Oct 10, 2012

Posted by in Featured, Shopping | 3 Comments

101 Amazon Singapore Shopping Guide

Do you know that Amazon’s stock (AMZN) is worth 250 times its earning? It is the rarest among the rare companies listed in NASDAQ that is worth so much. Don’t just take my word for it. Check it out for yourself here. I can tell you that Amazon is the only company in NASDAQ with a market valuation of more than US$100B that is trading at such exorbitant price-to-earning (PE) ratio. For comparison sake, Apple may be worth 6 times more than Amazon, but its PE ratio is only 15. That is a far cry from Amazon’s 250. It triggers the curiosity in me as to why investors are valuing Amazon’s stock price so highly. The answer turned out to be pretty simple.

AMAZON SINGAPORE SHOPPING GUIDE

Amazon Singapore - Amazon's Daily Deals

The thing about investment is how much investors value a company’s stock depends on two simple things. The first thing is faith. Investors need to see strong leadership at the helm. Investors see Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder, as one such strong leader. Some analysts and bloggers in the tech community see parallel qualities in Jeff Bezos that makes him a lot like Steve Jobs. Ambitious, bold and most importantly, customers first and profits second. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying they are not out to make money. Amazon is not a charity organization and they need to make money, so does Apple. But it is the philosophy of putting customer ahead of profit at all cost that makes the two similar. Second, investors need to see stellar growth prospect in the company’s business model. Amazon easily fits into this criteria. Initially started with only a handful of fulfillment centers, Amazon has been expanding as fast as they can and they have now set up more than 60 fulfillment centers strategically situated across the globe. The main thing that allows shoppers to enjoy bargain prices (sometimes I consider as steals) is indeed their fulfillment center strategy. Given their massive scale of transaction, they are able to offer shoppers significant savings when it comes to shipping.

Amazon daily deals

By now, I hope I’ve given you every reason you need to believe that online shopping is for real and Amazon is probably the only marketplace you need to browse millions of items on bargains and find (often more than) decent deals. If after reading everything I said earlier has shifted your perspective and overcome most of the unfounded fear about online shopping, great for you because you could be enjoying significant saving in many of your subsequent purchases and may even cut your shopping bill (on non-essential items) by half.

Read more: 3 Reasons why Singaporeans should Shop from Amazon

 

Amazon daily deals

Amazon Singapore Shopping Guide

Millions of items are on Sale in Amazon. From the latest gadgets to handbags. From Men’s wardrobe to Ladies’ fashion. From toys to essential baby needs. From skin care to vitamins. There is almost nothing that you cannot find in Amazon.

Every time I share my Amazon Singapore shopping story with friends and relatives, it was greeted with either excitement or skepticism. If you belong to the latter, then by all means head down to the malls and continue your status as wealth generator to the conglomerates like CapitaLand.

If you are excited and ready to start a new chapter in your shopping journey, my advice for you is not to start jumping into it immediately. There are several things that you need to know before you can get the most out of online shopping. You first need to know how does it work to shop from Amazon and get your purchases shipped over to Singapore.

These are the 5 simple steps to get started with Amazon Singapore shopping.

Amazon Shopping Guide 1: Credit Card

This sounds trivial and most of us in Singapore would own one credit card at the very least. I’ve seen not one, but several friends who own dozens of credit cards. They use one card to pay for their shopping, the next card to pay for their utility and telco bills and the next card to pay for their dining bills. Unless you have done your research well and put in place a personal credit card management system, I would advice that you keep only 2-3 credit cards at most. Trust me, this would make your life much easier and reduce the threat of becoming a credit card fraud victim. Based on my personal experience, my recommendation in the order of priority will be Citibank’s SMRT or Dividend, followed by Standard Chartered’s Manhattan card and then UOB’s Visa Signature.

How do I end up with Citibank as the first on the list? If you plan to go online for most of your shopping from this point on, Citibank often has good offer when you ship using Borderlinx as the two are affiliated to each other. The saving usually range between 15-30% which can significantly reduce your shipping cost.

Amazon Shopping Guide 2: U.S. Virtual Address

Before you start shopping from Amazon, you need to first understand the concept of virtual address. (Click here for more on What is Virtual Address?) You need an address that is based in U.S. as not all items sold in Amazon ship overseas.

First, you need to pick a virtual address provider. As discussed previously, there are three companies providing such service: Borderlinx, SingPost and comGateway. I’ve experimented with each one of them and I found Borderlinx to be the best among them. I would definitely strike SingPost out of my option list. I’ve given the benefits of every doubt, but they just disappoint again and again. just had too many bad experience with them. I’ve had issues with them from item consolidation to shipping delay. Below is the rate quoted on their sites. For latest rate, do check with the respective site as rates tend to be updated regularly.

