Singapore’s e-commerce market is huge. At almost US$5 billion in 2019, Singapore’s e-commerce market size is only second to Indonesia’s US$11 billion. The e-commerce market size for Singapore’s closest neighbour, Malaysia, stands at just US$3.75 billion.
With just 4.1m e-commerce users compared to Indonesia’s 147.1m, Singapore boasts Southeast Asia’s highest average revenue per user (ARPU) at US$1,222.40 compared to Indonesia’s US$75.66 and Malaysia’s US$185.06.
This means Singapore’s online shoppers spend 16 times more than Indonesian online shoppers and 7 times more than Malaysia’s.
There’s no doubt about it:
Singapore’s e-commerce market is massive.
For the opportunist, this can only mean there’s money to be made.
In this e-commerce overview guide, we’ll take a look at the current e-commerce landscape in Singapore, the opportunities in the market and most importantly, the challenges of entering a market with Singapore’s e-commerce.
By the end of this guide, I hope you would have enough information to make an educated decision on how to build your own e-commerce empire in Singapore.
Singapore’s E-commerce History: A Timeline of Important Launches and Events
E-commerce has come a long way in Singapore and the Southeast Asian region. Let's take a look at some of Singapore's most significant developments in the e-commerce space:
2004: Ebay launches in Singapore.
December 2008: Gmarket (rebranded as Qoo10 in 2012) launches in Singapore.
2010: 68DaiGou.com (later rebranded as EzBuy) launches in Singapore as a way for Singaporeans to buy from China through agents.
November 2010: Groupon acquires Beeconomic.com founded by brothers Karl and Chris Chong to launch Groupon Singapore.
November 2011: Redmart launches in Singapore as the first online supermarket and grocery delivery service islandwide.
May 2012: Carousell launches in Singapore by three Ngee Ann Polytechnic graduates as the first peer-to-peer marketplace in Singapore.
2012: Lazada and Zalora launches in Singapore by Germany’s Rocket Internet, taking upon a market in absence of Amazon.
December 2013: Rakuten launches in Singapore.
June 2015: SEA Group (previously Garena) launches Shopee in Singapore, the first market in Asia.
July 2015: Honestbee launches in Singapore, providing online grocery and food delivery service islandwide.
February 2016: Rakuten announces its exit from Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia markets.
April 2016: Alibaba acquires a 51% stake in Lazada for $1billion.
March 2017: KFIT acquires Groupon Singapore, signaling KFIT’s pivot into online deals.
July 2017: Amazon launches in Singapore with Amazon Prime. Singapore is Amazon’s first market in Southeast Asia.
March 2018: Alibaba increases its stake in Lazada with a further $2billion investment.
(Have I missed anything? Let me know in the comments below!)
Singapore’s E-commerce Biggest Winners: Top E-commerce Websites and Apps in 2019
Now that we've taken a brief look at how Singapore's e-commerce space has grown, it's time to come back to 2019 and take a look at who the top e-commerce players in the market are, how they are faring and what they are doing to stay competitive.
With so many solid players in the market, it's no surprise that the race to be the top e-commerce website and app in Singapore continues at a high-speed pace.
Once the most popular e-commerce website in Singapore, Qoo10's has finally been overtaken by Lazada in March 2019. This is in part due to Redmart's recent move to Lazada's platform in March 2019, adding large amounts of grocery SKUs to Lazada, and more importantly, Redmart's customer base.
This move has meant an increase in Lazada’s visitors and sales volumes from Redmart’s shoppers, pushing steady growth on the site.
Top ranking e-commerce websites in Singapore (by Alexa ranking)
SimilarWeb Traffic (March 2019)
Alexa Ranking in Singapore
Shopee is the newest contender in Singapore’s e-commerce space that has taken a spot in the top five of Singapore’s most popular e-commerce websites.
Launched only in 2015 by Sea Group (formerly Garena), Shopee has risen up the ranks, presenting itself as a strong contender next to older marketplaces such as Lazada, Qoo10 and Carousell.
In fact, Shopee’s mobile app is the second most popular in Singapore, surpassing even Carousell, the pioneer mobile-first marketplace in Singapore.
Top ranking e-commerce apps in Singapore (by Alexa ranking)
Apple Store Ranking
All the data are taken from Similarweb’s App ranking database (February 2019).
Shopee’s quick rise to the top shows there’s always room for another player, even in a crowded space, given the right execution and strategy.
Another notable new entry into the e-commerce space in Singapore is U.S. e-commerce behemoth Amazon, which launched its Amazon prime membership. While Amazon’s launch in Singapore was marked with much fanfare as being Amazon’s first foray into Southeast Asia, the response has been lacklustre.
Unlike Amazon in the US, Amazon Singapore is faring poorly, being behind in terms of website and app popularity. There’s still opportunity for Amazon to grow, but only time will tell if it will be able to outcompete the efforts made by Lazada, Qoo10, Shopee, and Carousell.
Carousell and Qoo100 currently maintain their top spots, but with fierce competition and large fund pool, Lazada and Shopee are racing ahead.
Singapore’s Online Shopper Behavior Profile
Let’s switch positions away from the sellers now and take a look at the buyers in the space. Who makes up Singapore’s most active online shoppers, what do they buy, and what are they like?
