How to Start Online Business Singapore For New Entrepreneurs (2021 Guide)

start ecommerce business in Singapore

If you are thinking of how to start online business Singapore from scratch or want to transform traditional business models into online businesses, then this is the article for you.

We’ll be going through the various steps involved and will answer your query of “how to start an online business”. 

Online business refers to the selling of products and services over the internet. Statistics show that about 40% of customers now do shopping online. 

What is an Online or E-commerce Business?

Many local businesses are setting up e-commerce businesses but what are they exactly? E-commerce stands for electronic commerce, which covers commercial transactions and activities that take place online. It is seen as a subset of e-business, which encompasses all online businesses.

E-commerce comprises e-tailers (online services, e.g. virtual tuition), e-goods (digital products, e.g. online courses) and physical goods from stores. 

Why Start an E-commerce Business in Singapore?

If you are looking for somewhere to grow your online business, Singapore might just be the perfect place for you. Not only does Singapore have some of the fastest internet connections in the world, they also have the most business-friendly environment in all of Asia.

Several 5G networks are being launched by the Government to improve connectivity and infrastructure. This is good for Singapore and for Southeast Asia as an e-commerce hub.

Several government initiatives are addressing e-commerce challenges head-on. These include partnering with tech giants like Google Inc. (Skill’s Ignition) and hosting regional seminars.

According to statistics, the e-commerce sector in Singapore is growing at a compound growth rate of 8.35% per annum. The Singapore companies in the e-commerce sector in Singapore are set to grow to be worth over $10 billion in 2025, with 90% of the population online.

Benefits Of Online Business

There are many advantage of having an internet business. Below are some of the major benefits of owning one: 

  • The primary focus that customers give nowadays to any business is their website. No one has time to go to the market and explore products. Instead, they prefer to visit websites and get updates about products in a glimpse. 
  • Non-stop business. You are available 24/7. Your customers can shop anytime. 
  • Online lead generation is efficient and cost effective.
  • It gives you opportunity to inform your customers about your products and services by uploading videos, sales webinars.
  • It also leads to more efficient, faster and better customer support. 
  • It reduces operational costs. You don’t need to have plenty of staff to oversee and run your business. 
  • Many tasks are automated. You’ll save additional cost of doing business.
  • There is no limit in its reach. The world is in your hands. You promote your products, keeping in view the whole world as your customer. 
  • It is easy and inexpensive to set-up in terms of cost.

How To Start Online Business Singapore

Now you have decided to set up an online business, the very first question that should come to your mind is “how to start an online business”. 

Going online seems like an obvious choice for many businesses but implementation isn’t as easy as it seems. It can be hard work if done wrongly,

The important thing is to take every step slowly while keeping your strategy in mind. This way, you have less chance of wasting time and money. 

The online business arena is very competitive. Improper planning is one of the easiest ways to make expensive mistakes. 

As with all businesses, it takes patience to earn market share but a blink of an eye to lose it if you don’t meet your customers’ demands. 

There are various steps involved in starting an online business. 

how to start online business Singapore

Market Research Your Business Idea

Market research is the crucial fundamental step in the early stages of creating an online store. Thus it stands to reason that it is one of the first things you have to do.

You’ve come up with an idea of what you want to sell. Whether it is a product, a service, a subscription or download, your future business will depend on how much demand there is for it. 

You need insight into the potential of the market that you are interested in. Some important steps to get industry insights: 

  • Competitor analysis is a great source of getting insight into the market. You can assess how saturated the market is before devising your strategy to get a piece of the pie. 
  • Define your target audience. Are you going to target a specific location, a specific gender, specific age-group or specific country?
  • Conduct surveys. Hear from the horse’s mouth. It’s better to get feedback from your target market about the idea that to make assumptions. It is the best way for you to understand any blind spots that may inadvertently harm your business once started. 
  • Use social listening tools and access industry reports to analyze data about consumer demand for your product. 
  • Use analytics to find what people are searching for. Hire research firms to see what the market is buying. Is the trend growing or falling?

Define Your Product or Service

To help you define your product or service, here are some questions you should ask yourself:

What problem does my product or service solve?

Is there a need for what I am offering?

If yes, is there a large unfulfilled need?

What are the currently available solutions?

