There’s no denying that consumers have embraced online shopping as the norm. According to business consultancy PwC, 60 per cent of consumers in Singapore buy online at least once a month. This new buying convention is also due to the fact that Singapore has among the highest penetration of internet connectivity in the world, and Singaporeans have access to smart phones and other devices that make online shopping “anytime, anywhere” possible.
But it’s not just the convenience of online shopping that makes Singaporeans prefer it over buying from a conventional store. According to the PwC poll, which results were published in June 2016, one of the reasons consumers buy online is because some products are cheaper bought online compared to the same product bought in-stores.
So does this mean in-store outlets are already irrelevant? Do retailers have to adapt to the digital era and join the online store revolution to stay competitive?
The answer ultimately lies in being able to give customers the most satisfying shopping experience – whether it be online or in-store.
Take the case of LED downlights. Lighting features at home or in the office offer the right illumination as well as create the desired ambience. Because of this, most consumers prefer to “experience” the light themselves before deciding on which one to buy.
These are the top reasons consumers still prefer to trek to the store for their LED downlights:
Online stores selling LED downlights are ubiquitous these days. Because of this, consumers need to carefully scrutinise the brands particularly for product safety.
Local goods with a SAFETY Mark have been registered as Controlled Goods by SPRING Singapore, an agency under the Ministry of Trade and Industry responsible for helping Singapore enterprises grow and building trust in Singapore products and services. SPRING is also the Safety Authority, which means it enforces regulation to protect consumers from unsafe consumer goods.
A SAFETY Mark means products have met specified safety standards under the Consumer Protection (Safety Requirements) Registration Scheme (CPS). All Controlled Goods registered with SPRING must bear the SAFETY Mark before they can be sold in Singapore.
This is the bit that raises a question mark every time a consumer gives his or her credit card information to an online merchant.
Unless consumers are savvy enough to read and understand the fine print, they could be heaped upon with hidden costs when they finally receive their credit card statement.
Consumers who unknowingly incurextra costs is such a common occurrence when shopping online that the Singapore government through its National Financial Education Programme’s website MoneySENSE issued a guideline on shopping online with a credit card.
With regards to hidden costs, MoneySENSE explained that it could be due to international fees charged by the issuing banks. Another reason could be foreign exchange movement, which varies day-to-day and from bank-to-bank.
Lack of professional consulting.
Finally, consumers still prefer to buy LED downlights, and mostly electronic goods, in-person because of the technical consultation which they could make with an in-store clerk prior to purchase.
Unlike shopping online, walking to a store and talking to a product expert gives consumers a better chance at buying what exactly they came looking for.
Buying in-store lets consumers see, touch, and test the product; online shopping would never give this kind of experience. When consumers choose the wrong product online, it would take a lot of time to replace the product until they just quit the whole process. When they come to a physical store and experience the product, they leave with something in the bag on the same day.
So to the point of whether or not retailers should put up online versions of their physical stores, yes, it could be a great idea in terms of creating greater opportunity to attract more consumers.
However, online stores may never replace the experience of a physical store.
Whether retailers sell off-the-shelf or through e-commerce platforms is only next-in-rank in terms of importance to the high level of customer care retailers extend, and the quality of products they sell.