How to Start an Online Store in Singapore

start an online store in Singapore

Are you looking to start an online store in Singapore?  E-commerce is one of the fastest growing sectors in many global markets and but to achieve success, you must go beyond creating and designing a website, posting your products and waiting for the customer to buy.

Statistics show that at least 6 out of 10 people start their search for a product online, and this is the motivation for most people to start an online store in Singapore. Consequently, more than half of these people go on to make a purchase from online stores that offer value, not just the product or service.

With that said, e-commerce trends in Singapore are changing rapidly, and in this article, we will give you a high-level overview of the time tested and proven ways of how to start an online store in Singapore. Read on to the end to learn what you need to start an e-commerce business in Singapore.

Actionable Tips on How to Start an Online Store in Singapore

If you would ask any of the successful e-commerce entrepreneurs what is the secret to online success, you will hear that it takes a lot of planning, and an extensive investment of time, money, energy, and creativity. When e-commerce is done right, there is the opportunity of getting a return on investment in half the time it will have taken an entrepreneur starting a brick and mortar store.

Here is what you need to do

Research, Analyse, and Plan

There is much potential in the e-commerce sector, but not everything will work for you. At the root of every successful online store is a business idea that caters to a need in the market. This this means that you need to do research, analyse market reports, and then plan the way forward.

Before you begin setting up any processes, you will have to assess the viability of your business idea. More so, before you start an online store in Singapore you must identify the people who are willing and able to purchase what you are selling.

start an online store in Singapore

The success and failure of your online store largely depends on the diligence you took while doing market research, the analysis of the report and the plans you came up with. 

Your research, analysis, and planning will guide you on whether you have a winning business idea to start an online store in Singapore, if you need to fine tune it, or do away with it. This step will guide you on whether you should incorporate your business and start procuring the inventory.

After analysing the report from the market research report, you will be able to make a solid plan of how you will move ahead with the e-commerce business. Your plan should guide you on knowing where to provide value with your products and services. Consider the following factors

  • What will you be selling, and what are the benefits and features of your products or services?
  • Of all the possible products and services, which one has the best value proposition?
  • Who will you be selling to and how will you reach out to them?

This among other questions will help you identify the most crucial aspect of starting an e-commerce business, finding the right product or service, and the people who are willing and able to buy from you.

Do a Cash-Flow Analysis

While starting an e-commerce business is much cheaper than starting a brick and mortar store, you need to do a cash-flow analysis to identify how much start-up capital and operational costs you need to maximise your ROI.

While you might have come across an underutilised market niche, you need to proceed with caution. Do not be too optimistic about your business prospects, but envision the worst case scenario. This will help you create a robust cash flow analysis that will help your e-commerce business stay afloat during hard times.

Incorporate Your Business and Choose the Right E-commerce Platform

Now that you have a solid plan of how to start your online store in Singapore, it is time to start the real work.  For starters, there are different types of companies in Singapore and how you structure your online store will determine your exposure to taxes, liability, and the ability to raise the capital as well as the ease of doing business.

Preferably, you should incorporate a private limited company since it has several advantages

  • Perpetual succession
  • Limited liability
  • Legal entity status
  • A variety of tax incentives

Besides this, incorporating your business as a private limited is easy and straightforward and the process can be completed within two working days.

Establish the Necessary Infrastructure

By infrastructure, we refer to the things you need to make a sale and deliver the product or service to your customer. This includes choosing the appropriate e-commerce platform, shipping and order fulfilment service providers, IT and business systems that will support the core operations of your online store.

This step allows you to match your business strategy with the business operations to scale up your online store. There are various elements of infrastructure that you should consider

  • Website development and design
  • Digital marketing and advertisement
  • IT infrastructure for customer and operations support
  • Shipping and order fulfilment
  • Finance and bookkeeping

Web Design and Development

This is a crucial part of starting your e-commerce business, and the first step is to register a domain, which is a unique website address. Preferably, it should be a name that your customers can recall, pronounce, and spell easily.

The name ought to also help your customers to associate your brand with the products and services you are offering. Next, you will need to find a hosting provider for your website. This is a company that provides the services and technologies required for your site to be viewed on the internet.

Preferably, the web host should offer a guaranteed uptime of at least 95% if you are on a shared server hosting package. More so, you need 24/7 customer and technical support, a high level of online security, among other web hosting services.

When it comes to the actual web design and development, you must have the following elements on your online store to increase your chances of success. They include

  • Product catalogue
  • A shopping cart
  • Easy checkout process
  • Payment processing
  • Customer data security

This makes it necessary that you choose the appropriate e-commerce platform. You can consider these e-commerce platforms when you are ready to start an online store in Singapore.

