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③ Online marketing in Singapore [Research]


Welcome to article 3/3 focused on technology & e-commerce foundations in Singapore affecting online marketing. With this last article of the series about Singapore we are discussing some top-level macro data and exploring a bit more the roots of the e-commerce industry in the country. In the social media rush towards new platforms and new features, it’s easy to forget about some fundamentals: culture & people. We believe that a brand will only succeed with a strong understanding of the market & its audiences.

To elevate our knowledge and conduct better campaigns for our clients, Digital Business Lab decided to partner with Dr Crystal Abidin (PhD in Anthropology & Sociology, and Media Studies) and conduct deep research in Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Thailand. Dr Crystal Abidin specializes in influencer cultures, online visibility, and social media pop culture, especially in the Asia Pacific region.

For this series about Singapore, we will dig deeper into a country that has been praised for its melting pot society as well as for its quality of life & dynamic business environment. From a marketing perspective, it is a country with a long-established influencer landscape, rooted in the old 2000-s blogs, and with a strong e-commerce culture also originated from the blogs. Nowadays, it is a small but mature and wealthy market, as well as a gateway to Malaysia & Indonesia.

Online Marketing in Singapore Macro Information

  • The internet penetration rate is high and has increased from 84% in 2017 to 94% in 2020. This is expected to rise to 97% in 2023 (Müller 2019)

💡  Takeaway: The country is reaching a saturation stage on its Internet adoption. According to Statista, mobile Internet usage in Singapore is also close to 80%. 

  • Online shoppers have increased from 42% in 2010 to 62% in 2018 ( 2019b)

💡  Takeaway: This government data is interesting as it shows an interesting potential for the years ahead. We should expect growth in populations such as the elderly and teens. 

  • In May 2019, the Singapore government passed the “Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act” (Singapore Statutes Online 2019), also known as POFMA. The law came into effect in October 2019 (Tham 2019), and was intended to curtail the spread of misinformation and disinformation online, in addition to the Newspaper and Printing Presses Act (Singapore Statutes Online 2002) and Broadcasting Act (Singapore Statutes Online 1994) that do the same for traditional media outlets.

💡  Takeaway: Platforms and brands alike must be aware of these restrictions as it can affect the legal side of their online marketing operations. You can read our article about POFMA now: Singapore Fake News Act: A guide to POFMA

Online Marketing & E-commerce

  • Blogshops, wherein simple blog templates are repurposed into online shops, were an early and extremely popular format of e-commerce among young women from the mid-2000s. They existed before the ubiquity of online banking and reliable postal services, which saw young women manually making ATM cash transfers, screenshotting receipts, hand wrapping parcels, and personally taking them to local post offices for mailing (Abidin & Thompson 2012)

💡  Takeaway: Similar behaviors can be observed in developing economies like Indonesia & Malaysia using social media platforms such as Facebook.

  • Under the long continuing legacy of blogshops, it is not uncommon for fashion stores to be online-only businesses. To compete in the saturated online fashion industry, and to claim a stake in the bustling Influencer industry, many fashion stores turn to advertising on Instagram to build a customer base. They also usually rely on the remunerated labour of customers to provide advertising in the form of reusable/repostable photographs, shout-outs, and chain recommendations (Abidin 2016b)

💡  Takeaway: Here, the patterns of influencers becoming a true brand with products to sell to a trusted fanbase are close to the ones in China. 

  • Prior to Instagram introducing integrated advertising, paid posts flares, and integrated shopping onto the platform, Singaporean Influencers had already adapted Instagram for commercial exchanges as early as in 2012 (Abidin 2016c)

💡  Takeaway: Instagram is leading the western platforms in bridging influencers, brands, and e-commerce. We will cover this topic more in detail soon, in the meantime, you may read: Instagram Checkout function: A game changer!

Explore articles 1 & 2 of this series:

Interested to learn more about Singapore?
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