• Singapore’s E-Commerce On the Rise

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    The following article and infograpghic is provided by Katie Paterson, of Dutch online coupon company, Flipit.com.

    In 2009, Singapore became the first country in Asia to be affected by the global recession, directly due to their prominent trading with various developed countries that had already been severely affected [1]. However, Singapore rapidly recovered from this economic slump, emerging from their brief period of crisis economically stronger than before. Contrary to plausible predictions that the recession would negatively affect consumer activity, online spending in fact experienced an impressive increase less than a year following the recession.

    Indicative of this, Dutch online coupon company, Flipit.com have provided the following infographic, which shows online spending figures in Singapore rising rapidly immediately following the stock market collapse. The rate of retail e-commerce growth in Singapore is a clear indication of their strong recovery, as spending has risen from under $1 billion (SGD) in 2009 to around $3.5 billion in 2014, with spending still expected to increase further to $4.4 billion by 2015 [2].

    Singapore E-commerce

    Why is this happening in Singapore?

    The changes indicated in this infographic regarding the rise in Singapore’s retail e-commerce might be attributed to the increase in smartphone usage in the country over the past few years. 50 per cent of all e-commerce traffic in Singapore comes from mobile phones, a staggering 90 per cent of which is done by smartphone [3].

    With the highest rate of smartphone penetration in the world, the mobile shopping phenomenon has hit the country hard, speculatively due to the fact that it perfectly combines Singapore’s dominant role as global tech hub with their reputation as one of Asia’s biggest shoppers. Not only does mobile shopping offer consumers an easy, one-click purchasing process, but a much wider selection of products, competitive prices and discounts than is available in stores and malls [4].

    Some details on the use of Smartphones in Singapore

    • In 2012, Singapore’s mobile penetration rate was recorded at a huge 148.9% [5].
    • The country has the greatest penetration of smartphones in the world [6].
    • Time distributed between WiFi and 3G use on smartphones was recorded as 45% WiFi against 55% 3G, suggesting Singaporeans are more active on Smartphones whilst on the go [7].
    • 29% of all Singaporean mobile owners have more than one handset [8].
    • In 2013, South-East Asians spent on average 3 hours per day on smartphones.

    Although this rise in retail e-commerce may seem surprising given the hit Singapore received from the global recession, conversely this phenomenon might in fact be seen as a logical outcome of the crisis. Factors such as rising rental prices and unemployment, which are symptomatic of a struggling economy, can naturally lead to more online spending due to the fact that shoppers can feel more confident that they are getting a good deal when buying online.

    Shopping online gives consumers the ability to easily compare prices via comparison websites. This, partnered with having access to online-exclusive deals and voucher codes naturally encourages consumer activity and reduces spending hesitation. As a result, the Asia-Pacific region has now become the most active region in the world when it comes to retail e-commerce, with almost 90% of all internet users having made at least one online purchase [9]. What is more, Singapore and Malaysia have the largest e-commerce industry of South-East Asia, contributing almost 50% of the region’s total online sales, despite accounting for only 8% of the South-East Asian population [10].

    Keep ‘Cool, Calm and Constructive’

    The most remarkable piece of information provided by this infographic is the list of most popular shopping categories for Singapore’s e-consumers. The drastic rise in voucher code shoppers via the Flipit site reveals that Singaporeans are choosing to be economical with their online shopping. However, contrary to the logical assumption that these vouchers would be used to reduce everyday spending in more practical areas, such as food shopping and financial services, the graph indicates that it is in the region of what might be considered more indulgent or luxurious categories that Singaporeans are using these coupons for.
    The most popular shopping categories – travel, beauty products, local entertainment and eating out – indicate that Singaporeans are choosing not to give up on the luxuries that they enjoy.

    Instead, they opt to keep ‘cool, calm and constructive’ in the face of recession,11 continuing to indulge in the kind of consumer behavior that is familiar to them, whilst using coupon sites merely as a way to shop smarter – a method which proves to be a successful step towards economic recovery.

    What does this mean for the future?

    Singapore is known for its love shopping malls, which are so thoroughly ingrained in the country’s landscape that it is said to feel like ‘one big shopping centre’ [12]. It is therefore interesting to consider what effect this dramatic increase in online shopping might eventually have on the mall industry there: Do these changes mark the end of Singapore’s mall obsession, or will brick and mortar businesses work out a method of capitalizing on this new mobile shopping mania?



    1. http://www.theguardian.com/business/2008/oct/10/creditcrunch-marketturmoil1
    2. http://www.techinasia.com/the-stats-and-facts-of-online-shopping-in-singapore/
    3. http://www.asianewsnet.net/Sporeans-are-big-online-shoppers-50429.html
    4. Australian political scientist J.A.C MacKie referred to Singapore as “the quintessence of consumerism and materialism.” http://www.nytimes.com/1994/01/27/news/27iht-rich.html
    5. http://www.blackbox.com.sg/wp/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Blackbox-YKA-Whitepaper-Smartphones.pdf
    6. http://wallblog.co.uk/2013/01/11/singapore-leads-the-world-on-smartphone-penetration-bad-news-for-apple/
    7. 29% of all Singaporean mobile owners have more than one handset.
    8. In 2013, South-East Asians spent on average 3 hours per day on smartphones.

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