How to start an Online Store in Singapore

This is not meant to be a full tutorial but I aim to give you a general sense of what to expect. Some of you will ask me why bother creating your own Online Store when there are so many Online marketplaces in Singapore such as Lazada, Qoo10, Shopee, Carousell, etc. Well, there are several reasons:

  1. Unfair competition. On a marketplace site, you tend to have to fight with competitors trying to price you out. They could be selling counterfeit stuff or parallel import stuff that is not exactly the same as what you sell and they “won” by simply being cheaper.
  2. Commission and fees. Apart from Carousell and Shopee, most marketplace platforms charge you commission and/or fees ranging from 7% to 13%. Some platforms like Lazada will even penalise you with fines if you did not manage to ship out your goods within 24 hours from the time of order. Don’t get me wrong. I believe in shipping orders out at the earliest opportunity. However, we are adults and we should be able to be responsible for our own customers’ satisfaction.
  3. You should not build your ship at someone else’s port. You are at the mercy of the marketplace platform’s policies when you use their services. Should there be a day where the marketplace decide to shut down your shop due to policy changes or disagreement, the following you have built on that marketplace will be lost forever.

So it should now be clear that building your own online store is the way to go. You must be wondering what kind of effort it takes right? Generally, there are two ways you can “own” an Online Store.

  1. Use an e-commerce provider like Shopify. I used Shopify for almost 2 years. The experience was great because you pay a monthly fee and they take care of everything like site security, provides you with a idiot-proof interface for you to upload your products, choose themes, etc – very much like WordPress. You can register a domain, like my Tupperware Online Store – http://tup.sg, which is my unique online identity. Although you will still be at their mercy when it comes to policies and stuff, at least you can migrate to another service together with your domain and keep your traffic and branding. What you need to do:
    • Sign up for Shopify
    • Register a domain (The cost will depend on the domain type and registrar you use. Typically ranges from $18 per year to $50 per year)
    • Point the domain to Shopify based on their instructions
    • Choose your theme, set up shipping options, set up payment gateway(s), upload your products, start selling!
  2. Subscribe to your own web hosting account and do everything on your own. This is slightly more advanced but most of the difficult steps are one-time setups which you can engage people like me to help. If you want to try it yourself, here’s a glimpse of what you need to do:
    • Sign up for a web hosting account (USD$3.95 per month)
    • Register a domain (The cost will depend on the domain type and registrar you use. Typically ranges from $18 per year to $50 per year)
    • Point the domain to your host
    • Set up SSL using Let’s Encrypt (Free)
    • Install Magento / WordPress with Woocommerce / Prestashop / Opencart / osCommerce / simpleCart, etc (I suggest WordPress with Woocommerce)
    • Choose your theme, set up shipping options, set up payment gateway(s), upload your products, start selling!

As you may have noticed, doing it on your own with just a USD$3.95 web hosting account is just slightly more troublesome at first. Once you get past the setup, you will never need to pay anyone commission fees, be subjected to ridiculous policies and be locked-in to a particular service provider.

If you need help setting up an Online Store, reach out to me at howard@hj.sg

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