Savvy S’pore Shoppers Count Savings as E-commerce Giants Target S-E Asia.

Sunday, Apr 17 2016 08:44 AM

SINGAPORE — Buying household wares, toilet bowls, tables and chairs from overseas websites and through third-party platforms is what some busy PMETs and savvy housewives have taken to do in a bid to get more bang for the buck. Do not take lightly the spending of these individuals, as such largely unnoticed transactions are making a wave in the global e-commerce footprint, and drawing the attention of major players.

Websites such as Ezbuy (formerly known as 65Daigou), an overseas shopping platform service, has seen an increase in buyers from Singapore over the years. Started in 2010, the website specialises in purchasing, logistics and international shipping for Singapore customers. Ezbuy’s customer base has grown to over 600,000 customers in the Republic with over 100,000 site visits a day.

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group is another example. Looking beyond its home shores, the group — which owns Taobao, China’s largest consumer-to-consumer online shopping platform — is targeting the huge potential of the Southeast Asian (SEA) market. Last week, the group agreed to buy a controlling stake in well-known Singapore-based e-commerce company Lazada for about US$1 billion (S$1.36 billion).

THE RISE OF SAVVY E-SHOPPERS

Ms Priscilla Teng, 39, an educator, made her first purchase of stationeries from China through Ezbuy. That escalated quickly in under a few months, as she has taken to purchasing her latest household furniture — a coffee table — from the website.

The reason why she opted to purchase her furniture online was simple, it saves time and money.

“Online shopping allows me to cover all grounds at home without physically searching for items in retail stores that do not suit what I have in mind,” Ms Teng said.

Compared to going to physical stores for furniture shopping which would probably allow her to cover 2-3 stores a day, she can easily browse over 1000 listings on websites.

It all started when her colleagues and friends were talking about buying things from China websites and hearing them rave about the quality and credibility of the items purchased. That made her decide to give it a go after pouring through various website reviews on how to do it.

“This has debunked the myth of how items are usually in bad quality if you buy online from China. To shop online, you just have to do your due diligence and read on the reviews per seller,” she added.

Ms Teng said she has made at least 20 per cent of savings through buying online and from Chinese websites. She decided to purchase from Ezbuy due to its local presence and also the better concierge service.

“It is good to have a local agent. Previously I bought directly from the Taobao website and goods are not checked before they are shipped over, also shipping fees vary and not everything could be shipped over. Ezbuy helps check the goods in China before it is shipped over here. It is also convenient to pick up my purchases as there are many places I can choose from. The English translation (on the website) is also helpful as it cuts down time to search for specific products.”

ONLINE PLATFORMS CATERING TO LOCAL NEEDS

Platforms providing English translation and direct delivery services from overseas websites such as Ezbuy are able to gain a larger share locally due to their language services, better shipping network and after sales support.

Customers are able to purchase items at a fraction of the cost compared to purchasing them in retail stores here, said co-founder and marketing director of Ezbuy Wendy Liu.

“Importation process imposed quite a big portion of overhead cost ... price could be 5 times higher than the manufacturer’s selling price. As a result, local consumers were not only limited by product variety, they paid at least 5 times more than the item original value,” Ms Liu said.

The site allows customers to receive their purchases from their wide network of pick-up collection points, warehouses or home delivery. The business now employs over 600 staff.

In order to stay relevant, the company says it has been constantly improving in the fast-paced e-commerce environment.

Other sites such as ShopBack are also tapping on the e-commerce wave. The made-in-Singapore start-up provides up to 30 per cent cashback to customers who purchase items from overseas websites through their portal.

“Across the board, international retailers like eBay, ASOS and iHerb are very popular among the shoppers. Travel related sites like Expedia, Emirates, Hostel World and Agoda are very well-received too, as travel lovers can save a significant sum just by using ShopBack,” said Ms Josephine K Chow, Country Head, ShopBack Singapore.

SIM University Business School’s senior lecturer, marketing programme Dr Jimmy Wong noted that the range of big ticket items for online shopping has increased tremendously.

“Previously, it was not likely for consumers to buy big household items such as fridge, television, washing machine, etc. from online retailers. Consumers today have become savvier (and trusting). They will go down to retail stores to make a price comparison with online shopping sites, take down the product codes, and purchase the specific products via such online marketplace sites,” Dr Wong said.

Dr Wong noted the transparency of reviews has helped buyers check on the credibility of online sellers.

“Before consumers make their purchases, they can go through all the reviews related to the company’s service reliability, for example, how promptly it replied to queries, and how prompt its delivery was. Such reviews and comments can enable shoppers to make an informed decision about the online site as well as their online purchases.”

BY ANGELA TENG

http://www.todayonline.com/singapore/move-over-amazon-online-shoppers-target-furniture-toilet-bowls