A shopper views a local e-commerce Facebook page in Phnom Penh.
A shopper views a local e-commerce Facebook page in Phnom Penh. Hong Menea

E-shops get creative with Facebook

Despite the contentious rollout of Facebook’s Explore feed that shifts public posts away from private newsfeeds and into a hard-to-find channel, online shopping through social media has thrived in Cambodia with business owners live streaming an array of products to prove authenticity and boost sales.

According to Tol Rany, owner of Rany Beauty, marketing cosmetic products such as loose powders and matte lipsticks through her Facebook page has been an invaluable tool in a country where social media is pervasive.

Critical to her success has been live streaming products, allowing her to display the quality of the items for sale, as well as giving fashion tips on proper application. Since April of this year, her Facebook page has amassed 58,000 followers.

“We are in the modern age of social media, and we can’t just post photos of our products anymore,” she said.

“We have to develop new strategies and techniques to reach our customers.”

She claims that using Facebook Live has allowed customers to gain confidence in products while dispelling concerns over counterfeits. It also provides an easy-to-use interface that allows her to interact with customer questions directly.

“I believe in the positive benefits of using Facebook Live, because every day I show my customers how I use my products on myself,” she said. “My sales are increasing daily because of trust and a loyal customer base.”

She is not the only one that swears by the use of social media tools to market products in a country that does not yet have an established e-commerce law.

Hout Minea, manager of the online shop Slanh House, said that sales of his clothing have increased dramatically through Facebook Live and aggressive promotional campaigns on social media.

“Facebook is our most popular social media outlet, and we can take advantage of that by advertising our products on our page, especially considering that it is free,” he said, adding that his company’s Facebook page has nearly 90,000 followers.

“When we show our products on Facebook Live, our customers can check the clothes for style and color, which they would normally do in a brick-and-mortar shop,” he said.

To Minea, the definition of a modern business in Cambodia is one that is online, conveniently catering to a wide variety of customers who might not have the time to visit a physical store.

Ork Bora, director-general of the state-owned Cambodia Post, said that the free nature of advertising through Facebook Live gives businesses greater flexibility to identify trends and bring new products to the market.

However, he added that it was difficult for many online businesses to develop a strong customer base because the vast majority are not registered with the government and customers fear sinking money into counterfeits, especially as payment and delivery options remain limited.

“While social media allows businesses to test new products in the market, it is hard to build trust with customers,” he said.

In order to bridge the gap between social media and trust, he said that the government plans to launch its own e-commerce portal early next year that urges all Facebook businesses to merge onto a centralised platform.

The new portal, Cambodia Post eSolution Co Ltd, will also handle e-banking and online courier services, as well as facilitating payments to relevant government institutions such as the Tax Department.

Hun Channary, a frequent viewer from Kampot province who has dabbled in purchasing items on Facebook, said that while she follows numerous business pages, she is not confident that the products being sold are authentic. Her last purchase, a product that claims to help reduce belly fat, did not live up to expectations.

“So now I just ask company’s about their products and watch the videos while I am not sure about quality,” she said. “I had a bad experience so I am a lot more careful now.”