Even as recent as, say, five years ago, online shopping probably still wasn’t all that common in Singapore. Sure, some more adventurous people will shop online because, perhaps, what they wanted to get was not available locally so they didn’t have any choice but to buy online. But I think, in recent years, online shopping in Singapore has moved up to a new level.
I’m not talking about ordering pizzas for delivery, or booking an airline ticket or movie ticket. These are things you’ve been doing since a long time ago. It’s reliable and trustworthy because you’re buying from the same principal provider. You would otherwise also have had to deal with the same companies if you did not buy online. For example, ordering your pizza online is just an alternative to calling the pizza company’s call centre.
What’s getting increasingly more common now is that we’re buying from online sellers the same (or similar) things that we can also easily find locally in our brick and motar shops. These online sellers are not the same people as the brick and motar shops. It’s no more the case of buying online something that cannot be found in our local shops.
There are compelling reasons to shop online these days:
- The stuffs online are really cheaper.
- There are so many more choices. It’s so much easier to compare, so much more convenient. You can browse on and on without tiring out.
- There are more “buying aids”, like specifications, photos, and reviews. Or ratings from other buyers, reviews and comments from other buyers, etc. You also have the benefit of doing “online research”.
- The delivery cost has gone down a lot, even for shipping internationally. Or, when you buy from local online sellers, and there are more of them these days, naturally the cost of such deliveries is much lower.
So I’ve found myself buying things online. Ordinary things that I could easily have gotten at a brick and motar shop, except that I was just too lazy to go to one. For example, I got a retractable micro-USB cable recently, which costs all of $5.40 inclusive of delivery. I don’t think I could have gotten this price even at Sim Lim Square, and definitely not at shops like Challenger (yeah, I checked).
Another example is the USB LED light below. $12.90 from Challenger. $5.90 online.
Shopping online works very well as long as you don’t need the items urgently. Surprisingly, even some things that you’d have thought works best to buy at a shop, such as clothing or shoes, well, those could also work out very well buying online too. Some sites provide all sorts of measurements, so that you can decide if something fits without even having to actually try the item on. It’s even more convenient doing a “virtual fitting” than have to try on the clothes physically.
The next thing I’m hoping to see is free-delivery and free-returns becoming prevalent here. Folks in the U.S. are used to this concept, but this is not common in Singapore. The reason is that, well, most shopping sites and sellers are based overseas. International shipping is quite costly, and thus usually not covered.
Free-shipping and free-returns will really take online shopping to the next level. Take, for example, the Apple Online Store. The Singapore site provides free shipping on all items. There is also free-returns for most items. It’s all done via courier. Even for returns, the Apple Online Store sends a courier to collect the item back from you. That’s no-questions-asked returns.
You could order something, try it out, decide it doesn’t fit your needs, then ask to return it. It’s even better than going to a regular brick and motar shop which, in Singapore, don’t usually offer free returns.
I’ve seen how some folks in the U.S. would even buy a bunch of the same kind of things so that they can try them out, choose one to keep, and then return the rest. For example, suppose you were looking for an iPad case. Order 2 or 3 candidate cases. Try them out. Even for a day or so. Then choose one to keep and return the rest of the cases.
It’ll be so fun when we can start to enjoy the similar sort of online shopping experience as those in the U.S. are having.