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April 2018

E-Commerce Website Design Experience: Online shopping in developing e-commerce markets

I have been involved in numerous e-commerce website designs over the years for clients based in Cambodia, the UK, and Australia.

Setting up e-commerce websites in Cambodia comes with unique obstacles. I wrote four years ago about Emerging Ecommerce in Cambodia and the good news is that we have a few more options for payment gateways in Cambodia now but things remain quite limited. Buying things online is still quite a new phenomenon for the general population. Paying with credit/debit cards is also still fairly new and not yet established – it was not that long ago that ATMs were first being introduced to the country. The lack of a reliable door to door postal service also hinders e-commerce growth. You’ll also almost never find Cambodia on the “Supported Countries” list of popular payment gateways like PayPal, Stripe, 2Checkout, and others. This leaves us few options when it comes to taking payments online in Cambodia. It can only be done through a few local banks – ABA, Acleda, and Cathay United – and only for fully registered companies not individual sellers.

But despite these challenges, there are opportunities for online shopping making e-commerce website design a viable option for many. Here are some of my experience in e-commerce website design in Cambodia.


The Early Days: Book Shopping

The first Cambodia based e-commerce website design that I was involved in was the first online shop in the country for Monument Books back in 2010 to sell their inventory of hard to find and locally published titles to customers worldwide. This was before online payment gateways were available in the country, so they simply processed credit card payments via their POS terminal.


Online Bookings for Hotels

A lot of my work used to be for the hospitality industry. There was an explosion of boutique hotels and guesthouses opening up between 2010 to 2014 to keep pace with the fast growing tourist numbers in Cambodia. Every hotel wanted a website and online booking engine, but few would require a custom solution. At this stage only one bank offered a payment gateway in Cambodia, what is now Cathay United Bank. Aside from a few short-lived local products, the most effective way to get these hotels taking online bookings was often SiteMinder’s Booking Button and Channel Manager products. The savviest hoteliers could easily manage all their online sales channels in one place and was often a solid solution for small hotels.


The First Cambodia Web Hosting

Moving on to 2015 I launched, a web hosting business aimed at the Cambodian market that relies on automation for both ordering and account setup. The system takes orders purely online and encourages customers to pay via card or PayPal, upon successful payment their domain is registered and their hosting account is automatically created. One thing working in my favour here is that web hosting is aimed at a tech savvy and B2B market, avoiding many issues that regular consumer retail businesses will face when trying to convince an “offline” consumer to buy online.


Selling Kampot Pepper Online

I’ve developed a couple of e-commerce websites for Kampot Pepper producers, most notably for BoTree Kampot Pepper. Through the WordPress & WooCommerce based shop they sell Kampot Pepper to customers around the world. I integrated the ABA PayWay payment gateway for Cambodia based credit card payments, alongside PayPal to their UK account and a bank transfer/cash option for special cases. Their shipping is automatically calculated using EMS (Express Mail Service) rates based on the weight of the items in the basket.


Online Catalogues

Sometimes clients don’t want fully featured e-commerce website with online payments, but still want an online catalogue to showcase their products in a structured way. There are a lot of benefits using an e-commerce platform for this purpose. It is still easier to manage products, prices, and availability even though the shopping cart and ordering functionality is disabled. A couple of client website examples are Imagine PPM’s lighting catalogue using WooCommerce, and the Coola Products website using OpenCart. Both of these prefer to handle orders manually with a personal touch – mainly due to changes in stock availability and custom requests.


The Future of E-Commerce in Cambodia

What does the future have in store for e-commerce website design and online payments in Cambodia? I expect and hope that we’ll see a continued shift towards buying online along with increased trust and understanding among the general Cambodian population.

It would be great to see some of the mobile/contactless payment operators such as Wing and PiPay offer an easy to use online payment product that can be easily integrated into existing online stores. I’d also like to see a solution for individual sellers that are just getting started accepting payments without forcing them to jump through all the hoops of business registration and setting up a full gateway like ABA PayWay. Something like PayPal, Etsy, and 2Checkout (used by Shopify) offer to individuals in other countries.


If you’d like to hire me to work on your e-commerce website design and development in Cambodia or anywhere else, please get in touch and I’ll happily prepare a website design proposal.

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Joe Ogden
Website Design & Development
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
[email protected]