Jul 11, 2012

Posted by in Featured, Shopping | 1 Comment

3 Reasons why Singaporeans should Shop from Amazon

Shop from Amazon and Cut Your Shopping Bill by Half

Shop from Amazon and Cut Your Shopping Bill by Half

Amazon is today the world’s largest online retailer. It is true that they started as an online book seller. But Amazon’s Jeff Bezos is a man with big ambition. Over the past 2-3 years alone, they have purchased a handful of other small but rapidly growing online retailers. From diapers to to soap. From movies to fabrics. From toys to shoes. From warehouse deals to high-end fashion clothing. Amazon is the biggest fish that has been gobbling up all the other small fishes in the pond. They now own sites such as Diapers.com, Soap.Com, Fabrics.com and even IMDb. IMDb is one of the first few places we go to if we need to dig up info or snippets about movies, but few would have realized their affiliation with Amazon, I guess.

You might be interested: Cost Saving Tips when Shopping from Amazon

Like many Singaporeans, shopping is my life and gadget is my obsession. I live to shop and shop to live. Gadgets are powerful devices that put the world in your hand and information at your finger tips. With the mushrooming of retail malls islandwide, they have become the de-facto shopping vehicle among many Singaporeans. I ought to differ and may be among the minority of Singaporeans when it comes to shopping habit. We still share the same deep love for shopping but online shopping is my preferred outlet. As the largest online retailer, Amazon is my #1 shopping destination. I found shopping from Amazon is much more fun and convenient. Here are the top 3 reasons why I think Singaporeans should shop from Amazon.

  1. PRICE MATTERS
    Look at the 4 charts below that I’ve captured from Yahoo! Finance. Over the past 3 years, Singapore Dollar (SGD) has been gaining strength against what I considered as major trading countries where we get most of our items from. Against the US dollar, SGD has seen its value appreciate by 20%. Similarly, SGD has appreciated by 20-25% against the Euro. Compared to the Britsh Pound, SGD’s appreciation is close to 30%. Only against the Chinese Yuan that SGD’s appreciation is more modest.

    The question I often ask myself is given the strong Singapore currency, things here in Singapore are supposed to be cheaper in line with the strengthening of the currency. Do you see this happening? Personally, I have not seen that happening and I know for certain that things in Singapore tend to be pricier than in many other developed countries such as USA or UK.Price disparity across cities is inevitable due to a number of reasons. The first reason that is often cited by many analysts is the different tax regime practiced in different countries. First, let’s pick one of our nearest neighbour Indonesia. I am not trying to be political here, but speaking based on fact, Indonesia has one of the most complex tax systems in the world and tax on luxury goods sales can be as high as 200% (see PWC’s Indonesian Tax Pocket Book 2012). Complex tax system that changes frequently is not uncommon in many developing countries, particularly those that are seeing rapid economic transition such as Indonesia, Vietnam and India. Singapore is a well-developed economy tax code that is clear, transparent and consistent. The Goods and Service Tax (GST) is straightforward and can be easily understood by any laymen like you and me. The GST rate is only 7% which is considerably lower when compared to many cities in the world. With many European countries on the edge of fiscal cliff, countries such as UK, France and Germany are raising their sales tax in order to close their deficit. This means that the already low tax that we are paying in Singapore is only going to get lower when compared to major developed cities in the world such as California (8-10%), London (~20%) and Paris (~20%). Based on these facts, argument that attributes tax as the cause of expensive prices in Singapore cannot be true.

    You might be interested: What you need to know about Singapore’s import duty and 7% GST when shopping from abroad

    USD vs SGDGBP vs SGDEUR vs SGDCNY vs SGD
    Singapore Dollar has been gaining strength over World’s major CurrenciesThe second reason that directly impacts the price of retail items is retail space rental. According to data compiled by CBRE, Singapore is the 18th most expensive city in the world when it comes to retail rents. While we may not be in the top 10, this does not mean that the retail rent is low. Among the most expensive cities are the likes of New York, London, Shanghai and Tokyo. One interesting thing that we ought to keep in mind is most of these cities are not island nation like Singapore. It means that if you are talking about New York city, the retail rental may be expensive in the district of Manhattan, but residents there always have the option to go to the suburbs such as New Jersey which offer much lower rental. This rental disparity is probably the most important variable behind the Premium Outlet retail model in USA. If you have been to any of the Premium Outlet there, you know what I’m talking about.

    Now coming back home. Singapore is a tiny island nation where retail rate disparity exists but not as significant. You may argue that we can always drive to Johor (and a Premium Outlet has recently been opened there) for cheaper alternative. While there may be some who are willing to go such extra mile for a bargain, I bet most of us would not want the hassle. Close they may be, but Johor is part of Malaysia with different laws and jurisdiction from Singapore.So what alternatives do we have in Singapore? There is almost none. Shopping malls in Singapore are dominated by few big retail developers. I am not going to count for you just how many malls in Singapore belong to CapitaMall, I leave you to do the maths. I believe high rental is the single most dominant factor contributing to the high retail prices in Singapore. It does not take a math whiz to guess that rental cost is likely to form significant part of a retailer’s operational component.

    The question you have to ask yourself is this. Do you want to continue contributing wealth to the already wealthy retail developers’ wealth? Unless you have significant stake in them, I do not see any reason why it should continue. I have not totally stopped my ‘contribution’ as I still have to go to the malls for essential shoppings such as grocery, bread and meals. But I have significantly reduced my ‘contribution’, particularly on higher value items such as gadgets, clothing and nutritional supplements.

