Online shoppers here a shrewd crowd

Online shoppers here are a savvy bunch: They compare prices, look for discount codes and review return policies.

A recent study of 1,031 online shoppers here found that 63 per cent review a retailer's return policy before buying something.

This figure is tied with that in China as the highest out of the five regions studied.

The United Parcel Service (UPS) study of 5,275 online consumers in China, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and South Korea also found that consumers here research a product before buying it, with 44 per cent using their computers to do so.

It also found that on a weekly basis, 35 per cent of online shoppers here researched products on their cellphones and tablets before visiting a store, 26 per cent tracked delivery and 26 per cent contacted someone to get feedback on a product they were considering.

Close to half (42 per cent) of the 753 smartphone users surveyed also searched for discount codes before making a purchase, a higher proportion compared to Hong Kong (36 per cent), Japan (40 per cent) and China (38 per cent).

It looks like consumers even do their research at the store.

It was found that over half (51 per cent) of the smartphone users here use their devices to compare prices, read reviews (45 per cent) and study product details (38 per cent) while in a store.

Dissatisfied consumers were also likely to make their grievances known.

The study, conducted by research firm comScore between August and October last year, found that more than half (53 per cent) of Singaporeans would complain to friends and family, and half would e-mail the company to complain or ask for a refund.

A total of 31 per cent also said they would complain on social media.

The online survey also found that 52 per cent here said that having a convenient delivery location would encourage them to complete an online purchase.

Last December, UPS started allowing its customers to pick up packages from 20 7-Eleven convenience stores at Shell petrol stations, at no extra charge, if a delivery man is not able to reach them first at their shipping address.

DHL Express launched a similar service that same month.

The online shopping market in Singapore is projected to hit $4.4 billion by next year, up from $3.5 billion in 2013.

Singapore Polytechnic senior retail lecturer Sarah Lim said demanding shoppers are a good thing for retail here.

"Competition online is stiff. There are so many blogshops here and more overseas stores ship globally for free," she said.

"Demanding customers mean that shops need to have unique products, competitive prices, sound return policies and punctual deliveries to survive."

Ms Lim Xue Ting, 24, said she searches for discount codes and reads reviews before shopping. She often uses her smartphone to search for reviews in stores before buying items.

"You cannot sample some items like beauty products and toiletries. So, I just want to make sure that they are good," said Ms Lim, who works in the oil and gas industry.

She added that an online store with a return policy is a big bonus.

"The drawback about shopping online is that when you buy something, it may not fit well. It is a big reassurance to know I can return it," she said.


This article was first published on March 3, 2015.
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