A person shopping online. (Source – Shutterstock)

Shop ’til you drop: The hybrid shopping experience in Singapore

  • Trust in online reviews and digital window shopping grows.
  • Singaporeans use online platforms for product details and reviews.

As a dominant e-commerce player in Southeast Asia, Singapore has seen a significant transformation over recent years. This evolution has been fueled by the widespread use of mobile devices and the growing accessibility of broadband connections, which have led to an online shopping surge.

The journey of the consumer now increasingly intertwines the online and offline, each providing unique benefits. This illustrates that retail isn’t divided into separate online and offline sectors; instead, it is a unified industry swiftly shifting towards digitalization.

According to a ‘Singapore Retail Trends’ report commissioned by Amazon, on average, Singapore consumers explore more than five (5.4) online retailers before settling on a purchase. Interestingly, it’s found that over two-thirds (68.3%) of shoppers in Singapore utilize both online and brick-and-mortar stores to seek the best value deals.

The report, crafted by the esteemed data analytics firm GlobalData, draws attention to the diminishing distinction between physical retail and e-commerce in Singapore. This phenomenon, termed ‘omnichannel retail,’ was responsible for more than half (57.6%) of retail expenditure in 2022, projected to surge by 21.2% in the coming four years.

The balance between online and physical shopping

Despite having physical stores nearby, Singaporean consumers often prefer online platforms for detailed product information and review exploration. This is seen as a fun activity that can also inspire novel purchases.

  • 2% of online shoppers in Singapore attribute their shopping habits to price checking or comparing, emphasizing their sensitivity to price and access to diverse shopping channels.
  • More than half (57.3%) rely on online reviews and comparison websites before finalizing a purchase. This highlights the need for businesses to provide a smooth shopping experience coupled with high-quality product data to win consumer trust.
  • About a third (29.3%) of online shoppers mention browsing for fun as a reason behind their “e-window shopping,” a trend more prevalent in Singapore than any other Southeast Asian country, indicating potential for spontaneous purchases.
  • The perceived advantages of online and in-store shopping led to nearly half (48.2%) of shoppers visiting stores for inspiration before buying online. In comparison, another half (48.8%) did the opposite— browsing online before heading to a physical store.
Consumer views on the shopping experience in Singapore

Consumer views on the shopping experience in Singapore. (Source – GlobalData)

A blend of online browsing, in-store inspiration, and seeking advice from physical stores significantly contributes to the omnichannel expenditure.

Leo Laforgia, the Country Manager for Amazon Singapore, believes these findings mirror the evolving consumer preferences and their access to a broader choice spectrum. Such shifts in shopping patterns open new avenues for businesses to connect with and engage customers at multiple interaction points, underscoring the role of local and cross-border e-commerce in an omnichannel strategy.

“This year particularly, inflation is a key concern for retailers and consumers alike, so price and convenience remain top-of-mind. By investing in sustainable omnichannel strategies, prioritizing customer preferences, protecting their brand, as well as thinking long-term for international growth, businesses can offer unique and holistic value to their customers and succeed,” Laforgia adds.

The emergence of blended shopping experiences, where retailers provide captivating in-store and online experiences, is on the rise to attract and convert shoppers.

How the retail sector facilitates shopping in Singapore

For instance, ION Orchard, a shopping mall, frequently hosts art events and exhibitions, and houses ION Sky, which presents a 360-degree view of Singapore’s skyline along with an immersive multimedia experience. Meanwhile, VicoCity shopping mall boasts an amphitheater, and Paragon Shopping Centre regularly hosts live music events to engage visitors.

In the online sphere, Watsons has built eStores to increase product accessibility. Their in-app feature ‘ColourMe’ allows online shoppers to test different makeup brands and shades through a virtual interface before purchasing. Similarly, Sephora’s Virtual Artist offers the same capability.

A hybrid shopping is a trend in Singapore

A woman shopping for items online. (Source – Giphy)

The retail sector in Singapore rebounded swiftly post-pandemic and is projected to continue its growth trajectory until 2026. Major international events like the F1 Grand Prix and air travel and tourism improvements will further bolster the retail sector. However, rising inflation is a significant concern for Singaporean consumers – more than nine in ten (93%) express concern or serious concern about the escalating cost of living.

“Consumers in Singapore are most concerned about inflation compared to other shoppers in Southeast Asia – here’s where having access to multiple shopping channels matters. The majority of Singapore consumers are already looking across multiple retailers online and in-store to find the best value for money,” notes Neil Saunders, Managing Director of GlobalData’s retail division.

Saunders further states, “The majority of Singapore consumers are already looking across multiple retailers online and in-store to find the best value for money. As such, the lines between online and offline are becoming increasingly blurred – which is fueling a consumer appetite for omnichannel experiences, whether it’s researching online before buying in-store, click-and-collect or returning online purchases to physical stores.”

Saunders predicts that this behavior will likely surge as consumers become more prudent with their discretionary spending in the face of economic challenges.

Cross-border commerce also a trend

As e-commerce shopping habits have expanded, so too has cross-border commerce. Southeast Asian consumers, including those in Singapore, often buy from neighboring countries and even further afield. Geographically, Singapore, connected to Malaysia via two land crossings (the Johor-Singapore Causeway and the Malaysia-Singapore Second Link), is ideally positioned for cross-border commerce.

Cross-border commerce offers Singaporean consumers access to a broader range of products, often at lower prices due to favorable exchange rates. While Singaporeans travel to neighboring countries for in-store cross-border shopping, online cross-border commerce has experienced a remarkable increase in recent years.