With 83% of its population connected to the internet, Singapore holds the title as the most mature ecommerce market in Southeast Asia. Despite its small population, Singapore accounted for 25% of Southeast Asia’s 2013 online retail value, larger than the region’s largest market, Indonesia that contributed 20%.
Singapore’s ecommerce market is valued to reach $5 billion in 2025, making up 6.7% of retail sales in the country. What else can we see from the Lion City’s ecommerce scene? ECOMScape: Singapore will provide a quick overview.
1. Cross-border ecommerce is (still) preferred by the population
Around 55% of ecommerce in Singapore consists of cross-border transactions. Their developed infrastructure, liberal regulations on customs and tax, and large population of expats in the country opens the gate for foreign companies to flourish without having to establish local ecommerce operations in the country.
The US and China are the top two destinations for shoppers from Singapore, putting Amazon and Alibaba’s Taobao on the top five most visited ecommerce websites in the country.
As a result, there aren’t many home-grown players opting for a marketplace business model. Lazada and Qoo10 are the only mainstream B2C marketplaces in Singapore, unlike in Indonesia and Thailand where the space is a battlefield for deep-pocketed companies.
Its strategic location also attracts global companies to use Singapore as an ecommerce hub for their Brand.com presence to serve online customers in nearby markets such as Indonesia and Malaysia. Adidas used to fulfill regional orders from Singapore before opening an online store in Indonesia this October while Charles & Keith, a brand native to Singapore, offers free shipping to most countries with minimum purchase conditions.
2. Grocery shopping becomes more convenient
As the popularity of online shopping in Singapore increases, more Singaporean are turning online to fulfill their basic needs, including groceries. According to Ipsos and Paypal, online grocery shopping in Singapore is predicted to increase 21% in 2016.
This space seems to be very attractive for investors as seen by funding news of pure-play online grocers like Redmart and honestbee and transition of Singapore’s traditional grocers like Giants and Fairprice jumping on the online bandwagon. In fact, the majority of the etailer in Singapore are traditional grocers.
Food delivery services like Foodpanda and Deliveroo are also thriving in Singapore, the latter boasting 25% week on week growth, while Foodpanda claims Singapore to be one of its key markets in Southeast Asia after closing down operations in Indonesia and Vietnam.
3. Daily deals sites are still popular among Singaporeans
As news of daily deals companies shutting down across Southeast Asia grows, the business model may have overstayed its visit in the region but seems to be stable in Singapore. Groupon, which closed operations in Philippines and Thailand last year and sold its Indonesia operations, remains in Singapore’s top 5 most downloaded shopping apps and top 15 most visited website in Similar Web’s ‘shopping category’. Although Ensogo shut down earlier this year, many more deals sites still continue to operate.
4. Payments opportunity in Singapore attracting global players
Singapore’s established infrastructure and internet maturity makes an appealing testing ground for global players wanting to expand their reach in Asia, especially online payments players. The country’s credit card penetration is 38%, while most of the Southeast Asian countries are still below 5%, and the amount of cards circulating in the country averages 3.9 cards per person.
As a result, the Cards and Payments market in Singapore has become one of the most attractive and competitive markets in Asia Pacific. Adyen, a payment platform unicorn from Europe, recently opened its office in Singapore following the company’s plan to focus in Asia Pacific.
Singapore’s cashless habit has also made Singapore the perfect place for NFC payments solutions like Apple Pay, Android Pay and Samsung Pay to launch in Asia and the heavy traffic to Alibaba’s ecommerce platforms ensure the adoption of Alipay is well on its way.
5. C2C is driven through mobile apps
According to PwC, 38% of online shoppers in Singapore are making purchases on their smartphone, this number is higher than the global average of 28%. 57% of the shoppers in the republic also turn to social media to read product reviews. As an early adopter of internet culture in the region, Singaporeans are apt at using their mobile to access the internet.
Home-grown C2C platforms like ImSold, Shopee and Duriana have focused on their mobile platforms in order to appeal to customers who want the convenience of buying and selling their things on the go. More mobile-only players are expected to emerge.