Searching for a new market for your e-commerce operations? How about selling into the second-easiest place to do business on the planet, per The World Bank: Singapore. While the Asian nation is geographically small, its high level of technology adoption and younger middle class with disposable income make it a fruitful place to sell goods of all kinds.
The nation is the U.S.’s No. 13 export market, according to the Department of Commerce (DOC), meaning there’s plenty of room for your e-commerce business to make an impact. Whether your company already has a foothold in other Asian markets or is wholly new to serving the region, you may find you’re able to make Singapore into a strong commercial base. Let’s explore the economic, cultural and technological factors you’ll encounter as your business ventures into Singapore.
Free Trade Leads the Way: Embrace a Strong Economy
The general strength of the economy in Singapore may help you find a willing audience for your products. The DOC reported that Singapore’s gross domestic product grew by 3.6% in 2017, with estimates for 2018’s figure coming in at 3%. It’s also good to note that you won’t be alone – the U.S. is the third-biggest importer to Singapore, trailing only the much closer nations of China and Malaysia. Other business owners are taking advantage of this plush market, and you should too.
On top of this general economic strength, the legal picture is clear and simple for international businesses like yours. In the latest report, Singapore has held its No. 2 spot in the World Bank’s ease of doing business ratings. Even in a region with top markets such as Hong Kong (No. 4 on the World Bank list) and South Korea (No. 5), Singapore stands out. The DOC cites strong logistics, a lack of corruption and business-favoring tax codes as major upsides to picking Singapore. All great signs for your business’ future growth.
Why is the business environment so advantageous? Because the fundamental business relationship between the U.S. and Singapore is based on strong trade agreements that make it relatively easy companies like yours to enter the market. The DOC points to the U.S.-Singapore Free Trade Agreement, which has been in force since 2004, as highly beneficial for American companies interested in expansion into Asia.
Singapore Takes PayPal: Cash in on Familiar Payment Preferences
To say conditions for cross-border e-commerce are favorable in Singapore would be a considerable understatement. Shopping has long been a top pastime among the sizable higher-income population in Singapore, according to the DOC, and young shoppers are especially eager to buy. Thanks to widespread Internet access, they’re also more able to buy than ever. The country’s Infocomm Media Development Authority reports that 91% of Singapore households have internet access as of the latest study, with 84% of individuals actively going online.
Considering the fact that Singapore’s top payment options are U.S. favorites – namely, credit cards and PayPal – your business won’t have to make many changes to its storefront to appeal to local shoppers. And with English serving as one of Singapore’s official languages, your attempts at business connections and audience outreach are sure to meet the minimal language barrier.
When it comes to what Singaporeans are buying, the DOC notes that some of the most popular categories of e-commerce products are fashion and beauty items, as well as entertainment goods and electronics. While there are plenty of domestic outlets that sell these goods, you’re in good company as a cross-border merchant: Three-fifths of e-commerce orders made in Singapore are international. This remarkable amount of market penetration has led some companies to treat Singapore as a test market in the Asia Pacific region, expanding successful approaches to other nearby countries. Now it’s your turn.
Here’s My Card: Forge Alliances with Business Etiquette
When it comes time to speak with business partners in the Singapore market, you’ll find virtually no friction.
English is the official language of commerce in Singapore, so you likely won’t need to translate. Furthermore, with a large percentage of Singaporean companies already dealing with the U.S. market, you’ll find many potential contacts are well-versed in importing and exporting between the nations, making things all the easier.
Make sure you have high-quality business cards on hand, whether you’re in a business or social setting. These cards don’t have to be customized for use in Singapore – your standard, English-language version will be accepted. Just remember, when handing over a business card, it’s proper etiquette to hold it out with both hands – a polite gesture observed across several East Asian countries.
Due to the multiple cultural backgrounds that make up Singapore’s population, you’ll find some variations in how to address your business partners. For instance, individuals of Chinese background may choose to employ Western-style personal names, in which case the last name on a business card is their family name. For those who don’t observe this practice, the family name comes first. People of Malay and Indian background have personal names first, followed by family names.
Experience Wins Out: Find the Right Partner
Your small or medium-sized business may be perfect for the Singapore e-commerce market, but unable to make the transition to cross-border commerce without assistance. This is where a partner such as DHL, with an established logistics, warehousing and delivery presence in the region and around the world, can help you get started. DHL’s long history in Singapore dates to 1972, three years after the company’s founding.
All the opportunities Singapore presents – a high-income young population with widespread internet access, payment preferences that match U.S. norms, the widespread use of English, favorable tax rules, familiarity and comfort with cross-border purchases – are right for the taking. If you’re ready to join this thriving international e-commerce ecosystem, now is the right time.
Want to learn more about this dynamic market? See DHL’s Singapore country guide.