An in depth annual report has revealed the consumer habits of Cambodians, shedding light on their behaviors, preferences and perspectives across a range of topics.
The Consumer Report Cambodia 2023, in collaboration with Confluences and Standard Insights, has gathered the thoughts of more than 1,000 respondents on a range of industries and topics.
These span society in general, eCommerce, travel and tourism, health and wellness, beauty and care, eSports, mobile networks, automotive industry, retail banking and food and beverages.
Overall, Cambodians are generally feeling positive, with 69.71 percent expressing uplifting attitudes. A total of 91.83 percent said they feel hopeful about their future. This contrasts with last year’s report, when 39.6 percent described their feelings negatively.
“This dramatic contrast in sentiments compared to last year, can be attributed to reduced fear triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic, which previously left people drained and uncertain about what lay ahead,” the report noted.
While almost half of those quizzed said they are confident that the government is moving economic policy in the right direction, the rising cost of living and inflation led to 71.35 percent claiming concerns about escalating prices.
The recent rise in inflation has triggered serious concerns about financial insecurity, which was reported by 68.73 percent of respondents. They anticipated a decline in purchasing power in 2023.
“Many Cambodians are already feeling the pinch when it comes to purchasing necessities, such as food and clothing. For those with fixed incomes, this puts them in a difficult spot as they may have to reallocate their budget and cut back on nonessential purchases,” the report said.
The environment is another issue impacting Cambodians’ lives, with many taking measures to be more environmentally-conscious. About 40 percent said they are taking steps towards eco-friendly lifestyles by buying items that contribute to conservation.
The area where Cambodians are most eco-conscious is food waste. A total of 56.36 percent said avoiding food waste is their most sustainable measure.
In line with most other Southeast Asian countries, online shopping is becoming increasingly popular in Cambodia. More than a quarter of those surveyed reported engaging in shopping online multiple times a month.
When making purchasing decisions, the majority (66.02 percent) choose a product they are already familiar with. However, in Cambodia, social media has rapidly overtaken eCommerce websites, with many shops promoting their services using social media.
The report noted that a recent VISA study found that 32 percent of Cambodians plan to stop using cash after the pandemic. It also revealed that the pandemic has accelerated the adoption of digital payments, especially QR codes and e-wallets.
The main challenges that remain in the sector are defective infrastructure, payment trust issues, and a lack of online marketplace giants. “Furthermore, delivery is heavily dependent on private delivery services, such as DHL, UPS, Grab, Kerry Express and J&T,” the report stated.
Travel and Tourism
National pride remains strong in Cambodia, with 35.13 percent saying they find it highly rewarding to explore their own country, especially those living in rural areas who have relatives scattered across the country.
For those who want to explore outside the nation, Japan (14.77 percent), Thailand (14.3 percent), Singapore (12.18 percent), and China (7.78 percent) are the top destinations. Reasons for this include their proximity to Cambodia, easier entry procedures, business opportunities and discounted air tickets by national carriers.
However, the pandemic hangover still looms large, with 65.54 percent saying health and safety risks remain a concern with regard to international travel. Other major concerns are the cost (35.06 percent) and complexities with navigating international regulations (16.33 percent).
Health and Wellness
The survey found that about half the population fail to get annual medical check-ups. This could be due to a lack of trust in medical institutes, with 56.29 percent of those surveyed saying they only “somewhat” trust them.
An emerging trend in the health sector is digitalization, pushed by the pandemic. Almost 40 percent of people said they have already tried online consultations. However, the drug market is lagging and remains mostly traditional, with 96.21 percent continuing to buy medicine from physical locations.
With regard to fitness, a growing number of people are engaging in outdoor sports (71.57 percent), including running, cycling and Tai Chi.
In parallel with many other Asian countries regarding physical activity, Cambodian men (79.89 percent) are more likely to engage in it than women (62.72 percent). It therefore comes as no surprise that men tend to purchase sports-related items, such as health supplements (59.22 percent) and gym equipment (30.85 percent).
In contrast, female shoppers typically invest in personal care products, such as vitamins (33.64 percent) and beauty treatments (43.18 percent).
In terms of health-related issues, 38.05 percent of the population struggles with overall health and wellness, including disease, injuries and other ailments. A total of 20.12 percent said they have weight issues in their diet due to poverty and lack of access to healthy food. While 17.73 percent said they battle digestive health issues, which can be attributed to nutritional gaps in the diet.
“Improving private sector supply chains and public investment may help create more access to better health care, but it is ultimately up to all levels of society to work together for Cambodia’s citizens to receive healthier lives in the future,” the report recommended.
