SINGAPORE - Online customers in Singapore who shop across borders carted out clothing and beauty products most frequently during the pandemic.
This is according to a study of online shopping habits in the past year conducted by e-payment company PayPal between December and February.
The study was conducted across 13 international markets including Singapore, the United States, India, China and France. It polled 1,000 consumers in each market who had purchased online in the past three months as well as 5,270 merchants.
In all the markets, apparel and beauty supplies recorded the biggest surges in online purchases last year.
Singapore had the largest pool of cross-border shoppers (78 per cent). Among them, 41 per cent spent on clothing, 22 per cent on cosmetics and beauty products, and 21 per cent on household appliances.
Work-from-home arrangements and an uptick in home workouts in the past year have led to a swell in demand for comfort wear and athleisure apparel. And when beauty and hairdressing salons were forced to shut during last year's circuit breaker, many turned to grooming and self-care rituals at home.
The PayPal study also identified the three main avenues where online customers in Singapore do their cross-border shopping - e-retailers like Shopee, retailers' websites and social media marketplaces.
Global online retail sales hit US$4.28 trillion (S$5.76 trillion) last year, up from US$3.35 trillion in 2019, says the report.
Mr Rakesh Krishnamuti, director of enterprise sales in South-east Asia at PayPal, tells The Straits Times: "The pandemic has really accelerated e-commerce. What we were trying to do progressively over the last 10 years or so has been accelerated by three to five years, so businesses are seeing the need to go digital and have an omnichannel presence now more than ever."
He points out some online shopping habits developed among Singapore consumers during the pandemic that are likely to stay in the long run.
1. Fashion and beauty items will still be popular
As working from home remains the norm, comfort and active wear will continue to fill shopping carts.
A report by market research company Technavio last November predicts that the athleisure market will grow by US$80.74 billion from 2020 to 2024, as people look to more versatile wear to work and rest in.
In an article published by e-commerce growth agency Common Thread Collective in March, the global beauty and personal care market was valued at US$483 billion in 2020 and expected to expand to US$784.6 billion by 2025. The Asia-Pacific region accounted for nearly half of the total market.
2. Shop cross-border for better bargains
In the PayPal study, respondents from Singapore ranked the highest in consumer price sensitivity compared with other markets in the region, with more than half (56 per cent) saying they shop in international markets for better prices.
Other common reasons included access to products being unavailable locally and making new and interesting discoveries.
Delivery costs were the biggest consideration for cross-border shopping, which Mr Krishnamuti says domestic e-commerce players may leverage to attract shoppers in Singapore.
He advises local businesses to improve online shopping experiences by offering faster delivery times and more personalised service.
3. Mobile is the way forward
According to the PayPal report, 83 per cent of online consumers in Singapore shop via their mobile phones, making it essential for merchants to create a seamless mobile experience, from browsing to performing transactions.
Those who shop across borders pay with credit cards (67 per cent), PayPal (31 per cent) and debit cards (25 per cent). Only 5 per cent use the local e-payment method PayNow.
As the e-commerce landscape grows alongside the e-payment economy, Mr Krishnamuti notes that it is increasingly important for merchants to offer an "invisible experience", one that does not require shoppers to repeatedly key in details.
"They should prioritise having an app or website that is mobile-optimised and offers a payment method that doesn't require consumers to fish for their cards," he adds.