Digital 2019 Spotlight: Ecommerce in Singapore
Almost 5 million people in Singapore use the internet today – 85 percent of the total population – and GlobalWebIndex reports than almost three-quarters of users between the ages of 16 and 64 already shop online.
Singaporean ecommerce shoppers spent an average of more than US$1,000 each on online purchases of consumer goods in 2018, significantly ahead of the global average of US$634.
Singapore’s ecommerce industry is growing quickly too, with total online spend increasing by more than 20 percent last year.
You can explore the country’s broader digital landscape in our complete Digital 2019 Singapore report below, but read on for a closer look at all the latest ecommerce data and insights.
Note: this article contains a number of updates to statistics featured in the report above. Also note that some of our data providers have recently changed their reporting methodologies, so some of the figures we reference in this article will not be directly comparable to figures published in the report embedded above, especially for internet and social media users.
Ecommerce in Singapore
Data from Statista show that Singaporeans spent a total of almost US$8 billion online in 2018, equating to a per-capita spend across the country’s total population of more than US$1,300 – almost four times greater than the global average.
Consumer goods account for the largest share of Singaporeans’ online purchases. The country’s consumers spent more than US$4.1 billion on items such as clothing, electronics, groceries, furniture and toys in 2018, equating to 52 percent of total online spend.
Within the consumer goods sector, Electronics & Physical Media edged out Fashion & Beauty to take the greatest share, but only just.
Food and personal care products accounted for the smallest share of consumer goods spend, but that situation is likely to change in the coming months, as we’ll explore in more detail below.
Beyond consumer goods, travel purchases account for 46 percent of Singapore’s online economy, with the country’s total 2018 spend in excess of US$3.6 billion.
Despite totalling just US$26 million in 2018, Singapore sees the highest per-capita spend on digital music of any country in Southeast Asia, with the average music shopper in the city state spending more than $14 on downloads and music streaming services last year.
Overall, online spending in Singapore grew by 21 percent in 2018, although growth varied meaningfully across different sectors of the country’s online economy.
Travel grew most slowly, with online purchases up by less than 8 percent compared to 2017 spend.
It was a very different story across consumer goods purchases though, with the sector as a whole up by a compelling 35 percent. That figure represents the fastest growth of any country in Southeast Asia, despite consumer goods already accounting for more than half of Singapore’s total online spend.
Within the consumer goods sector, every sub-category saw increases of at least 30 percent, while two categories – Toys, Hobbies & DIY and Food & Personal Care – saw growth in excess of 40 percent.
The latter is worthy of particular note, because Singapore’s online grocery market is growing faster than that of any other country in the world.
Statista reports that online purchases of food and personal care products in Singapore shot up by 47 percent in 2018, more than three times faster than the global average growth of 15 percent.
Top ecommerce retailers in Singapore
Singapore’s online shoppers seem to prefer different platforms depending on which devices they’re using.
The country’s ecommerce users are slightly more likely to use their mobiles than their computers for online shopping, so let’s start with a look at App Annie’s ranking of the country’s most popular mobile shopping apps.
They’re separated by Qoo10, another Singapore-based ecommerce platform that has built impressive momentum in the city state.
It’s also interesting to note that Amazon appears twice in Singapore’s top ten mobile shopping apps. The company’s global / US app places eighth in App Annie’s rankings, while its local, grocery-focused Amazon Prime Now app comes in ninth.
The order in which Amazon’s apps rank is particularly noteworthy, as we explored in more detail in a previous article in this series.
However, Singaporeans appear to have different preferences when it comes to web-based shopping.
Singapore is the only country in Southeast Asia where a local platform does not come out at the top of SimilarWeb’s ranking of leading transactional websites.
Despite Singapore being home to the region’s two largest ecommerce players – Lazada and Shopee – it’s global giant Amazon that tops the list of sites attracting the greatest volume of web traffic in the city state.
Lazada comes in at second place in SimilarWeb’s rankings, with the company’s Singapore-specific site attracting an average of more than 7.6 million visits per month.
Qoo10 takes third spot in the rankings, although – with roughly 7.4 million website visits per month – the platform is only just behind Lazada.
Local social commerce platform Carousell ranks fourth in SimilarWeb’s analysis, accounting for roughly one-third of the platform’s total global traffic.
Microsoft.com, Apple.com, and Samsung.com all make it into Singapore’s top ten transactional websites too, although it’s unclear how many of these sites’ visitors actually go on to buy something directly from each site.
Perhaps surprisingly, Shopee only makes an appearance at number nine in SimilarWeb’s website rankings, suggesting that the platform’s shoppers have much greater affinity for its mobile app than its website.
Top online grocery sites - Singapore
With online grocery retail growing so quickly in Singapore, it’s worth taking a look at the key players in the market.
It’s likely that both Lazada and Shopee account for a meaningful share of Singapore’s online grocery market, but it’s unclear what share groceries contribute to either platform’s overall revenues.
However, it’s worth noting that Amazon’s local, grocery-focused app, Prime Now, appears in the country’s top ten mobile shopping apps, so the sector is clearly gaining momentum.
Amongst the more ‘traditional’ grocery retailers, Fairprice tops SimilarWeb’s ranking of online success as measured by website traffic.
The bricks-and-mortar supermarket chain attracted an average of roughly 1.3 million monthly website visits between May and Jul 2018 – roughly five times more than second-placed rival, Cold Storage.
However, these numbers suggest that Singapore still has some way to go before online grocery shopping becomes ubiquitous.
For context, more than 3.5 million Singaporeans already shop online, and with most people buying groceries at least once a fortnight (via any channel), the numbers suggest that only a fraction of the country’s ecommerce users have so far embraced regular online grocery shopping.
This may be partly because Singaporeans are rarely more than a few minutes away from a bricks-and-mortar supermarket or convenience store, meaning that online shopping doesn’t yet offer the same convenience advantage that it might do in countries like the United States.
This may be one of the reasons why leading grocery player Honestbee continues to face challenges, and why Amazon’s Prime Now service hasn’t gained the momentum that many observers predicted before the US giant’s arrival in Singapore.
However, it’s clear from the impressive growth visible in Statista’s data that online grocery is set to grow rapidly in Singapore over the coming years.
It’s not just Statista’s data that point to a rosy future, either. A 2018 study from IGD Research shows that Singaporeans have embraced online grocery shopping more quickly than their Southeast-Asian neighbours, and the company forecasts that ecommerce will account for roughly 8 percent of Singapore’s total grocery market by 2022.
IGD Asia takes a less bullish view of annual growth compared to Statista, however, with the company forecasting compound annual growth (CAGR) of 25 percent in Singapore’s online grocery market between 2017 and 2022.
That’s still considerably faster growth than the 17 to 18 percent growth that eMarketer predicts for the United States over a similar period though, so there are still plenty of reasons for ecommerce players to be optimistic about the future of online grocery in Singapore.
Ecommerce outlook: Singapore
With the country already enjoying strong uptake of ecommerce, and with total sales value currently increasing by more than 20 percent per year, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that ecommerce has a promising future in Singapore.
The only limitation might be Singapore’s relatively small size, but this also offers a distinct opportunity for ecommerce players, providing an ideal testbed for new ecommerce initiatives that can subsequently be rolled out across the rest of Southeast Asia and beyond.
Looking for more data on Singapore? Check out all of our previous country reports by clicking here.