Globally, more than 200 million people use Amazon to shop online. Another 150 million use eBay, making them two of the largest e-commerce firms in the world. But neither are available in Cambodia, leaving a gap that is fast being filled as emerging e-business ventures set up shop, virtually, in the Kingdom of Wonder.
With its My All In One Mall, World BridgE Commerce is one such firm taking advantage of the gap in the e-commerce market here. Its online shopping space, which launched in April, will slowly unveil different departments – clothes, gadgets, jewellery, groceries, booking services – as it mirrors a regular, real-life mall. “It’s a way of having the mall online,” says chief executive officer Tomas Pokorny. “Whatever you find at a mall will be online.”
Despite there being no e-commerce law in Cambodia and only a small percentage of the population having access to credit cards, e-commerce is booming thanks to increased Internet availability and cheap smartphones. For now, MAIO Mall customers pay cash on delivery of their purchase, but within the next six months the company plans to create a new payment process, through ACLEDA bank, that will include online billing and lending. “So you can borrow money for groceries,” Pokorny says.
The Time Is Now
Educating consumers about proper credit and lending practices will be crucial, he says, but people are already starting to learn. “It might take three years, which doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be here. It should be here now because we have to start it somehow. We cannot wait forever.”
With one-third of Cambodians being active Internet users, Pokorny believes today’s young adults will become tomorrow’s trusted customers. According to Pokorny, now is the time to get in the game. “Two years from now it will be too late. The proper boom in the market will come in 2017- 2018, when it will burst out and people will start using credit cards. It’s already starting, but we still need more credit card penetration and people gaining trust.”
Saamnang and Kaymu are two other online marketplaces making their way in Cambodia. Kaymu started in Africa and is now in 34 countries. It focuses on innovation, creativity and educating buyers and sellers, says Lorida Leon, the former Cambodia country manager. “There is a reason why eBay is not in the emerging markets,” she says, listing the lack of credit card penetration, logistical issues and Internet security, while also pointing out the advantage Kaymu takes in their absence. “I believe there is a huge pool of talent in Cambodia,” she says, citing the passionate and tech-savvy youngsters that could propel Cambodia to the forefront of e-commerce. “Cambodia will go from zero e-commerce sites to one of the leaders.”
The Local Champion
Little Fashion is another of the growing number of businesses in Cambodia that take orders online and perform door-to- door delivery. Vichet In, one of four siblings who launched Little Fashion in 2011, says he was inspired by eBay, which he used to sell books when he finished a study course in the U.S. “I realised that Facebook was becoming more and more popular, so I decided to try the e-commerce idea on Facebook,” he says. After returning to Cambodia, In started selling clothing and other products through a specifically designed Facebook page. With so many orders coming in, he expanded to a Facebook fan page and then his own website. Such was Little Fashion’s success, it now has a physical shop in Boeung Keng Kang.
Devoted to the customers that have made him a success, In says that meeting their expectations is the key. “Trust is the most important thing, especially for those in the provinces,” he says, pointing out that he takes pre-payment through Wing and that about 40% of his orders come from outside Phnom Penh. “They have to pay first…so in order for them to trust, they need to trust the brand.”
What are Amazon.com and eBay.com?
Amazon.com and eBay.com are two of the largest online commerce firms in the world. Jeff Bezos started Amazon.com in 1994 in the U.S. The site originally started as an online bookstore but expanded over the years to include electronics, jewellrey, toys, DVDs and other items. eBay was also founded in the U.S. The site allows individuals and businesses to sell and buy all kinds of items via auction, and also offers a “buy it now” option.
Words by Kristi Eaton | Illustration by Cedrick Ragel