According to a recent eMarketer report, e-commerce sales across the world reached $2.304 trillion in 2017. The future is seemingly heading toward cashless transactions as a norm, which is also marked by a boom in online businesses. Cambodia, which is now pushing for economic digitalisation, is no exception. In an exclusive interview with Khmer Times, Bun Park, managing director of Camazoon and the founder of Phzar, one of the Cambodia’s largest online shopping websites, discusses the Kingdom’s e-commerce potential.
KT: Can you describe the current status of e-commerce in Cambodia?
Mr Park: The act of buying or selling products through online services in Cambodia has seen rapid growth in the past three years. E-commerce has been a boost to those who own small or medium businesses. Many people are selling products on social media and making even more money than in their retail stores. I believe this trend will grow even more over the next three or four years, especially if platforms can guarantee safe online transactions, as well as accompanied by the creation of laws that oversee these business activities.
KT: Based on your experience in this sector, what are the challenges and opportunities of e-commerce in Cambodia?
Mr Park: If we are talking about online transactions, there are three main challenges: the products, billing and payment, and delivery. For example, Facebook, the most popular social media platform in Cambodia, is a great place for branding. However, Facebook is not a good third-party platform to sell your products, since there is no way to guarantee a transaction for either the buyers or sellers. The payment almost relies entirely on Cash on Delivery, which means that the buyers pay in cash only when they receive their goods. Such a method is limiting since it sets a restriction on the quantity of products that can be sold at a time, and not to mention the risk with cash transactions. Moreover, the delivery of goods is costly and takes a long time because there is a lack of a systematic way to do it.
However, amid those challenges are opportunities. It is a relatively less competitive sector for new businesses, with the technologies already tested in developed nations. So far, in Cambodia, there has not been any key players in the field that has the potential and capability to provide effective methods of billing, payment and delivery.
KT: In what ways can an online seller convince people to buy his or her goods featured online without being able to actually see it or touch it?
Mr Park: A disadvantage of online shopping is that people cannot see what the products actually look like or how it works. In a supermarket, a towel has been touched at least six times before it is eventually bought, while in another example, customers can spray perfume on their wrist first before deciding to buy it. Touching and smelling makes sure that the products are in accordance with their advertised function. Meanwhile, an online store does not have these features. However, e-commerce is about gaining trust. A seller must not post exaggerated pictures of their products on their website. In Phzar, we provide what we call a “bio-protection”, which guarantees that customers can return a product they have bought to get a refund or to exchange it for a new product within the period of three days after receiving it. By doing this, we are protecting our customers.
KT: What has the government done to promote and facilitate e-commerce?
Mr Park: The government, especially relevant ministries, is now discussing a law on e-commerce, which is now being drafted. They are working closely with tech companies and start-ups to work out a way to oversee the market in order to satisfy the needs and wants of all related parties. We strongly hope that the legal framework is going to assist in the development of e-commerce security and SMEs operating in the tech sector.
KT: How could hackers damage e-commerce? How should companies protect themselves from hackers?
Mr Park: Hackers could break into a shopping website’s customer database to steal customers’ personal data and sell it, for example, to advertising companies. The entrepreneurs, who want to invest in e-commerce, have to seek the best protection if they do not want to suffer from cybercrime, which could destroy their businesses or bring them to court. Meanwhile, the government must work to prevent and eliminate cybercrimes.