Try in a shop then buy online

Shoppers are visiting physical shops to examine products before buying them online at a lower price. ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN

There is actually a term for shoppers who visit physical shops to examine products before buying them online at a lower price.

According to Mr Prashant Saxena, associate director at market research company TNS Singapore, this is referred to as "showrooming", a practice which gives shoppers the touch-and-feel factor of the items.

The term surfaced around 2010 when retail analysts and media outlets in the United States began to talk about the electronics chain Best Buy becoming a "showroom for Amazon".

The rapid rise and use of the smartphone also means that customers can check online prices via their mobile devices while they are in the physical stores.

This only provides more competition for brick-and-mortar shops, especially in Singapore, where people are big on online shopping.

In a Consumer Payment Attitudes Survey study done last year by Visa, Singaporeans were found to be the biggest online spenders in South-east Asia, with 70 per cent of consumers shopping online at least once a month. This was ahead of the regional average of 68 per cent. Respondents to the study cited convenience and competitive pricing as key motivation for shopping online.

Ms Ooi Huey Tyng, country manager for Visa Singapore and Brunei, says online shopping in Singapore is growing at a rate three times faster than face-to-face shopping, thanks to international shopping events such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Singles Day.

Overall, Visa saw an increase of 35 per cent in spending by Singaporeans online for fashion-related items last year.

Mr Eric Schneider, regional head of MasterCard Advisors Asia Pacific, reports that the international shopping events were also the "top three expenditure days by Singapore MasterCard cardholders". Online expenditure accounted for 47 per cent of the total in-store ande-commerce spending during the three dates in November last year.

Mr Anthony Seow, head of cards and unsecured loans at the consumer banking group of DBS Bank, said that as of the end of last year, there was a growth of 17 per cent year-on- year in online spending, surpassing spending growth in brick-and-mortar shops.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 21, 2016, with the headline Try in a shop then buy online. Subscribe