Online retailers in Singapore now have a reference guide that sets out what they should provide across the entire transaction cycle, including logistics, product tracking, payment, and returns. Released by Enterprise Singapore and Singapore Standards Council, the guidelines offer a checklist for retailers to develop their e-commerce processes and policies as well as ensure comprehensive information is available to consumers.
Called Technical Reference (TR 76), the guidelines aimed to boost the online presence of small and midsize businesses (SMBs) in the expanding e-commerce market. The reference guide was developed by representatives from various organisations including Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE), Singapore Retailers Associations (SRA), online marketplaces and retailers such as Carousell, Shopee, and FortyTwo, Nanyang Polytechnic's Singapore Institute of Retail Studies, payment vendors, and logistics service providers.
Online retail sales in the country were accounted for 5% and 5.8% of total retail sales in 2018 and 2019, respectively, said Enterprise Singapore, CASE, SRA, and Singapore Standards Council, in a joint statement Friday. Citing figures from Singapore Department of Statistics, they said this number climbed to 5.5% in January and jumped to 17.8% in April, which revealed the significant demand for online services amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
The guidelines were designed to serve as a practical reference for e-retailers and online intermediaries such as e-marketplaces, and spanned all key processes of e-commerce transactions. These ranged from pre-purchase activities of browsing and selection, to purchasing and payment procedures, and post-purchase activities which include fulfilment, delivery, tracking of products, and returns, refunds, and exchange.
During purchase, for instance, TR 73 highlights that information regarding products and services placed in the shopping cart should be listed clearly, such as description and availability of the product or service, product warranty, applicable taxes, such as import/export fees, payment modes, and delivery options.
For online marketplaces, the reference guide also outlines internal processes and controls that should be put in place to manage trust between the marketplace, merchants, and customers. In addition, it details best practices on providing customer support to address queries, feedback, and complaints.
Enterprise Singapore's director-general of quality and excellence Choy Sauw Kook said: "E-commerce is a new stream of business for retailers diversifying from traditional brick and mortar shops. E-marketplaces and e-retailers will be able to implement, maintain, and improve their internal processes and policies related to business-to-consumer and consumer-to-consumer transactions. TR 76 will also help these businesses develop customer-centric business policies and processes, to enhance consumer confidence and trust -- key considerations that will drive the growth of the e-industry."
CASE's executive director Loy York Jiun urged businesses to adopt the TR 76 guidelines, particularly as more consumers turned to e-commerce amidst the global pandemic. Doing so would ensure consumers could access transparent product and pricing information, and enable them to make informed purchasing decisions, said Loy.
SRA's executive director Rose Tong added that online retail would account for a larger share of overall retail sales as the COVID crisis continued to play out. "We strongly recommend retailers use this opportunity to go or expand online, diversify, and tap new customer segments both locally and overseas," Tong said, adding that TR 76 would help such businesses implement e-commerce "effectively and efficiently".
Organisations would have to purchase access TR 76 from Singapore Standards, but could "for a limited time" the reference guide for free at Enterprise Singapore's website.