Cambodia’s “Bright Future” in E-Commerce

A comprehensive report on Cambodia’s e-commerce landscape reveals a “bright future” in the sector as Cambodia’s race to digitalisation steps up a gear
Cashless payments have grown exponentially in Cambodia in the last few years. Kiripost/Siv Channa
Cashless payments have grown exponentially in Cambodia in the last few years. Kiripost/Siv Channa

Cambodia’s burgeoning e-commerce landscape has huge potential to grow as the nation continues on its journey toward digitalisation, according to a new report.

The ‘E-commerce in Cambodia 2022’ report by PROFITENCE is a comprehensive overview of the Kingdom’s e-commerce landscape that addresses challenges, initiatives, and the future of the country’s sector.

It also highlights how imperative developing the digital landscape is to Cambodia becoming a high-middle-income country by 2030 and a high-income country by 2050.

“In the context of the 4th Industrial Revolution, digital technology is a key driving force of industrial competitiveness and business operations, significantly contributing to high productivity, increased export, job creation, and economic growth,” Tekreth Kamrang, Secretary of State for the Ministry of Commerce, said in the report.

Since the E-commerce Law came into force in 2019, Cambodia’s e-commerce sector has been slated to become “one of the region’s fastest-growing e-commerce markets”, according to the report.

“Today, the e-commerce landscape is likely to witness sustainable growth, driven by strong government support, a growing urban population, high internet penetration, and social media adoption rates, higher consumer spending, and a robust technology start-up ecosystem,” it added.

“In large, these key points have allowed Cambodia to become a destination for innovative e-commerce solutions across numerous sectors.”

The report, which surveyed 1,500 people across 25 provinces with a focus on urban areas, found that fashion and apparel are the items Cambodians mostly buy online.

Online promotions and discounts were flagged as the main reason why online shopping is the preferred platform for the majority of respondents. In contrast, a lack of trust, especially for consumable and wearable goods, was the main reason why the minority choose cash-on-delivery over online payments.

However, the report noted that the gap between online and cash payment preferences has significantly reduced during the last two years. The 2022 results revealed an almost even split between the two. The survey found that convenience seems to be the biggest factor influencing a preference for digital payments.

Banking & online payment gateways

Cashless payments have grown exponentially in Cambodia in the last few years as the nation moves away from being a cash-dependent society.

Cashless payment adoption grew from 40 percent in 2020 to 68 percent in 2021, the report revealed, adding the movement was pushed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Covid-19 initially encouraged cashless payments as consumers are worried about Covid exposure. Especially across the capital, cashless payment has become the new normal after consumers experience its ease of use,” it said.

A VISA survey predicts this is a trend that will continue to rise, as more than 40 percent of consumers plan to use cashless payments more often in the future.

Of the total respondents, 62 percent own at least one bank account, with almost 60 percent of those surveyed using online payment methods for online shopping. Convenience, comfort, and safety were the top stated reasons.

Wing remains the dominant payment method for online shopping (53 percent).

A money exchange shop in Phnom Penh. Kiripost/Siv Channa
A money exchange shop in Phnom Penh. Kiripost/Siv Channa

Food & grocery deliveries

This sector witnessed a huge jump in growth in 2018. However, this slowed down significantly in 2021 and 2022. “In 2022, slow growth can likely be attributed to eased restrictions on dining out and people generally feeling safer in public spaces,” the report noted.

Cash and online payments were relatively even, with payment for food and grocery delivery services sitting at 55 percent cash on delivery and 45 percent online.

In 2022, gross merchandise value (GMV) of online food delivery was projected at $22.35 million, marking an eight percent growth rate. By 2026, GMV is forecast to hit $33 million. The eight percent growth rate is less than the average for Southeast Asia of 16.5 percent. This implies “Cambodia’s market has underperformed compared to the region”.

The report noted that the sector has high growth potential that has seen online food and grocery businesses diversify their offerings. Many now also deliver other goods, such as cosmetics, homeware, electronics, and pharmaceutical products.

While overall Foodpanda is the most popular online platform, the report found favoured platforms vary depending on where respondents reside. For example, in Phnom Penh, Nham 24 and Wownow are the most popular (20 percent). In Battambang, Wing is preferred (13 percent), while those living in Siem Reap opted for Wownow (15 percent).

Insurance

It was found that insurance is the least likely product to be bought online (1.8 percent). This sits in stark contrast to the 67.97 percent of respondents who prefer buying insurance products in-person. In addition, the survey found more than half of those quizzed do not own any insurance products.

Among those who do own an insurance product, life and health insurance top the list, which may see a sharp rise given the pandemic. Prudential was found to be the leading choice, followed by Manulife and AIA.

In 2021, insurance total gross premiums hit $298 million, a nine percent rise from 2020. The same year, insurance density reached $18.75 per capita, with a penetration rate of 1.11 percent.

Online Education

The pandemic saw online learning leapfrog in Cambodia, with at least three out of four million students attending virtual classes. This has opened up huge opportunities in the online education sector.

“Online education was experienced by students at all levels across the kingdom during the pandemic. This opens a market opportunity for online education businesses to enter the Cambodian market, as students have experienced and engaged in this nascent industry,” the report said.

Due to the sector being relatively new, there is a significant lack of data for online learning in Cambodia, with limited choices for learners. However, data from Southeast Asia shows there is huge potential in the industry.

Regional revenue in online education was estimated at $1,485 million in 2022, marking a 20 percent growth from the previous year. It is forecast to hit $2,555 million by 2026. “The region has observed high growth for online education, and Cambodia is likely to follow this trend,” the report stated.

