Singaporeans lead their global counterparts in digital adoption

18 August 2020 7 min. read
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The outbreak of Covid-19 has increased the pace of digital transformation exponentially, and consumers have shown a substantial step-change in a more permanent adoption of technology into their everyday lives.

In its inaugural ‘Digital Life Index Report’, digital consulting firm Publicis Sapient has found that digital has inspired new actions, built new habits at the height of lockdown and filled the social distancing gap. The researchers surveyed audiences across Singapore, the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada, and highlighted several key impacts of digital that will remain the new normal post-Covid-19.

An overview of the key findings for Singapore, compared with the four other countries:

Contactless payments and experiences

Social distancing measures are accelerating the call for more contactless interactions. Payments have become a health concern as contactless payment methods became a top priority for customers, dictating where they shop and spend as well as shining a spotlight on tap-to-pay credit cards.

Singapore is most likely to use contactless payment

  • Those in Singapore have higher rates of adoption of contactless payment compared to other countries, with 49% of respondents stating a preference for using contactless payment options when offered. In comparison, only 26% of Americans, 32% of British, 41% Canadians and 44% Australians preferred contactless payments.
  • Tap-to-pay credit card was the most preferred method for 63% of Singaporeans over other forms of payment which included Apple Pay (20%), Google Pay (19%), Samsung Pay (13%) and scanning a QR code (30%).

Commenting on the findings, Emma Scales, APAC Managing Director of Publicis Sapient said: “These findings suggest that the move away from cash is solidifying. Contactless technology will be expected by consumers and will continue to shape the future of retail, travel and dining, providing safer ways for guests to interact, while further integrating digital tools into new experiences.”

Further reading: Contactless payments win out among health and safety concerns

Online shopping increases in frequency

Shopping becomes personal and on-demand

Online shopping increased for consumers globally. In the past three months, 71% of people shopped more online than they usually do.

  • Pre-pandemic, Singaporeans were at par with Canadians for their frequency of shopping online pre-pandemic (59%) - well behind the US (75%), UK (68%) and Australia (62%). During Covid-19, Singaporeans leapfrogged their global peers to have the highest frequency for future online shopping with 76% saying they will increase their online shopping in the future.
  • Specifically, when it came to the future use of online grocery apps and sites, Singapore is statistically more likely to use them in the future (59%) compared to other regions, i.e. UK and Australia (51%); Canada and the US (45%).
  • In terms of brand loyalty, the respondents across all regions said they were more likely to shop with a grocery store or retailer that provides clear health and safety measures such as requirements for shoppers to wear masks, and limiting the number of people in stores are also a top priority. 

Further reading: Online commerce booms amid shifting consumer behaviour.

Grocery purchases are moving online

Health at home

Telemedicine was a benefit for those wanting to minimize Covid-19 exposure.

  • When it came to telehealth, which has spurred a lot of people to try the service because of the pandemic, Singapore fared the poorest in its adoption rate at 18%; the highest being the US at 39%. Awareness and availability of telemedicine service providers in Singapore were cited as the key reasons for its low adoption.
  • In the US 67% cited lowering the risk of contracting Covid-19 as their reason for a telemedicine appointment. In comparison, Singapore patients stated their need to save on time and money, as well as the ease and comfort of visiting a telehealth provider as their reasons for connecting digitally.

Digital travel journey

People in Singapore are more likely to have a preference for digital tools for checking in for activities whether it was checking in or gaining admission to activities or attractions at the destination (58%); checking into lodging or accommodation (58%) and checking in for a flight (62%) or confirming dining reservations (44%).

Further reading: Nearly half of people have delayed a vacation due to Covid-19.


During Covid-19, overall, some 79% of participants started a new hobby or activity in the past three months; however those in Singapore were most likely to have started a new hobby or project during quarantine. Those in the US were least likely to have tried something new.

  • Among those hobbies initiated by Singaporeans 50% learned how to cook or bake; 39% did DIY home improvement projects; 35% tried a new restaurant; and 34% started a new sport or a form of exercise. There was also a healthy rise in practicing mindfulness (22%) and planting a garden to grow food for the first time (17%). Singaporeans fared the least when it came to adopting a pet (5%). 
  • YouTube (71%) is the most popular source for Singaporeans to learn about DIY or home improvement projects, followed by social media (41%) such as Facebook, Instagram and TikTok and also branded content (29%), which provided an important resource for learning.

Hobbies or activities started in the past 3 months

Scales said: “The research shows that organisations that transcended the barriers of social distancing through digital and contactless interactions in the past 3-6 months, balanced the economic and societal needs of investment and safety. The habits adopted during Covid-19 will likely continue and expectations of consumers will continue to evolve. This brings merchants, vendors and service providers in a range of different areas the opportunity to respond to consumer needs through rewards and personalisation while assuring them around safety and hygiene of being contactless.” 

She added: “Singaporeans show a strong preference to adopt digital tools into their daily lives, and are leading in the demand for such experience compared to any other region surveyed. This significantly raises the expectations for seamless digital experiences in the region, and will drive even more digital transformation in areas that have been traditionally high-touch, such as the health industry.”