Are people willing to pay for the solution I am offering?

Can I differentiate myself from the rest?

Who else is selling similar products or services? 

What is the core of your own business? It is the thing that people will remember you by. Make sure it is something they really want.

If you are going to sell information, make sure it is accurate, useful, and unique. If you are going to sell books, make sure they are in demand and are selling at a price people are willing to pay. If you are going to sell consulting services, make sure you have the expertise and the credentials to back up your claims.

Is there a market for your product or service? Once you know what you are going to sell, you have to find out if there is a market for it.

Often, you will have to create a market for yourself. This means you will have to do market research. You see, you have to find out what people want before you offer it to them. 

Match your selling e-commerce platforms to the nature of your product

Some online business owners have their own website, others sell on social media platforms or an online marketplace. There are also companies that chose a hybrid model.

Either way, make sure you cater to you target audience.

It’s important to consider the nature of what you’re selling when determining the right platform or platforms for you. For example, if your products are mainly for visual appeal (like fashion and beauty) then you should probably focus more on visual platforms (Instagram, Facebook) than websites.

If your products have a lot of tangible, verifiable information (like detailed instructions on how to make something), then you should probably put more effort into making your website more trustworthy in the eyes of your customers. By giving them confidence, your visitors will choose to buy from you there instead of your competitors.

Many e-commerce businesses that do well in marketplaces such as Lazada and Shopee have a certain something special that makes them stand out – be it their product range, excellent customer service, great reviews or low prices. They zero in on that distinct advantage and run with it.

Successful Online Business Model

The next step is choosing your business model. This depends on your idea and plan. If you want to sell products and services, then you need to choose the eCommerce business model which will decide how you offer your products and services. 

E-commerce business types fall into several categories, the common business structure types are:

  • Dropshipping, print-on-demand and affiliate marketing – do not require inventory, have low up front investment and enjoy good margins.
  • White Labelling or Private Label Rights – offer better brand consistency, higher quality and price control but may be costly 
  • Wholesaling – a tempting way of getting inventory at low unit cost. requires high upfront capital, good inventory management and robust marketing

There are other forms of online businesses including: 

  • Advertising: Where you place advertisements on your website and get commissions from the clients
  • Subscriptions: Where companies pay you whenever someone subscribes to their services. 

Whichever model you choose, make sure you track your figures and know your numbers. Without this, you would be flying blind in a storm. This is business analytics 101.

Set Up Your Online Company in Singapore

Setting up your online company in Singapore is a relatively straightforward process, and can be done within 24-hours if your the papers are ready.

You will need to go to the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA). Follow the simple guided steps. You will usually get approval within 1-2 days.

If you are a foreigner (non-Singaporean) who intends to set up an e-commerce business in Singapore, it is recommended that you make sure you have at least one Singaporean director on your company board of directors. This will help maintain local awareness and keep your business venture legal and compliant.

Website Development

Your website is the face of your company and will be what your potential customers will judge you on. So choose your domain name carefully and register your hosting with a reputable hosting company. This will ensure your website has low downtime.

An attractive eCommerce web site design that focuses on good customer experience will show your visitors how professional your business is. 

good eCommerce web site design gives your user a good experience and motivates them to stay longer and revisit your website over and over again. 

Your website needs to have clear and complete information about the products and services that you offer. It also has to be easy to navigate.

You can either develop an eCommerce web site yourself or you can hire an agency to do this work for you.  

Optimize Content

Great content is king. Relevant high quality content will attract leads who can be converted into customers. Part of your digital marketing plan is to make sure the content you are creating is high-quality, relevant and engaging.

Readers must be able to relate to your content. It depicts situations they are dealing with, therefore it needs to be relatable. You can use specific details (like exact times and dates) or you can use generalities. But make sure the details you choose help your reader understand and relate to what you are writing about. 

Make sure your content is engaging. Other than text, you can add in images, video, and audio to capture people’s attention.

Similarly, your content should be optimized. This helps web search engines to index and rank your site highly; which in turn increases high demand traffic volume to your webstore. 