However, the report found that in Cambodia, as the vast majority of students experienced studying online during the pandemic, 78 percent of students prefer hybrid learning, 14 percent prefer online education, and six percent do not prefer online education.

Logistics

The hike in global oil prices triggered by the Ukraine-Russia war has led to rising fuel costs in Cambodia. The report cites the president of the Cambodian logistics association confirming the price of delivery services has increased by between 15 and 20 percent.

Despite this, e-logistics continued to dominate the market in 2022. Products were commonly ordered from China and Thailand via agencies, such as Lazada and Alibaba. Mobile apps, websites, and various e-payment methods are used by delivery companies.

The World Bank has forecast that by 2030, Cambodian firms will move four times more goods through highways, ports, airports, and warehouses, showcasing predicted growth in the industry.

The vast majority of respondents use logistic services between one and seven times a month, with Vireak Buntham being the most popular choice. Two out of three surveyed said they a delivery time of that day was acceptable. A total of 23 percent said they were willing to accept a delivery time of within 30 minutes.

“For a well-developed e-commerce ecosystem to thrive in Cambodia, it needs to be integrated with e-logistics,” the report recommended.

Ride-hailing & transportation

Ride-hailing and taxi-related revenue was slated to hit $21.3 million in 2022, with Grab, Tada, and PassApp the dominant players in Cambodia. The survey found that while the majority of Cambodians prefer to use their own transport, the ride-hailing market is growing.

Almost seven out of 10 of those surveyed said they do not book transport through mobile apps. A total of 27.61 percent said they use these apps one to three times a week.

The report noted that the ride-hailing market is expanding towards super-apps, where customers can also order food and other products. While this is a trend emerging in urban areas, it lags in rural parts of Cambodia.

“There is still a need for digital literacy amongst drivers. Those who know how to use technology clearly can better serve customers, navigate routes more efficiently and offer a variety of payment options,” the report noted.

Ride hailing service TADA in Phnom Penh, September 29, 2022. Kiripost/Siv Channa
Ride hailing service TADA in Phnom Penh, September 29, 2022. Kiripost/Siv Channa

Fashion

The survey reveals that fashion and apparel are the most purchased item online (76 percent), with the Kingdom’s fashion e-commerce segment valued at $284 million in 2022. By 2025, it is estimated to reach $443.2 million. Between 2017 and 2022, online purchases rose from 6.8 percent to 21.8 percent.

“Since 2019, rapid urbanization, a growing base of high-income consumers, and an emerging middle class are contributing to a fast-growing fashion industry,” the report said. It added that an increase in international brands landing in Cambodia is creating more choices, with the majority offering e-payment and QR payments.

Facebook, Instagram, and Tiktok emerged as the leading sales platforms, with livestreams and influencers proving to become key drivers in sales. Facebook is the top online channel for clothes shopping, with 90 percent of respondents using it.

To pay for clothing online, Wing came out top (47 percent), followed by ABA (40 percent), cash on delivery (37 percent), and ACLEDA (18 percent).

Beauty & cosmetics

Cambodia’s beauty and cosmetics e-commerce sector had estimated revenue of $67 million in 2022. This is expected to grow to $95 million by 2025. This segment ranked second in popular goods to buy online, with 42 percent of those quizzed ordering cosmetics online once a month.

Social media has emerged as the most popular platform for online sellers of beauty and cosmetics products, with Facebook being the top choice.

Between 2017 and 2002, online cosmetics purchases increased from 15.3 percent to 30.8 percent. “That could be because the same consumers are more familiar with online payment, unlike new consumers who prefer cash-on-delivery,” the report said.

The report also noted the influence of Korean culture on the segment. “Young consumers are easily swayed by global culture and trends. Online sellers should use flexible marketing and promotion based on the global trend,” it added.

Healthcare

Cambodia’s health-tech sector was valued at $83.12 million in 2022. By 2026, it is expected to reach $110.7 million. While only four out of five respondents said they do not order medicine online and 56 percent have never had an online health consultation, the report notes the potential in this segment.

Recent years have seen various health-tech ventures emerge, such as Meetdoctor and Pilltech. In 2020, the government also launched its first health technology solution in the form of the ‘Smart Hospital e-Health Peth Yoeung Programme’. It allows patients and doctors to manage and digitise medical records and make appointments automatically through mobile phones.

However, despite this e-health emergence, people still prefer to go to local pharmacies due to concerns about the quality of products. “According to our survey, most respondents show interest in all-in-one healthcare platforms, meaning they support the idea of establishing an all-in-one mobile app,” it stated.

Media & entertainment

Cambodia’s digital media market was valued at $74.87 million in 2022, a 17 percent growth from 2021. Video games make up the largest segment, worth $38.7 million in 2022, a 16.5 percent rise from 2021. Digital music revenue in 2022 was valued at $6.5 million, capturing only nine percent of the market share.

Pre-pandemic, the market enjoyed a 30 percent growth rate. This significantly slowed in 2021 and 2022. A total of 38 percent of respondents subscribe to online media subscriptions, with Netflix dominating the game at 87.5 percent.

The report also notes that driven by Facebook users, a swathe of traditional media companies have expanded into online versions, using Facebook as the platform to deliver content to readers. In addition, more than 50 percent said social networks and entertainment are their chosen reasons to log online.

“The future of e-commerce is bright, as consumers continue to become more technologically savvy the private sector continues to push forward in line with the Government’s roadmap for a digital economy,” the report concluded.

“The stability of the e-commerce ecosystem will likely depend on the ability of domestic players to compete in a saturated market dominated by foreign giants. Government regulations promoting greater competitiveness between local and foreign players will be key,” it added.