Borderlinx SingPost comGateway
First 0.5kg US$13.20 S$17.95 US$11.00
Next 0.5kg US$3.30 S$4.55 US$2.85
Additional Insurance No No Yes

Do take note of the currency displayed in the table. SingPost is the only odd one out to quote the shipping charges in SGD while the figures for Borderlinx and comGateway are in USD. If you go purely by the numbers alone, there is no doubt who the clear winner is. Depending on the exchange rate, comGateway certainly offers the most competitive rate. However, do take note that there is additional insurance that needs to be added to make up the overall charges for comGateway.

When I first started with online shopping, I thought that I can make good decision based on shipping rates alone. This is true provided you can be certain that all your purchases will arrive at your U.S. address in a single batch. If you purchased multiple items from Amazon, this turned out to be not the case in most cases. It is in their policy to try and ship your order in the shortest time possible. What this often means is there is a high chance that your order will be dispatched from different fulfillment centers that are spread across U.S., depending on the stock availability location of your items.

When your items arrive in different batches, both Borderlinx and comGateway come with free consolidation services. However, the computations used by the two are different. The best way to illustrate this is by example and here is how it works.

Scenario 1: You have 3 packages to consolidate and each of them weigh exactly in multiple of 0.5kg. Say your first package weight 2kg, second package weigh 1 kg and the last package weigh 0.5kg. In this case, the computations for both Borderlinx and comGateway are the same and the charges will be as shown in table below. In this case, the total chargeable weight for both will be 3.5kg and you can directly compute the saving using their rates table.

Borderlinx comGateway
Chargeable weight for Package #1 2kg 2kg
Chargeable weight for Package #2 1kg 1kg
Chargeable weight for Package #3 0.5kg 0.5kg
Total Chargeable weight 3.5kg 3.5kg

Scenario 2: You have 3 packages to consolidate and their chargeable weight do not come in exactly in multiple of 0.5kg. Say your first package weight 2.1kg, second package weigh 0.3 kg and the last package weigh 0.1kg. This scenario is highly possible considering if you are buying multiple small items. This is where things will get murky and you’d be surprised at how ‘creative’ comGateway can be. For Borderlinx, the math is simple. Just add on all the weight together and you get the total chargeable weight. Your total chargeable is 2.5kg. For comGateway, it is not the case. They first round up the chargeable weight of each package before summing them all up. In this case, the chargeable weight is 3.5kg. This is the thing that I dislike about comGateway. Let me tell you a horror story. I once order an sticker that weighed 0.09kg (yes you heard me right) and cost $1.50. It was part of a larger purchase, but was delivered separately from the rest. Because of the way they compute the charges, I have to pay ~US$4 for this item which to me makes totally no sense. I had no choice but to discard the item as they refused to bulge and make an exception. Now you know why my preference is Borderlinx and not comGateway.

Borderlinx comGateway
Chargeable weight for Package #1 2.1kg 2.5kg (rounded up from 2.1kg)
Chargeable weight for Package #2 0.3kg 0.5kg (rounded up from 0.3kg)
Chargeable weight for Package #3 0.1kg 0.5kg (rounded up from 0.1kg)
Total Chargeable weight 2.5kg 3.5kg

To get a virtual U.S. address with Borderlinx, click here. To get one with comGateway, click here and for SingPost, click here. After you registered with them, take note of the address that has been assigned to you. I usually store it in my email so that it is accessible to my everywhere I go minus the hassle of having to sign in to retrieve my U.S. address.

Amazon Shopping Guide 3: Amazon Account

Setting up your Amazon account is free and easy. Click here to set up your account. It takes me less than 30 seconds to set up my account. After you’ve got your account with Amazon, then you can add the U.S. address that you have obtained earlier to be your shipping address. You can do this by going to “Your Account” -> “Add New Address”.

 

Amazon Singapore Shopping Guide - Amazon Address Form

After you add your shipping address, you can add your credit card details. This is optional as you can always entered your credit card every time you want to check out. I like to enter my detail once so that it will make my payment process easier. You can do this by going to “Your Account” -> “Add a Credit or Debit Card”.

Amazon Shopping Guide - Amazon Credit Card Form Page

After you are done adding your address and credit card details, you are ready to start your online shopping. Be warned that online shopping can be addictive and with checkout being so easy, it is easy to forget how much money you’ve spent online. So, remember to monitor your credit card spending closely to avoid over spending.

Amazon Shopping Guide 4: Order Checkout

One of the most incredible thing I found about Amazon is its massive collection of items. There are millions of items that sellers have put up for sale. I often run into needs for something that I cannot find them in any retail store in Singapore. You are probably right to say that I may be among the rare species of Singaporean. I just think that I’m just being more adventurous. I found experimenting with new stuffs to be gratifying and I do not like to settle with conventional wisdom. One item that I recently found in Amazon that continues to amaze me is ‘Tofu Presser‘. I have problem finding anyone selling it in Singapore. I went to Amazon and gotcha! There are more than hundreds of tofu presser sold in Amazon. I can now make great dumpling on my own with it.

