Local Amazon-like startup set to revolutionise e-commerce

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Jack Lee (left) and Sovannareth Theab started Smile Shop in 2018. Smile Shop is also helping promote the ‘Made in Cambodia’ brand abroad. Photo supplied

You don’t need to have a particularly sharp eye to see it. E-commerce is booming in the Kingdom. From Facebook-based retailers to e-shopping platforms based in China, Cambodians love the convenience of getting their shopping done with a few clicks.

Yet, one of the most successful e-commerce platforms in the world does not cover the Kingdom. US-based Amazon does not, generally, deliver to Cambodia, although there are a few exceptions.

You can get Amazon products through a local agent, but that could cost you around 10 per cent the value of your order in fees, and you could be waiting for several weeks (even months) before you get your purchase.

To fill that void, Jack Lee and Sovannareth Theab started Smile Shop in 2018. With a wide array of products for sale – from consumer electronics and appliances to books, cosmetics, and locally-grown coffee – Smile Shop aims to become the Kingdom’s number one homegrown e-shopping platform.

“Amazon was a role model for Smile Shop,” co-founder Theab says, explaining that the goal was to bring Amazon’s user-friendly and stress-free shopping experience to Cambodian consumers.

“Like Alibaba’s Tmall and JD.com, Smile Shop allows consumers to shop for quality products with outstanding customer service, including a seven-day free return policy and a 14-day exchange policy.”

Theab tells The Post that his business-to-consumer platform offers free deliveries within 24 hours in Phnom Penh. In the provinces, consumers are guaranteed to receive their orders within 72 hours.

He says what sets the platform apart is its emphasis on quality and original products, as well as the payment options available.

“Most other platforms in Cambodia are only cash-on-delivery,” he says. Besides, he notes, Smile Shop provides full support to merchants selling through the platform.

Smile Shop is also helping promote the ‘Made in Cambodia’ brand abroad.

“Another goal of Smile Shop is to help local small businesses sell their products in Cambodia and abroad. Some of the companies listing their products on our platform include Sela Pepper and rice-maker Royal Mongkut, which export a lot to China through Smile Shop,” says Theab.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
What sets the platform apart is its emphasis on quality and original products, as well as the payment options available. hean rangsey

The shopping experience in Smile Shop – described by the founders as “The Cambodian Amazon” – is strikingly similar to what the US-based e-commerce firm offers.

“A customer simply scrolls through the app and clicks on the products they wish to purchase and, like Amazon, add it to their cart. When they are ready to check out, they choose their method of payment – either online payment or cash-on-delivery,” Theab says.

“Smile Shop is always adding to its product inventory, and customers can always order a product even if it is not on the app,” says Theab, who is also the CEO.

He says the platform is particularly convenient for foreigners.

“Right now, Western expatriates in Phnom Penh are ordering through Amazon and waiting a week or two for a local company to ship the products.

“With Smile Shop, suddenly, they have to wait no more than a day,” he says, adding that the lack of an e-commerce law has kept the industry giants from establishing a presence here.

Ny Siya, a web developer for a local company, says she loves shopping online. From household products to electronics and books, she uses mostly Chinese e-commercial platforms to get her shopping done.

She laments that Amazon is not easily accessible in the Kingdom.

“If I want to purchase something from Amazon, I have to go through a middleman who will charge me 10 per cent of the cost of the products plus transportation fee. On top of that, I have to wait a long time to get my delivery,” she says.

Smile Shop aims to fill that gap, Theab says. But the company wants to be much more than an online shopping website. It plans to develop into a “super app”, expanding its services to include online consumer financing, groceries, and bus tickets.

“Consumers are very busy. Being able to order quality products that come with warranty with just a few clicks makes e-commerce a no-brainer in Cambodia.

“Cambodia is heading in the same direction as China and the US, where e-commerce is the preferred way to shop,” says Theab.

For more information, you can visit the Smile Shop Facebook (page @smileshop.cambodia) or its website: www.smileshop.club.