WorldBridge Commerce announced yesterday the integration of Acleda Bank’s online payment services into its online shopping marketplace MAIO Mall. The partnership adds an online payment option to MAIO Mall’s existing cash-on-delivery model. The Post’s Ananth Baliga spoke to Tomas Pokorny, CEO of WorldBridgE Commerce, about the partnership with Acleda, logistical challenges for e-commerce sites, and the possibility of major online shopping platforms, such as Amazon, entering the Cambodian market.
What is the partnership between Acleda Bank and WorldBridgE?
Essentially the partnership started in 2014. We had an announcement in September 2014 to announce the launch of the partnership for the e-commerce business in Cambodia. Today is the official launch because it took us a couple of months to develop the payment gateway software, which is provided by Acleda and is now integrated with our website.
So this will add an online payment option to your existing cash-on-delivery model?
Yes, absolutely. I am not saying it is what will generate thousands of transactions a month immediately. Cash-on-delivery is still going to be a major payment method in Cambodia for the next few years. But I believe [online payment] will slowly climb. Also, if you are in online shopping you have to be completely electronic, so WorldBridgE Commerce and MAIO Mall is going completely electronic.
Will Acleda’s large customer base be an advantage for World BridgE Commerce to get more online shoppers?
One of the plans is to launch co-branded cards, which will be Acleda-MAIO Mall cards, and this is currently being developed. And Acleda has 700,000-plus card holders, not only Visa and Mastercard, but ATM cards as well. Those are numbers nobody else has in Cambodia. Tapping into that pool is benefitting us, and on the other hand to Acleda itself, which gives their customers another means to use the card.
How has cash-on-delivery worked for you so far?
Well, so far it is 100 per cent cash on delivery. But we haven’t had a single delivery that has been returned so far because no one opened the door. But this is because we are spending a lot of resources on utilising our call centre. It essentially confirms each order with the customer, makes a second call prior to sending out the product, and a third call before knocking on the door. It’s a three-step process to check your order. We haven’t had any problems, but only because of this process.
With online payments, it makes it easier for us to lower the headache of multiple confirmations because once somebody pays with a card there is no confirmation needed, except the time of delivery.
What are the challenges with the logistics of delivering products to customers?
Outsourcing to somebody you do not know means you cannot control the quality. This is tackled because we are using our own logistics – Kerry WorldBridge Logistics, Cambodia Express, which has been acquired by us, and the MAIO Mall delivery persons. Second is the trust from the customer to online shopping and we are trying to provide the best service and teach the market. And it’s a learning curve. Hopefully if we provide quality delivery services then people won’t think we’re giving them fake phones and saying they are real. Third are addresses in Cambodia. It’s a big, big problem. So far we haven’t had problems – but only thanks to our call centre, since we verify the address.
What is the customer profile on MAIO Mall and what are they buying?
Looking at a general market view, we are still much slower than other sites because of pricing issues. We are one of the few who do not sell fake products. Everything on our site is real and that comes with a price that is much more expensive. Customers have started buying expensive cameras, phones and laptops. But it’s a minor part of it. The main orders are for unique products, such as portable laptop tables with a cooling device. The highest selling products include clothing between $10 to $20 and electronic accessories. So price-wise, $10 to $20 is the average bill size.
Looking forward, do you see the big e-commerce sites, like Amazon and Alibaba, entering the Kingdom?
It is already happening through their partners. Once these giants come in they will be interested in tying up with local businesses, and in a few years they will be interested in their own items being available in Cambodia. There are already open channels and anybody can order from Amazon, but currently logistics and platform integration is a problem in Cambodia. But the big shopping giants will be looking at the country.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.