Whether you have something in mind to buy or you are just there for “(digital) window shopping”, you’ll know what a great experience they offer only after you try it for yourself. The next step after you’ve put all your awesome finding into the cart is to check out. The check out process consists of several phases.

First, after clicking on the ‘Proceed to Checkout’ button, you will need to select the address that you want your orders to be delivered to. You will see the page as shown below. In the example, I’ve 2 Singapore-based addresses and 1 U.S.-based address.

Amazon checkout - select shipping address

Click on the appropriate ‘Ship to this address’ button to select your shipping address. Take note that clicking the button is not the final confirmation of your purchase and the purchase will not be charged to your credit card yet. The next page after you select the shipping address is to select the shipping method.

Amazon checkout - select shipping method

In the example shown above, see how the items in my cart are divided into separate groups. The first group that appear on top are items that are fulfilled by Amazon. Following that are items that are fulfilled by individual sellers. Note the stark difference in terms of shipping time between Amazon-fulfilled items and the rest. Items that are fulfilled by Amazon are highly more likely to be get shipped at much shorter time. Typically based on my own experience, my order usually ship within 24-hours after my payment confirmation whereas items fulfilled by sellers themselves may take as long as 2 weeks in some cases.

See more: Cost Saving Tips when Shopping from Amazon

One thing that most people (including myself) misunderstood is though items fulfilled by Amazon are grouped as one, they may not get shipped out as one package. After confirming your order, Amazon will run its inventory algorithm to check for stock availability and location and decide which fulfillment centers will ship out your items. Nonetheless, there is a chance that all your items reside in one center and they get shipped out in a single batch and the probability depends on the number of different items are in your cart.

Once you’ve selected the shipping method for all your items, you can click on ‘Continue’ button found at the bottom of the page. Again, this is not the final button click to confirm your purchase. After clicking this button, you’ll be taken to the payment selection page as shown below.

Amazon checkout - payment selection

If you have entered your credit card details as I suggested earlier, you can simply select the credit card to make your final payment. You are only one step away to conclude your purchase. Click on the ‘Continue’ button to review your order for one last time before finally wrapping up the payment process.

The thing with online system is you tend to get nervous about your purchase and you want to be updated constantly on the status of your order. Amazon is again proved to be good in this. They will send you a notification together with a tracking number once your order has been dispatched. With the tracking number, you can closely monitor the status of your package and where exactly is the latest location of your package.

Amazon Shopping Guide 5: Order Shipping

After you are done with the payment, you are ready to receive your package at the virtual U.S. address that you’ve selected. Depending on your address provider choice, you might need to register your purchase with them. This is to give them a notice that you are expecting packages to be delivered and they can assign the package to your account when they received it. This step is not compulsory but it is good to help them speed up the process when they receive your items.

When your package is received at your virtual address, your address provider will send an email to notify the package arrival and prompt you to make payment for the package to be shipped to Singapore. Most providers offer a free 30-day grace period for you to make payment and get the package shipped out.

That is it. After you make your payment, you are ready to receive your items. Once you’ve settle the shipping charges, you’ll receive a tracking code for your packages. Both Borderlinx and comGateway usually use FedEx and DHL for their delivery to Singapore. On average, it usually takes 3 days for my package to arrive in Singapore. However, depending on the timing and public holidays, so far the longest that I’ve to wait is 5-6 days at most.

Both FedEx and DHL do have their own online tracking systems that provide status update close to real-time. You can keep track from the time that your package is first picked up all the way to the time that your package arrived in Singapore, sent for custom clearance and arrived in the local delivery facility. The most important point of the tracking process is probably the arrival of the goods in the local delivery facility. Once it arrives in local delivery, you can expect your package to arrive in your house within hours.

If you happen to have someone in the house all the time (such as parents or maids), then you have less to worry as there’ll always be someone to open the door for the delivery man. However, if you do not have such privilege, you may want to give the local FedEx or DHL customer service a call the moment you receive the AirWay Bill (AWB) number. You may want to arrange with them a time when you are around to receive the delivery. Both FedEx and DHL do have evening delivery.

Phewwww… I’ve finally come to end of my version of Amazon Singapore shopping guide. Hope you find it useful. If you do, please pass on this Amazon Singapore shopping guide to your friend. Or you may leave your comment below. Cheers!

  1. Jean-Louis Charrier says:

    Excellent article and so very useful for someone who has recently settled in Singapore.

    Jean-Louis

  2. FellowSingaporean says:

    Thank you for providing such useful info…Cheers!

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