Without great content your online business will never achieve greatness. If you aren’t naturally gifted in the art of writing, hire a copywriter. Better yet, hire a copywriter who is skilled in the art of search engine optimization. It is a great way to get around your challenge. Great content is the lifeline of your online business, so you must ensure that you are providing it.

how to start online business

Ecommerce Website Promotion

Your first step was to start online business Singapore. After that, it is very important to build your brand image in the eyes of current and potential customers. 

Your brand building efforts will result in customers knowing what your brand is about and what it stands for. Your brand position in the market would be established and you’ll attract the appropriate customer.

Having a strong a omni-channel online presence is a potent strategic move to create and should be one of your primary business activities.

If you have a great idea, there are endless possibilities when it comes to e-commerce. You can make things infinitely better for your business by implementing innovative strategies that will boost your online sales. Knowing what to sell is as important as knowing how to sell it. 

There are many strategies that you can adopt to promote your products online. You can use social media marketing, SEO website services for search engines like Google and Bing, email marketing etc to reach your target audience quickly and promote your brand. 

Your website should be optimised for the search engines. This means creating content that gets indexed quickly by the various search engines, and ensuring your site has solid and consistent back links. Post on social media, use Facebook pixel, Google shopping, etc. to learn how to use these tools. Get some help to upskill as it pays to know how to use these tools.

Advertising – Reaching Out to Existing and New Customers

If the content of your website is the backbone of your online business, advertising is the heart of your online business. When you are trying to sell your products or services, advertising is the form of communication to drive that sales push.

It’s surprising but many small businesses owners don’t advertise online. They think it’s better to concentrate on their core business. While this is true to a certain degree, advertising goes a long way to making a profitable business.

Advertising can be used to put your sales message in front of both your existing audience as well as untapped markets.

Cost effective paid ads can be in the form of social media ads on Facebook or search engine marketing (SEM) in the form of Google ads. Search advertisements appear on search engine result pages (SERPs). They are helpful and beneficial in the sense that users are already interested in the product when they see your ad. After all, why would they be searching for it if they weren’t?

With proper planning and execution, good advertising and marketing campaigns can give you a head start over your competition. The great thing is that it doesn’t have to cost much money.

Legal Issues

eCommerce is regulated by authorities. You should consider different regulations and rules prevailing internationally and locally. 

Some of the key things you should be aware of are ACRA’s annual tax filing requirements, the requirement for appointing of auditors, obtaining relevant licenses or permits, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), The Electronic Commerce Regulations 2002, and The Consumer Protection Regulations 2000. 

Also look into tax laws for goods traded locally and across borders.

As an entrepreneur in Singapore, it may be complex and intimidating to navigate Singapore government regulations. You can easily outsource all your bookkeeping business transactions and taxation services to a trusted corporate service provider while being cost-efficient.

That way, you can protect your brand equity and good corporate governance.

Hiring An Agency To Help Set Up Your Online Business:

Hiring a specialist business consultancy service gives you a lot of benefits; such as: 

  • You expand your horizon of ideas. With an in-house team, without fresh inputs, most ideas are repeated. The repetitive content can bore your audience and they will quickly switch to your competitors. 
  • You get access to the latest advanced tools and technologies that can help you scale your business; much faster than doing it yourself. You’ll also get the information about the latest trends and tastes about your customers.
  • They have deeper knowledge about cutting edge online marketing strategies. So without wasting time and money on experimenting by yourself, hire an agency and they will better market and promote your product for you. 
  • They are experts with technical knowledge on how to make your site visible to a large audience. They understand the technicalities involved in SEO and eCommerce web site structure. 
  • You save money by operational efficiency. You can save costs related to staff wages, marketing expenses, procuring the latest technological equipment etc as all is taken care of by the agency. 

Conclusion

Starting an e-commerce business in Singapore is very exciting. The good news is that while you are based locally, you have a global market. A large number of people have formed various types of businesses are making a lot of money after setting up e-commerce companies in a straightforward way. It’s the enterprise of the future, and it’s already shaping the way the world does business. You can explore this exciting digital realm confidently and successfully with Blazing Conversions by your side.

To simplify your ecommerce business setting up process, consider engaging a one stop professional agency that can support you with all the support you need. We offer the complete package when it comes to ecommerce services. Besides leaving you with more time and resources to focus on your online business plan, this ensures that all your “blind spots” are covered.

Contact Blazing Conversions. Our consultants can help you start online business Singapore today.

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