PayPal commissioned an Ipsos study on the online shopping habits of Asia-Pacific consumers, surveying more than 34,000 respondents (including 1,000 from Singapore) across 31 markets from March to May 2018. Ipsos is a French market research and consulting firm.
The report found that Hong Kong shoppers made the most international online purchases, with 75% of those surveyed having done so. Singapore shoppers came in a close second at 73%, with 14% of them having only shopped on foreign websites.
A list of the most popular item categories was also collated – “Clothing, footwear and accessories” topped the list with approximately 70% of respondents buying at least one item from this category over the past 12 months. It was further found that global shoppers typically frequented Chinese online stores due to the lower prices offered.
In conjunction with the release of the study, PayPal organized a roundtable comprising a panel of industry insiders to discuss the survey results. It was common sentiment across all the experts that the rise of cross-border e-commerce in Singapore is a positive sign given the rising trade protectionism experienced worldwide.
Asian Trade Centre senior fellow Alex Capri predicted that companies will be stuck with “localization and fragmentation of the trade landscape”, at least in the short-term. He surmised this meant businesses here must adapt to “changing headwinds”, to which PayPal senior vice-president of international markets Rohan Mahadevan pointed out the main challenge is figuring out with certainty the direction those headwinds are blowing.
Meanwhile, Singapore Management University’s Professor Annie Koh suggested that companies can identify “sweet spots” within global trade flows. For example, Koh noted that Vietnam recently established three special economic zones granting concession to foreign investors – firms can set up shop in Vietnam to overcome trade barriers and access this market. In addition, Koh advised companies to pay attention to free trade agreements, such as the new China-Singapore pact that will eliminate tariffs for 95% of exports to China.
In addition, the panel debated the imposition of a goods and services tax (GST) on low-value imported goods in Australia this year. Despite some critics panning it as a protectionist move, Switzerland and the European Union have announced their intentions to do likewise from 2019 and 2021 respectively. Capri pointed out that GST raises regulatory costs and creates an additional barrier for companies. Although Singapore does not impose GST on goods valued below SGD 400, the Republic has said it will be reviewing international developments before determining whether to tax such imports.
Source: The World News