Social commerce in Southeast Asia: Singapore
Updated: Jan 20
Singapore, home to nearly 6 million people, is an outlier in Southeast Asia. Apart from being smaller than neighbouring countries, it also has the highest internet penetration (88%) and social media penetration (> 75%).
Yet recent reports indicate that only 5.5% of household spending occurs online, significantly less than other countries with similar internet usage like the US (10%) and the UK (18%).
To figure out what might be holding back greater ecommerce adoption, Econsultancy in association with Magento and Hootsuite recently surveyed hundreds of Southeast Asian consumers and marketers and asked them about their online, social media and ecommerce habits.
Below are charts comparing answers from Singapore’s consumers and marketers to those from their peers in SEA. For people who want to know more about social commerce in SEA, please download the full report: The State of Social Commerce in Southeast Asia.
1) Singaporeans spend more online than others in SEA
The first noticeable result from the survey is that Singaporeans are surprisingly big spenders online compared with others in their region. Respondents indicated that they are more likely to spend greater than $51 per month than the regional average and less likely to spend $50 and under.
This result suggests that while ecommerce may still be a small part of the Singapore retail economy, there is still a significant opportunity for businesses to improve top-line performance by targeting Singaporean consumers.
2) People in Singapore use social media differently than in other regional countries
As well as spending more, Singaporeans also use social media differently than others in SEA.
First off, they are more likely to use WhatsApp daily (90%) than the regional average (65%) and less likely to use Facebook (73% vs. 78%). Messaging, therefore, appears to be more important in Singapore than social media sharing.
Also interesting is that, for daily usage, Singaporeans are over-represented on LinkedIn for the region and under-represented on both Twitter and Line, indicating a greater propensity for using social media for career advancement.
Also, when asked how long they spend on social media daily, fewer said that they spend more than 3 hours daily than others in the region (31% in Singapore, 45% in SEA).
So, while social media is still very popular in Singapore, it is perhaps slightly less important than in other SEA countries.
3) Singaporeans are also less likely to use social media during the customer journey
In addition to spending less time on social media, Singaporeans are also less likely to use it pre and post-purchase than others in their region.
Only 20% of Singaporeans ‘strongly agreed’ that they buy products online after seeing them on social media. This is noticeably lower than the SEA regional average of 35%.
Additionally, once they have purchased an item, Singaporeans were also less likely to share the information online.
When asked where they share purchases after having bought an item online, one in four (25%) said ‘None’, more than the regional average of 18%.
4) Marketers in Singapore are also less enthusiastic about social commerce
From the charts above, it appears that consumers in Singapore are more reserved than others in SEA about how much social media affects their online purchasing.
Marketers, too, share that sentiment. When asked to what extent they felt social media drives online sales, 30% indicated that they ‘strongly agreed’ it did, which is less than half of the same response across the SEA region (62%).
5) Companies in Singapore are lacking a social commerce strategy
One of the reasons for this response may be that many companies in Singapore do not yet have a social commerce strategy in place.
When asked to describe their company’s social commerce strategy, 60% of respondents said that their strategy was either nonexistent, still informal or that it still only had minimal impact on revenue. This result is quite different from the SEA average, where only 35% of marketers felt the same.
Respondents were, however, more likely than others in the region to list the barriers to a more well-developed social commerce strategy. Reasons included ‘unclear targets on which to develop a strategy’ (22% of respondents) and that social media was seen at their company as ‘just a brand channel’ (20%) or a ‘customer service channel’ (20%).
To move ahead with social commerce, then, marketers in the country will have to reassess how they can use social media to connect with consumers in new ways.
6) Singaporean companies are still planning to invest in social commerce
Although the previous charts demonstrated that marketers have reservations about social commerce, respondents still indicated that most companies in the country are moving ahead with social commerce.
When asked to estimate how budgets for social commerce technology will change in the next 12 months, a majority of respondents from Singapore (59%) said that they will increase. While that is still less than the SEA average (75%), the response does show a willingness to work toward selling more on social media in the future.
Before that happens, though, it seems that marketers in Singapore have numerous obstacles to overcome including setting targets, developing a strategy and enticing consumers to engage with brands throughout the customer journey on social media.
For much more on this topic, please download the full report: The State of Social Commerce in Southeast Asia.