Beauty and Care
The survey found that Cambodians have a heightened awareness of their beauty and wellbeing. This is confirmed by their frequent purchases: facial washes (45.82 percent), sunscreen (27.49 percent), and antiperspirants (27.29 percent).
“Overall, these three beauty and health products serve a variety of purposes for Cambodians, ranging from maintaining their complexion to providing day-to-day hygiene needs,” the report noted.
It added that one of the biggest challenges Cambodians face when buying health and wellness products online is lack of trust in sellers. Almost 39.64 percent said they do not fully trust online sellers. This was attributed to concerns about authenticity, worries they will not get what they paid for, and fears over security and safety.
Regarding sources of information, 48.41 percent said from broadcast adverts, 21.32 percent said from influencers, while 19.52 percent refer to digital campaigns and adverts.
While eCommerce and online shopping is on the rise in Cambodia, 52.69 percent still prefer to shop in-store for beauty and care products. More females (55.91 percent) than males reported shopping in physical stores, highlighting that there is still demand for traditional shopping experiences.
The gaming culture in Cambodia is a growing trend, with a swelling community of gamers emerging. This is in spite of half (52.1 percent) not playing video games. Of those surveyed, males marginally dominated the space (53.02 percent), with the average spending three hours a week online (38.53 percent).
Mobile devices are by far the favored tool for gaming, with 96.21 percent embracing the medium. “This is due to the country’s late but fast digitalization, which propelled smartphone ownership before desktops, in contrast to Western markets,” the report said.
It added that telecom companies nationwide have capitalized on this, providing gamers with attractive deals. “[This enables] them to enjoy their favorite games at lightning-fast speeds and with affordable packages of cost,” it added.
“Although eSports remains a niche market for now, there is a steadily increasing interest from those who have never seen it before. This suggests that the future of gaming in Cambodia looks bright, with an array of opportunities opening up to gamers, both casual and hardcore alike.”
According to the survey, Cambodians are more connected than ever before. In January 2023, cellular phone connections had hit 22.16 million - equivalent to 131.5 percent of the population.
When choosing a mobile subscription plan, Cambodians consider three key elements: network quality, network coverage and price. In fact, demand for an accessible and reliable service is so high that 34.93 percent said they would pay higher to be guaranteed these services.
Of the mobile network providers, Smart led the pack (57.17 percent), followed by Mefone (46.41 percent), and Cellcard (33.47 percent). While the top choice for phone brands were Oppo and Apple (36.33 percent and 21.96 percent respectively).
The report noted that transportation is dominated by motorbikes and tuk tuks, with buses providing some form of public transport. It noted that the uptake in cars nationwide is low due to them being significantly more expensive than in other countries.
“However, even with such costly prices and limitations on manufacturing, the country has seen a steady increase in the number of vehicles on its roads over the past few years. This is largely due to international brands that have lately made an entrance into this market, particularly Chinese companies offering their models at more feasible and accessible rates,” it added.
As of 2021, there were an estimated 900,000 registered vehicles, with more people using cars for personal use (8.38 percent). Despite this, motorbikes remain the most popular mode of transport (67.47 percent).
As electric vehicles (EVs) are being increasingly introduced, 94.41 percent of Cambodians believe the future of the automobile industry lies here. According to the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, the number of EVs grew from two in 2020 to 62 in 2021.
“This surge in EV registrations can be attributed to the government’s efforts to incentivize the industry through initiatives, such as tax and duty exemptions. The high price of gasoline has also caused many to switch to EVs, which are more cost-effective in the long-run,” the report stated.
The digitization of the sector is a strong trend, with the transition to digital payments strong among Cambodians. Online banking is on the increase, with deposits and transfers the most used transactions (53.19 percent). However, 54.89 percent prefer to open an account offline.
When looking to open a bank account, security/ fraud prevention (29.28 percent), ease of setup (27.7 percent) and convenience in terms of proximity to ATMs and branches (19.92 percent) were key factors.
Food and Beverages
Eating out remains popular among Cambodians, with 21.16 percent saying they dine out two to three times a week. This is higher in the capital, where 44.13 percent are likely to dine out more than once a week.
Reasons given for eating out were convenience (33.86 percent), socializing (31.27 percent), and celebrations (33.27 percent). “With such a vibrant restaurant scene throughout the country, Cambodians take great pride in their cuisine and use dining out as a way to explore new flavors, share stories, and celebrate life,” the report said.
Energy drinks are the most popular beverage, especially among 25- to 34- year-olds, with 29.20 percent consuming them multiple times a week.Soda is also popular (21.96 per cent), with its sweet and refreshing taste appealing the most (38.92 percent).