The short answer is: there are none. Each online shopping site has thousands of products and services, and caters to different shoppers.
In the beginning (early 2000), Amazon was the king of online shopping. I remembered I was so envious of all the amazing stuff that Amazon sells, and how cheap they were. And who can forget eBay for the place to scour for resale goods internationally.
Then slowly, some China sites (like GearBest, DealExtreme, Focalprice) started popping up to cater for worldwide consumers and offering affordable or free shipping. The prices were jaw-dropping cheap.
Gradually, Singapore also started launching localised shopping sites like Qoo10, Lazada, Shoppee. Initially the prices weren’t attractive, but in recent years, they have hit a sweet spot.
Then there are the specialised brand shopping sites like Zalora, Hachi.Tech, Ban Leong, Sephora, that sells specific product categories.
Therefore, the question you should be asking is: how to shop smart in Singapore.
The first place I would go to is Carousell, to see if someone is off-loading that item for cheap. Whether you should get a resale item is entirely up to the individual. Be it clothes, electronics, publications. It appears many people has poor impression of using Carousell. My thought is that the type of products you sell will determine the type of users you interact. Also, Carousell now has many posts of brand new items from brick-and-mortar shops. Plus, the app has been enhanced with a robust chat system similar to Whatsapp, where you can even see the user’s online status and read status.
If you cannot find the product in Carousell, or if you find someone selling at $x, don’t stop there. Check out local shopping sites like Lazada, Qoo10, Shoppee to see how much they are selling. Buy from local sites so that you can good local sales support.
My favourite is Lazada because the prices are transparent and the shipping is generally fast and it has a robust return policy. Qoo10 is my least favourite because as you add items, the prices change due to checkout options. The merchant listing is also a mess. But end of the day, it’s the price that matters. I did buy a few big-ticket electronics from Qoo10 and self-collected from the shop. As for Amazon Singapore, well, they have a long way to go here to get some traction, so I’ll cover that in future, when they get there.
Before you hit the checkout button, why not check the global shopping sites and see if you can get it for even cheaper? You will be surprised. For generic products like cable accessories and clothings, you should get a better deal from sites like AliExpress, Taobao. For authentic brands with strong US presence, Amazon seems to have a good reputation. The disadvantages on going global sites is that there is no immediate warranty support, the shipping can take quite long or can be pricey unless you buy in bulk. The communication might be a barrier in some cases.
I used to shop a lot at GearBest, and I think it’s still a great place to find deals, but so far the things I want to buy seem to cost a little more on that site, or that it’s not available. But I recommend shopping at GearBest if the price works out right. Plus, they engage me once a while to promote their products, like the recent NO.1 F6 smartwatch.
If you have not joined Shopback, please do so immediately. Every time you buy something online, you can receive cashback from Shopback. The amount may be small, but it is still some money. And hey, aren’t we all trying to get the best bang for the buck every time we do research for our shopping? If you join with this referral link, you receive S$5 bonus cashback (so do I). If you prefer not, then just type in the URL yourself on the browser.
It took me years and years of doing online transactions to gain confidence in shopping online. Don’t jump in the bandwagon buying hundreds of dollars of goods. Start with small items, enjoy the experience, understand the good and bad points for each site. I lost a few purchases in transit over the years, but fortunately they are of small values. I would generally not buy high-priced electronics from overseas sites unless I am willing to bear the risk, since warranty issues are hard to resolve. Also, there will be some bad eggs when buying from the sites, but it is largely an issue with the selling merchant rather than the shopping site. Most important is whether the resolution process is easy.
How Do I Go About Doing My Purchases?
Here are some use cases to help you understand my purchase process.
Star Wars Jedi Challenges
Original price: S$369. I first went to Carousell hoping to find a cheap resale unit. Someone selling for $200, which was pretty good. But since this was an old product, I reckon there might be a retail price drop. True enough, the Lenovo website listed it as S$269. But I checked Lazada and they were selling at S$199. And after further research, there were no other sites that sell lower, so I ordered from Lazada, choose to pay S$2.99 shipping so that I get the item faster. Lazada has repriced back to above $300, by the way.
LDNIO A8101 8-port 10A USB Desktop Charger
Original price: unknown. I wanted to buy a multi-port desktop charger to replace the current faulty one, but had no idea which model to buy. So I browsed Lazada and shortlisted a few brands and models that I thought looked reasonable. I also searched to see if I can find any reviews on the products. AliExpress turns out to be pricier, and while Taobao is cheaper, it comes up to the same after shipping.
There were 2 sellers on Lazada, one selling at S$17.60 with 6 month warranty, the other at S$19 with 1 year warranty. I decided to go for the latter to ensure I get warranty support if the unit spoils within 12 months. It’s a small price for ease of mind. Besides, the latter is a known local distributor brand. Another plus: I received the item to my doorstep within 30 hours from the time I ordered.
By the way, if you are looking for a multi-port charger, I think this LDNIO is the best value. Do share with me if you find any better ones.
ORVIBO Magic Cube WiFi IR for Smart Home
Original price: RMB 99. I wanted to get a smart IR to control my home air-con remotely via Google Home. Sensibo Sky was too expensive (retails around S$160), so I researched and found that the Orvibo Magic Cube works with Google Home. At that time, AliExpress sells for US$20.55 (price fluctuates so it’s now a bit higher), while Lazada sells at S$36, and for comparison, Shoppee sells at S$39.90. So I ordered from AliExpress. 2 days later, my colleague who also bought Google Home through my influence wanted to get something similar, so I shared with them this product. He managed to catch the Taobao sale which was selling at RMB 69 (S$15) before shipping, so I too ordered another unit. It’s now back to RMB 99, and after $6 shipping, it comes up to be the same.
The advantage of buying from AliExpress is that the box and instructions are in English, whereas the Taobao version is in Chinese. Despite ordering from Taobao about 4 days later, both items arrived on the same day. Taobao is known to offer faster shipment, typically within a week, while AliExpress varies, from 2 weeks to 4 weeks, depending on the shipping method offered by the seller.
I have joined Lazada and AliExpress as affiliates so I get a small commission if you click the links and buy something. But I don’t get much conversions because I do not hard sell, and also because our purchase behaviour defies this mode of tracking. You see, smart shoppers would research around before deciding where to buy, by then the click would not register to my ID.
Shopping smart does not always mean finding the cheapest price. You have to weigh the risks: some items are too cheap to actually be of good quality, especially things like charging cables. Go for trustworthy brands with a little better build even though it might be a few dollars more than the generic make.
As for Shopback referral, everyone can earn too, not just me. So if you don’t like the idea of me earning S$5, then go ahead sign up an account yourself and generate your own referral link to encourage your peers to join. Then you can earn too.
And finally, this article is not sponsored. Nothing on this site is sponsored. I will publish on my main site, Music Photo Life, if it is sponsored, because that site gets way more eyeball than this site. If I have left out any mention on any site, it’s only because I have never tried them to get an opinion. Every time I buy something, I will do the best I could to source for the best price with the least risk, and the minimum complexity.
Any questions? Just Ask Chester.