As we saw earlier, Singapore’s online shoppers are the biggest spenders in Southeast Asia. According to data compiled by Datareportal on e-commerce behavior in Singapore,
- 89% of internet users in Singapore search online for a product or service to buy
- 73% of internet users in Singapore purchased a product or service online
- 54% of internet users in Singapore made a purchase via a mobile device and 47% purchased via a laptop or desktop computer
- Singapore’s online shoppers spent the most on travel and accommodation, totalling US$3.641 billion, followed by electronics and media at $1.080 billion and fashion and beauty at US$999 billion.
- The fastest growing category is Food & Personal care which grew 47% year-on-year, followed by Toys, Diy & Hobbies at 40% and Electronics & Physical media at 31%
- E-commerce spend makes up 4% of total retail spend in Singapore
- E-wallets was the choice of payment for 10% of all e-commerce transactions (6% more than the 4% of e-wallet payment at point-of-sales)
More details from Datareportal.com’s full report on Singapore (insights for e-commerce can be found from page 54 - 61).
- 67% of Singaporeans report buying on marketplaces as mobile becomes more convenient
- Credit card remain the preferred payment method for Singapore’s online shoppers, with 66% of shoppers preferring this payment option over the rest
Overall, Singapore’s online shoppers are one of the most active in the region, are tech-savvy and able to adopt new technologies.
Logistics and Fulfillment Landscape in Singapore
As Singapore’s e-commerce market continues to grow rapidly, the logistics are running to catch up. Other than conventional doorstep delivery services, other services remain fragmented.
While doorstep delivery services like SingPost are the mainstay, Singapore’s e-commerce deliveries are also supported by a variety of last-mile delivery companies.
Services like NinjaVan and Lalamove provide on-demand van deliveries supported by a network of drivers.
Collection point companies have popped up all around Singapore, providing locker boxes for collection at convenient spots.
These provide fixed collection points. So buyers don’t have to wait for a delivery at home. Instead collecting the parcel using OTP from a locker near them.
Collection point companies include:
- Parcel Santa which provides lockers specifically at condominiums
- PostStations by SingPost which provides locker collection boxes at strategic locations in Singapore
- Park N Parcel which lets you drop off at a neighbour’s house
- Ninja Collect by NinjaVan offers collection points via Ninja Box collection points, retail partner points and 7-Eleven collection points
- Locker Alliance is part of SingPost’s efforts to increase the number of collection points in Punggol area.
- Blu collection points
On the other side, Singapore also has a number of established e-commerce fulfillment centres to support the need for warehousing and fulfillment to the growing number of e-commerce entrepreneurs and businesses in Singapore.
Some companies offering warehouse and fulfillment services in Singapore:
Singapore's current logistics and fulfillment infrastructure in Singapore and the speed of development in this space only further proves bets companies are placing on Singapore’s growing e-commerce market.
Biggest Challenges in Singapore’s E-commerce Landscape
Now that we’ve looked at the opportunities and support infrastructure in Singapore, let’s take a look at some of the challenges facing e-commerce merchants in Singapore.
The most obvious challenge is Singapore’s limited population. At just under 6 million, Singapore’s population is the second smallest in the ASEAN region. In spite of the high average revenue per user (ARPU), it’s not hard to imagine how the e-commerce space can get crowded pretty quickly.
Being tech-savvy, and with good logistics infrastructure, Singaporeans (also multilingual) have easy access not only to local sellers, but also international ones, such as Taobao. So Singaporean e-commerce stores not only face fierce competition locally, but also globally.
Nonetheless, with a good strategy in place, it is still possible.
How to Get Started with E-commerce in Singapore
If the potential of getting in on the e-commerce action in Singapore is making you excited, why not explore some low-cost ways to start your own e-commerce website?
Here are some guides on how to set up your own e-commerce store using popular e-commerce platforms like WooCommerce and Shopify:
Here’s a guide on how to get started selling on Shopee in Singapore:
[For Foreigners] Want to Incorporate Your Company in Singapore and Start an E-commerce Business? We Can Help!
If you want to get started with your e-commerce business in Singapore, you’ll likely need to have a company incorporated in Singapore first.
Whether you are planning on a permanent move to Singapore, or start an offshore company in Singapore, we'll be able to assist.
Send us a message and we'll be in touch:
These are some of the most comprehensive resources compiled about e-commerce in Singapore:
Singapore's e-commerce continue to dominate in Southeast Asia. While its market size isn't the largest in Southeast Asia, Singapore's shoppers spend the most per person, giving it the highest ARPU in the region.
They are also one of the most savvy ones, with e-commerce growing to take up more of the retail market share in Singapore.
Lazada, Shopee, Qoo10 and Carousell remain the top marketplace players in Singapore, with Amazon struggling to make a mark in the island.
To support Singapore's accelerated e-commerce growth, last mile delivery companies providing collection points and alternative delivery methods as well as e-commerce fulfilment companies have popped up.
While opportunities remain vast in Singapore, the landscape is challenging as each player vie for the attention of Singapore's small population of under 6million. Nonetheless, the rewards are up for the taking for the right player.
Disclaimer: All information above are sourced from publicly available information and linked. If there are any inaccuracies in data or representation or mistakes in sources, please send us a message and we will make the correction for you.