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E-commerce

Internet access
Saudi Arabia, with its 33.6 million inhabitants, has the third largest population in the Middle East after Iran and Iraq. It also has the second largest internet user population that reaches 24.1 million (Internet World Stats), with a penetration rate well above the regional average at 72% (as opposed to 57.8%). Moreover, Saudi internet users account for 16.4% of total digitally connected populations in the Middle East. Internet penetration growth is expected to grow at a rate of 6.9% to 73.5% by 2022. Saudi Arabia has a high smartphone penetration rate (65.2%), which is nonetheless behind regional leaders such the UAE (78%) and Israel (74%). Smartphone penetration is forecast to grow only slightly in the four next years to 66.7% (Eshop World). As far as search engines are concerned, Google dominates the industry with a 97.1% market share, followed by Bing at 1.3% and Yahoo at 1.19% (Statcounter).
E-commerce market
The Saudi e-commerce market has enjoyed steady growth in recent years, with turnover increasing by 11% on average, according to the Ecommerce Foundation. Total e-commerce revenue across all product categories was US$ 6.13 billion in 2017, and is expected to grow to US$ 9.41 billion by 2021, according to Statista. The market, with its 12.94 million users (50% of all internet users), is one of the largest across the MENA region and is expected to continue its growth in the upcoming years, albeit at a slower rate than the global average (12.5% as opposed to 24.8% worldwide). 6.34 million additional Internet users are expected to shop online, putting the number of e-shoppers at 19.28 million by 2022 (accounting for 54% of total population). With such a growth rate both in turnover and number of online shoppers, Saudi Arabia is expected to surpass the United Arab Emirates as the top e-commerce market in the Middle East. While Saudi Arabia ranks 46th on UNCTAD E-commerce Index worldwide, it has the third highest score in the Middle East after the UAE and Israel. Cross-border trade is significant, especially within the regional context, with UAE-based websites leading international shipments to Saudi Arabia. 65% of all online purchases were made from websites based in Gulf Cooperation Council countries and  Noon.com, based in the UAE but owned 50% by Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund, launched a local version of its website in Saudi Arabia at the end of 2017 and is expected to contribute to the share of domestic online shopping. Souq.com (which was recently purchased by Amazon), as well as Amazon Global and Aliexpress are among the most visited e-commerce websites in Saudi Arabia. The market is dominated by big retail groups, as only 5% of SMEs use e-commerce in addition to traditional sales mediums, according to the Saudi Communications and Information Technology Commission.
E-commerce sales and customers
Unlike Emirati e-commerce, with which the Saudi e-commerce shares many similarities, fashion products lead online sales in Saudi Arabia. In 2017, total revenue generated by the fashion industry stood at US$ 1.91 billion, followed by electronics & media at US$ 1.85 billion. The online fashion market is expected to grow at an average of 20% between 2018 and 2021 and continue to lead the e-commerce market with an estimated value of US$ 3.08 billion by 2021, while the electronics & media category is set to maintain a slower growth rate and reach US$ 2.66 billion in the same year. The footwear segment is forecast to have the highest growth within the fashion market during this period (average annual growth of 28.3%). Saudi online shoppers are rather frequent buyers, as 23% of e-commerce customers purchase a product at least once every two weeks, while only 3% buy less frequently than every six months, according to the Saudi Communications and Information Technology Commission. Overall, 19% of male and 27% female Internet users are considered 'heavy buyers', purchasing online at least once every two weeks. That rate is particularly significant among those under 30, as 29% of all internet users in that age group shop online at least once every two weeks. As far as product categories are concerned, games, consoles, music, film, event tickets and travel services are purchased mostly online. The average Saudi consumer spends US$ 618 online, an amount which is expected to grow only slightly to US$ 642 by 2020. In fact, online purchases were reported to drop by 13% in the last four years, according to the Ecommerce Foundation. Saudi online shopping is also characterised by the prevalence of cash-on-delivery (comprising between 69% and 85% of online orders according to various estimates), while e-wallets such as PayPal, Amazon Payments and Google Wallet account for 24% of all purchases.
Social media
Saudi Internet users are active on social media and spend on average 2 hours 55 minutes per day (behind the UAE and Israel that lead social media consumption in the region). Saudi Arabia has a total of nearly 19 million social media users (59% of total population and 79% of internet users) and 16 million of them also access their social media accounts via mobile (Hootsuite Survey 2017). Almost all social media users are reported to have a Facebook account (nearly 19 million) and 45% of them access the platform daily. As in most other GCC countries, WhatsApp is used by a large amount of internet users (88% of total - 21.2 million people). Twitter and Snapchat register their highest usage rates in Saudi Arabia across the MENA region, with 40% and 45% of social media consumers using these platforms. Twitter with 7.6 million users and Snapchat with 8.5 million. Despite decreasing popularity, the Japanese-owned Line is used by 20% of Internet users (4.8 million people), the highest rate by far in the Middle East, according to MidEast Media Survey 2017. Saudi social media users are among the most engaged ones in Arab countries, with 90% of all users posting messages or comments on social media and 88% via direct and instant messaging (second highest rate after the UAE).

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Actualitzacions: September 2022

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