Digital Marketing and Advertising

You must market and advertise you online store to bring traffic to your website. However, most online vendors usually focus on ads-based digital marketing alone which can to quickly draw in customers to their online stores.

start an online store in Singapore

However, an ads-based approach for getting traffic to your online store is not sustainable. You will need to create reliable and valuable content that prompts the customer to make a purchase. Other than creating ads, you should try different types of digital marketing to promote your online store.

Social Media Marketing and Management

Social media is a digital marketer’s haven, and when properly used, it can drive organic traffic to your online store. When you start an online store in Singapore ensure that there are social media sharing buttons on your website. Your customers can use these buttons to share the content on your site with their social media followers.

However, as your ecommerce business grows, you will need to get a social media marketing and management professional. This will ensure that all your social media activities are geared towards increasing traffic to your online store and conversions.

IT Infrastructure for Customer and Operations Support

Now that you have a proper website as your online store that is also having a steady flow of traffic, it is necessary that the customers are getting the best online shopping experience. This includes having an efficient e-commerce system that makes it easy for order processing and customer support.

You should invest in a simple, affordable, and scalable system that will be adaptable to your online business as it grows. There are several options to consider when looking for an IT system to offer customer and operations support

  • You can build a custom system and host it yourself
  • Get a freelancer to develop and manage it
  • Use hosted turnkey software that is managed externally

Other than the order processing system, you need to invest in an email and customer relationship management solution. This will help you in giving better customer service as well as in retargeting the customers who opted out of the sales cycle.

Shipping and Order Fulfilment

Once you have an order from a customer for your product or service, you need to deliver the product or service to the customer as advertised. This will call for you to have staff, systems, and the inventory in place.

When you start an online store in Singapore, you should only display the available items. If they are out of stock, ensure that you put a sticker against its product image to notify the customer about its unavailability. If it is no longer available, you can go ahead and remove it from your product catalogue.

However, you need to be wary of shipping cart abandonment. This is a common phenomenon in online stores, and you need to find out why each customer has failed to make the payment. You can get the shopping cart abandonment rate by dividing the total number of actual sales by the total number of initiated transactions.

It can be costly storing the inventory on your own and going through the process of order fulfilment. This is why when you start an online store in Singapore, it is best to outsource your order fulfilment processes.

For example, if you choose to go for a fulfilment warehouse, they will store your inventory for you, and when you get an order on your shopping cart, they will receive it and then ship it to the recipient’s address.

Finance and Bookkeeping

Like with any business, you need to plan and manage your finances diligently. The bulk of the money will be spent on marketing, inventory acquisition, staffing, shipping and order fulfilment, technology, and other business operations. You can manage your finances and bookkeeping by

  • Having an in-house professional
  • Outsourcing it to an outside partner
  • Or a hybrid of the two

You can simplify the bookkeeping aspect of your online store by integrating your e-commerce platform with your accounting system. However, you will need outside help if you use separate systems for your order management, website, and accounting.

Besides this, you also need to hire a data entry expert to ensure that every bit of information about the online store is captured and properly managed in all your systems.

 E-Commerce Success in Singapore

After much research, these are the five top factors for achieving success after you start an online store in Singapore

  • Sell niche products that are not readily available in the Singaporean market
  • Provide flexible payment methods including PayPal, mobile payments, credit cards et al.
  • Provide tamperproof solutions for electronic transactions
  • Learn to balance your inventory; too much inventory will lock up your capital, and too little inventory will cause delays in order fulfilment
  • Only use reliable and quick logistics services

Get Help Whenever Possible

Many e-commerce entrepreneurs will strive to get the job done themselves, and despite their efforts, tutorials and YouTube videos, they end up with an unprofessional looking online store. There is a good agency that offers web design and development as well as omni-channel marketing in Singapore.

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You would be surprised at how much affordable it can be by hiring an agency to take off the pressure when you start an online store in Singapore. However, you must be willing to wear different hats as a first-time entrepreneur while reaching out to the professionals who can help you.

Conclusion

The e-commerce sector in Singapore is laden with amazing opportunities for entrepreneurs. However, when you start an online store in Singapore, you will have to put in extra time, energy, and money.

Since e-commerce is not a small undertaking, you need to plan and manage your resources to get success. Get in touch with us for professional digital marketing and web design solutions.

Author Bio

Tom Koh is widely recognised as a leading SEO consultant in Asia who has worked to transform the online visibility of the leading organisations such as SingTel, Capitaland, Maybank, P&G, WWF, etc. Recently he was instrumental in consulting for a New York-based US$30B fund in an US$4Bn acquisition. Tom is a Computational Science graduate of the National University of Singapore. In his free time he performs pro-bono community work and traveling.
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