    I have turned to Amazon and I see no reason not to continue, at least for foreseeable future. If there are two words to summarize the biggest reason for my switch: PRICE MATTERS.

  2. Research
    I know everyone of us has different approaches and definitions when it comes to splurging. Most people still flock to the brick and mortar shops for few simple reasons. First, we tend to trust only what see. When it comes to shopping (especially ladies), the buying decision usually comes only after we see, touch and feel. Second, most of us still prefer to be served face-to-face or directly in person. Personally, I ought to differ on this. Unless we are talking about items like ladies clothing or expensive jewelry, I found no reason for me to see, touch and feel to make my buying decision. In fact, those are the things that I think should be avoided. I’ll come to that in a while.On the second point about being served in person, I would love it but only if we are talking about places where quality of customer service is exceptionally good. Japan is among my top list and if you’ve been to Japan, I bet you would agree with me on this. Based on experience, I generally regard customer service in Singapore as poor with few exception at best. If you share similar feeling, then it is time to consider a change and open yourself to a world of new shopping experience.One of the thing I like about Amazon is their fantastic customer service level. Write them a feedback or enquiry and you will usually get a response within 24 hours. If you have a question that you’d like to be addressed immediately, it can be done with a button click. Within minutes, there will be someone on the other side ready to attend to your queries. I shop regularly on Amazon and based on my own experience, these 2 help options are more than enough most of the time. There is a third option that allows you to give them a call directly, but I have never have to resort to this option so far.

    See also: 101 Guide to Amazon Shopping from Singapore

    Another thing that makes online shopping great is the ability for us to do our own research without having to worry about being pestered or needing to go to different locations to compare certain products.  You can find wide range of reviews online such as real customer and technical reviews. Not only that. When you do your research online, you tend to find alternative products that you usually do not get to see when you do your research in brick and mortar shops.I’m not sure about you but I find that  many shops in Singapore tend to carry only limited options. When you talk to the sales person mending the shop about an alternative model that they do not carry, you can expect typical answer such as ‘the model we have here is much better than so and so’. If there is one thing that I’ve learned over the years, sales persons would be the last guys that I could put my trust on. You may be surprised at how little technical knowledge typical sales persons can have and they tend to say only things that you like to hear but not what you need to hear.

    Things are different with online research. You can find tonnes of reviews and discussion from different sources. You can find articles written from different perspectives and it is up to you to make up your own mind. The ability to do my own product research within the click of a mouse is the second biggest driving factor behind my decision to switch to online shopping.

  3. Pleasant Shopping Experience
    Singapore is well marketed as shopping haven to overseas visitors and rightly deserves to be among the best shopping destination. There are not that many places in the world where you could enjoy strolling as much as along Orchard Rd. To be standing among the world’s shopping belt elites, it does not happen by itself. It takes hard work, persistence and commitment to make Orchard Rd as it is today. Credit has to go to Singapore Tourism Board (STB), that’s for sure. But I felt that shopping experience in Singapore has been deteriorating in terms two fundamental indicators.First, I find the quality of service in Singapore has been degrading over the years. The smiles that are supposed to greet you upon entering a store front seems like a practice of yesteryear, that is in serious danger of extinction. How often are you greeted with smiles in Singapore nowadays? Compared it to Japan and you know how much ground we have to make up.

    Second, I find the malls here are becoming unbearably over-crowded. I can understand why Singaporeans are flocking to the malls. Given the hot and humid weather that is persistent throughout the year, the malls serve as the perfect place to chill out and break from the scorching heat. Just like all of you, I would head to the malls if I need to meet up with friends. For serious shopping, malls are no longer my preferred options. I confess that I’m a shopaholic but I am picky about the stuffs I bought and tend to ask a lot before purchasing. Therefore, I prefer to shop when there is less crowd and more room to explore my interest.Shopping experience is defined by the pleasure or enjoyment we get during the shopping process. I find online shopping to be much more pleasant and enjoyable. Regardless of how much you have read about online shopping, it requires a change in expectation and perspective when you need to switch between physical and online shops. It requires a little experimentation at the beginning, but once you get the hang of it, be warned that it is addictive.

    Online shopping can be done anytime of the day and from anywhere. I love the idea of being able to shop from the comfort of my couch. I can do my online shopping while watching weekday’s prime time drama serials like ‘Hawaii Five O’ and ‘Alcatraz’. With iPad, online shopping just gets easier. Amazon has a great app designed for optimum iPad shopping experience. With online shopping, you can compare, study and review dozens of product at your own pace, without having to worry about the sales guy waiting in front of you. With millions of items sold by thousands of sellers in Amazon, you would be surprised to find things that you never imagined would have existed.

    With customer feedback display and similar product recommendation, I find Amazon is doing a great job in helping me understand and nail down exactly what I want. I am sure you are often faced with similar situation like me where I roughly know what I want but not quite sure what the options are and how the options compare to each other.To sum it all, being the world’s largest online retailer, Amazon does not only provide shoppers millions of items to choose from. Amazon has built an online shopping platform that offers privacy and pleasant experience for savvy shopaholics like you and me.

  1. Priscillia says:

    If you order a lot and make smaller purchases Amazon Prime can be a good deal, but i find that with the Free Super Shipping I usually get my orders within 2 to 4 days anyway so unless it’s something I urgently need I can wait.

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