

What entices shoppers to click?

In an age where so many items are a click away, what are Singapore consumers buying the most? We asked our sample cohort, and here are the top five responses, showing that in Singapore, food reigns supreme:

top 5 products bought online

How are people choosing to purchase their items?

Nationally, people are spending more time and money shopping online, but the challenges for merchants don’t end there.  When it comes to shopping,  consumers surveyed are split between desktops (45%) and mobile devices (55%), making an omnichannel approach important. Going deeper,   six out of 10 (63%) Singapore-based consumers are either purchasing on a laptop or a smartphone eCommerce app:

most used devices to buy online

Why are people turning to online shopping?

71% of consumers spending more online and less in-store. In addition, over half of Singapore shoppers expect this to be the norm for the next six months. So what behaviour is driving this change?

COVID-19 emerges as a key factor, with 58% of consumers seeking to avoid excessive crowding in stores. Nearly as many people (55%) cited receiving items at home when convenient as part of their motivation to shop online.

As part of phase 2 measures, Singapore’s government has encouraged employees who can work from home to continue doing so. And making home delivery convenient for individuals working remote.   As of September 28th, the government has allowed home-working employees to go back to the office on a limited basis, but work from home— at least part of the time—will remain a reality for many.

reasons to choose online delivery

Discounts and promotions also remain high up on shoppers’ lists. 43% of shoppers surveyed find bargains to be an incentive for ordering items online. Merchants looking to stay competitive will likely need to continue running promotions to keep customers engaged.

Customers who chose in-store or pick-up point delivery had similar reasons behind their retail choices.

More than half (52%) of consumers surveyed use in-store or pick-up point delivery 1-2 times a week, which looks like over 50 in-store or pick-up point purchases per year. Similar motivations top their list: Saving money on delivery fees, and receiving items on their time and at their convenience.

top reasons for choosing in-store and pick up delivery in singapore

Shoppers are still cautious about contracting COVID-19 and are looking for more convenient and comfortable experiences.

Here’s what you need to know about improving shopper’s experience

What happens when that experience isn’t convenient or comfortable enough? The accessibility of online shopping means that it is just as easy to click away as it is to click on an item and add it to a cart. When it comes to challenges for their online shopping, Singapore consumers cite an inability to experience the products as they would in person— by touching, feeling or testing it. Inaccurate or not accurate enough representation on an eCommerce platform also ranks highly: 60% and 57% respectively.

However, the second most-cited challenge is a high delivery fee, with over 3 out of 5 (62%)  shoppers finding this a hindrance.

most common challenges experienced by online shopping customers in singapore

These responses point to openings for merchants and developers to improve accuracy online, while also exploring cheaper delivery options.

Where merchants should look to grow

Shoppers are comfortable with tech advancements to improve their online shopping experiences and companies should look to improve their offerings. Nearly three-fourths of shoppers (73%) are seeking improvements in the basics: load speeds, real-time stock checking and checkouts.

Consumers in the country are also ready and open for more personalized shopping support. Over half (57%) show openness for suggested items and platforms that they can adapt to their preferences. Finally, nearly half of consumers are open to next-gen functionality that brings a virtual experience closer to a physical experience. An example would be a virtual dressing room that helps them see how clothes might look on their bodies before wearing them via augmented reality.

COVID-19 has increased the appetite of consumers for shopping online opening the door for better experiences and more competition between merchants. Creative promotions and streamlined tech could be the deciding factors for brands looking to be more competitive in the months to come.

Looking for eCommerce software? Check out our  catalogue.


*Data for the GetApp SG Customer Experience Survey was collected in October 2020 from an online survey of 1,007 respondents that live in Singapore. 

The survey data used for this article comes from 1,007 participants who qualified to answer.  The information in this article corresponds to the average of all surveyed participants.

The criteria for participants are consumers who have made an online purchase in the last 6 – 12 months.

This article may refer to products, programs or services that are not available in your country, or that may be restricted under the laws or regulations of your country. We suggest that you consult the software provider directly for information regarding product availability and compliance with local laws.

About the author

Anna was a content analyst for GetApp.

Anna was a content analyst for GetApp.