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every+one, Trends, Featured

Shopping: Re-imagining the heartlands in the digital age

For several years now, Orchard road has been losing its notoriety as Singapore’s main shopping destination. The rise of e-commerce, coupled with the emergence of convenient heartland malls, has pushed Orchard out of shoppers’ minds. And the absence of tourists due to the COVID-19 pandemic has only intensified the decline. How can heartland shops seize this opportunity and keep shoppers coming back? 

Our data shows that heartland destinations play an important role in Singaporeans’ day-to-day purchases. At 37%, e-commerce platforms dominate, but heartland/suburban malls (29%) and heartland shops/markets (26%) are not that far behind. Unsurprisingly, e-commerce usage is highest for Millennials (51%) and lowest for Boomers (14%), while heartland shops/markets stand highest for Boomers (43%) and lowest for Gen Zers (13%). 

For heartland spaces to be more attractive to Singaporeans – especially to younger Singaporeans – they need to be reinvigorated/rejuvenated in two concrete manners. 

First, by providing options for community members to live, bond, and share – essentially making shopping one of many possible activities instead of the main attraction. Indeed, heartland shops/markets/malls are not used exclusively for shopping. For 44% of Singaporeans, they are used to hang out with friends and family, as well as eating out in groups (42%).

Second, by making sure that heartland shops more readily accept digital/contactless payment options. At the moment, cash is still king in heartland shops (43%), which means there is room to diversify the range of accepted modes of payment.

Together, these changes will help heartland establishments create hybrid experiences that will keep Singaporeans interested and engaged.