Singaporeans are spoilt for choice when it comes to online shopping sites.
More and more international retailers are offering affordable or even free shipping to Singapore. And for those that don't (cough cough, Amazon), there are shipping services like vPost and comGateway that can help.
Amazon, Lazada and Wish are three huge online shopping sites that aim to become your one-stop-shop for anything you could possibly think of buying-from books and clothes to gadgets and beauty products. The Wish mobile app is also catching up with established players like Lazada in terms of downloads in Singapore.
But which one is the best?
This is the grand-daddy of online shopping sites and has been around longer than Facebook. (Not to be confused with Amazon Prime Singapore, which has a much smaller product range.)
While best-known for their massive selection of books, Amazon also sells movies, music, games, electronics, homeware, beauty products, groceries, sports equipment, toys, clothes and jewellery.
Amazon is your go-to site for American or international products, and has everything from Vapur water bottles to Burt's Bees personal care products.
They charge lower US prices, so you can often save quite a bit of money by buying several items from Amazon and then consolidating shipping to Singapore with vPost or comGateway.
Lazada is the only one of the three online shopping sites with a local range of products. That means that if you've seen it in local stores, there's a good chance you'll find it on Lazada. For instance, they sell Thirsty Hippo dehumidifiers, which you won't find on the other two sites.
Their product range includes electronics, clothes, pet products, beauty products, groceries and homeware.
They also list products on Taobao, so you can find some items priced very affordably.
This site links shoppers with products all over the world. The main difference is the browsing experience on the site.
As you view products, you can reject the ones you don't like. Based on your choices, Wish will recommend you even more products. Think of it as the MovieLens of online shopping.
Many of the listings on the site are from Chinese merchants, so you can expect lower prices and perhaps questionable quality. Unlike Amazon's products, most of the goods are brandless.
Their product range includes clothes, gadgets, watches, jewellery, accessories and hobby-related products.
Ever since Amazon removed their GlobalSaver free shopping option for those in Singapore who spend 125 USD and more on eligible products, shoppers have had two options: Pay (often very expensive) shipping (bearing in mind that it's not available for products which can be shipped only to the US), or become AmazonPrime members, which entitles them to free shipping to Singapore on orders worth 60 SGD and more.
You can get a free 30-day trial membership, after which they will start charging you. Prime membership costs $2.99 right now, but this is a promotional price that will be raised later on.
Otherwise, shipping fees charged by US merchants are very expensive and vary from merchant to merchant. Worst of all, you pay shipping fees for every merchant you order from. So if you order three items you could end up paying three different shipping fees.
Lazada offers free shipping, except on orders below 40 SGD from selected sellers.
For their Taobao collection, shipping is free for orders of 20 SGD and above, and 3.99 SGD on orders below 20 SGD. Lazada also has a great membership programme in the form of LiveUp. For a currently discounted price of $28.80 a year, not only do you get 5 per cent cash rebates on your orders and expedited shipping, but you can also benefit from a host of partners such as Uber, UberEATS and Netflix. You even get 6 months free subscription to Netflix, which alone already justifies the cost of the membership!
If you've ever bought something on eBay, you know that sellers sometimes sell items at very low prices, only to tack on significant shipping fees.
The same thing happens to a certain extent at Wish, so you must expect to spend a significant amount to ship each item. This is offset by the fact that their prices on brandless products are often very low. Just consider the shipping fee as part of the total price.
SO WHICH IS THE BEST?
While the three sites have some overlapping products, there are many that are not.
Amazon is the only one of the three that sells books, music and DVDs. It's also the best place to go to for US brands at a cheaper price, if you are buying enough to make using a shipping service worthwhile.
As for Lazada, their strength is cheap shipping and a decent range of products that you can find locally. They've also got cheap China-made products from Taobao.
Wish is another site where you can find cheap China-made products at affordable prices. Their prices are very competitive, even when shipping is taken into account. Thus, you should probably comparison shop by popping over to Lazada whenever you want to buy something on Wish, to see which site has better offerings.