The 90s was a golden age for futuristic predictions especially during the dot-com boom period. It was predicted that the brick and mortar stores will be obsolete in another 15-20 years. In other words, it was predicted that the consumers will be shopping from the comfort of their bedroom without having to step out of their homes or pajamas. Well, we are almost close to the 15 year mark and guess where we Malaysians and Singaporeans stand now. Yes, you are right. We are still waiting on the long aisles of our supermarkets.
Online shopping has taken strong hold in western countries and will continue to experience growth. But on the other hand, Malaysia and Singapore lag far behind the western countries including other Asian countries such as Japan, Korea and Hong Kong. So what are the problems?
Many reasons can be attributed to this dismal state including lack of shopping experience, privacy concerns, credit card safety and other such issues that are normally stated for the lack of online shopping growth. But there are also other reasons that are peculiar to Malaysia and Singapore only.
1. Shopping is a National Pastime: Malaysians and especially, Singaporeans love shopping. Along with eating out, shopping ranks highly in their preferred list of leisure activities. But on the other hand, online shopping lacks scope for any kind of social interaction.
2. Inability to Bargain: Asians on the whole love to bargain. For many Malaysians and Singaporeans, shopping is incomplete without bargaining. Shoppers here try their very best to convince the owner to reduce the prices. Many would consider their shopping complete if only they were able to buy products at rates below the advertised price. But it will not be possible for consumers to bargain when shopping online.
3. Inability to Feel Product: The average Asian would want to touch & feel most of the goods before buying. This is due to the fact that the shoppers don’t trust what is in the box. Many would want to have it opened and checked, right in front of their eyes. But this is not possible while shopping online.
4. Delay in Delivery: Web stores in Singapore and Malaysia normally don’t reflect the current stock position of a product. Many a times the stock gets delivered after a week or two. But shoppers will find out only after completing their payment. This is one of the many reasons, why shoppers in Malaysia and Singapore are wary about ordering product online.
Though there are many such identified blocks, but the future is not very bleak as it seems to be. Given below are some key indicators.
1. The past few years witnessed rapid growth in the number of online stores.
2. Many brick and mortar stores now have a web presence.
3. There is an overall increase in the number of online shoppers.
4. Shoppers nowadays depend on Internet to do product research to aid their purchase decisions.
5. In the past year or two, a few price comparison sites have cropped up. This indicates that online shopping in Malaysia and Singapore is maturing.
6. Internet and Broadband connections in Malaysia and Singapore are witnessing steady growth over the past couple of years.
As these key indicators suggest, online shopping in Malaysia and Singapore is poised to grow at a very healthy rate in the days to come. But to reach the levels of other mature markets, online retailers will have to be proactive and should take all necessary steps to allay the fears of online shoppers.