I had the pleasure of attending one of the increasing number of online and eCommerce presentations at the weekend. The startup scene’s workshop on E-Business in Cambodia. The event took place at the Emerald HUB co-working space, which I was surprised to see is actually more expensive than Impact HUB. I did wonder if there were concessions for local businesses given that so few of them take up opportunities to co-work. I wasn’t really sure what to expect from the event, but there was a full house, which gives an indication of how popular a topic this is.

If there was a theme, it was Mobile, Mobile Mobile. Not too surprising give the usage of the internet in Cambodia, so many people have smartphones, and so few have computers.

If there was a secondary theme, it was getting viewers eyeballs off Facebook and onto your own website, a message I’m giving to my own clients.

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First up was Chum Borey of LM Hospitality, and a message about what he described as ‘connectivity’ with customers. Semantics possibly but a message to get in front of the customer everywhere you can. Given the relatively high-priced services he’s selling this does allow his affiliate and distribution network to take a margin that’s attractive to them and a positive performance improvement on LM’s on marketing. he too pushed search-ability and mobile.

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Next up, Chy Sila, of Sabay. Everyone knows Sabay, a message validated by the audience. Despite some significant rambling at points, and an excuse for the audience to check social media yet again. He did mention that they have 2.2M followers on Facebook, 95% of whom are on mobile of course. They reach some 4M people a week. He too mentioned the shifting sands of Facebook and suggesting that we may end up paying a dollar per follower in the future. A nice $2M bill for him if this were to ever be the case. Sabay’s strategy being to produce more and more local content, but admitting that 90% of his content has been illegally copied and distributed to the masses. That still doesn’t stop the demand for local content, but puts another hurdle in the way of monetising and securing web content.

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Niek Van Veen talked about Cellcard, much of the content we’d discussed ahead of the presentation when I met up with him. He’s a fellow mentor at Impact Hub with me, and we did talk briefly about the need for our entrepreneurs to be better prepared to get best value out of us. Which gave me the idea to produce some material and checklists to enable them to produce this.

Again, and of course not surprisingly given his representation, Niek talked about individual cases. A household spend on mobile and wifi being more than many Cambodians bring home in salary per month. Interesting too that the mobile screen, even with its small scale, takes precedence for content over the old TV in the corner of the room. Despite many people having more than one mobile phone in use, the subscriber numbers continue to grow. Data coverage remains Cellcard’s strategic objective, but they know they need content to drive use. It’s fascinating to see that the Cambodian operators are to some extent oblivious to what’s happening in the rest of the mobile world. Forget voice, data is the future.

Niek talked about the recent live broadcasting on Facebook, I made a mental note to take a deeper look myself. Something one of our clients may be interested in later this year.

Social is as ever the top of the funnel for eyeballs, though I thought it brave of him to admit that Cellcard had bought Facebook likes. Again the longer term strategy to get viewers off Facebook and onto their own site. Again I was gobsmacked to see the mobile operator not having mobile optimised every page of their own website. Diverting Google users being a bigger challenge in advertisers having to engage visitors in the 5 seconds before the ‘skip ad’ link appears. A tall order in any marketing plan.

The real story then in building a strategy and ecosystem for the future, Cellcards being Media based – Social, Earned, Owned and finally Paid.  From eCommerce to mCommerce, a somewhat dated strategy in the western world but where Cambodia has much catching up to do. There’s just that little thing called cultural resistance to get over.

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Next up was Valentin Vermersch, country manager of Kaymu, who I confess I’d never heard of prior to this event. The Amazon Seller network model, being their key focus, the same as Worldbridge. Kaymu’s strategy being to “go where Amazon does not”. They have 23 country operations, and 35M visitors. They were originally funded by Rocket Internet a startup funder. Valentin had more in the way of numbers and it was great to see transparency in what are normally confidential numbers.

  • 86% of buyers between 15 and 30
  • 71% of visits are by smartphone
  • 53% returning, 43% new
  • Low cost goods being their best sellers and they promote cosmetics and electronics most. Fitting with the me,me,me culture.

I think the greatest take-away was again the social side of some of these businesses, what’s good for them is good for the country and the people. I’m not sure this is wholly the case, promoting the me, me attitude and codinggate’s stake in pawn-broking, but it’s early days.

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So that takes us neatly on to Codingate, whose CEO Sok, I’ve met a few times, but never had a chance to talk to in detail. Given my own involvement in this particular area of the industry, development of sites, integration, performance and so on was nothing new. The usual eCommerce platforms being mentioned. I guess as with many website producers these days, they all need a far better USP and value add. Websites, like many things being a commodity these days. With few understanding the difference between a website and a website that really performs.

The Q and A session was a bit of a let-down. The audience down to about 20% by this point, but some interesting comments about 95% basket abandonment and the need for call centres to cover the trust issues with online purchases.

The takeaway from the event being, a great event, with an excellent attendance, but the country and the industry still have the same hurdles to get over that we did this time last year. Trust, Payment and Delivery the major hurdles.

What still fascinates me though, is that there is still room for ‘the little guys and girls’. The one person business who can just do everything that the bug guys and girls can do, just for a lot less effort and money. Not too surprising that they are in attendance just watching from the sidelines and just getting on with it. eCommerce is a truly level playing field.

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