The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) has the largest number of Internet users of all the Gulf States and presents a great opportunity for brands operating in the KSA or those planning to, to access a young, affluent market that, due to the country's unique cultural dynamics, can at times be isolated from the rest of the world.
Saudi Arabia Internet Users
In July 2016, Saudi Arabia had 20,813,695 Internet users out of a total population of 32,157,974. That's roughly as many Internet users as there are in Australia and Malaysia, respectively.
To compare, the UAE (who enjoy the second biggest Internet penetration in the Gulf Region) has 8.5 million Internet users, Yemen 6.7 million, Israel 5.9 and Syria 5.5 million. (Source: InternetLiveStats).
Statista.com projects this number will grow to just under 28 million users in 2021.
Also according to Statista.com, these are the preferred payment methods online shoppers in the KSA prefer to use (2015).
- Cash on delivery (64%)
- Credit card (46%)
- Debit card (11%)
- Direct debit from bank account (9%)
- Store gift card (3%)
- Digital payment system such as PayPal or Alipay (1%)
Ronaldo Mouchawar, Co-Founder of Souq.com, Saudi Arabia's leading online shopping website told Mastercard.com that Saudi Arabia is the online retailer's biggest and fastest-growing market. He says they are experiencing 'record sales' and enhanced the online shopping experience by offering cash on delivery, free returns and a one-year warranty on all products.
A 2015 MENA region online shopping behavior survey by MasterCard showed Saudis had a slight preference for local websites over foreign websites. Reasons for preferring to shop locally online included concerns over hidden charges and the ability to find everything they need locally.
According to Mouchawar, 30 to 40 percent of sales on Souq.com are made through mobile devices, demonstrating a huge opportunity for growth in this category. Mobile penetration rate in the KSA in 2015 stood at 168%. (Source: Statista.com) The survey showed the products most often bought online via mobile were: airline tickets, phone apps, toys, gifts, clothing, accessories, home appliances and electronic products.
Dubai-based tech company Go-Gulf.com's report titled: Online Shopping Trends in Middle East showed 75 percent of consumers believe that their interactions with brands on social media result in them purchasing more from their favorite brands.
Saudi Arabia is one of the largest social media markets in the Middle East, with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and WhatsApp seeing huge penetration, driven by its young, tech-savvy population that uses social media to interact with their families and friends to, among other things, see what they're buying.
It's clear the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia offers huge opportunities, but all online vendors should always take notice of the Kingdom's Anti-Cyber Crime Law that criminalizes "producing something that harms public order, religious values, public morals, the sanctity of private life, or authoring, sending, or storing it via an information network."
Further Resources on Arabic Culture, Language and Translation
Globalization Partners International (GPI) has extensive experience localizing marketing materials, technical documents, and large, scalable websites into the Arabic language. We have previously posted a number of useful guides for best practices in this area. Feel free to review our blogs that are particularly relevant:
- Arabic Language Translation eBook
- Arabic SEO and Localization
- Microsoft Introduces Arabic Translation to Skype
- Connections between Arabic and Hebrew
- What Are the Differences Between Arabic Languages?
- Ramadan - The Month of Blessings
Please feel free to contact GPI at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions about our language and technology services. Also let us know if you have any interesting blog topics you would like us to cover in our future blogs. You may request a complimentary Translation Quote for your projects.
About the Author
Localization Project Manager. Manar is Syrian-Canadian who has worked and lived in Canada, Europe and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. She is a native Arabic and English speaker who is fluent in French. She studied International Business in Switzerland and Canada and then graduated with a double major in History and Theory of Art AND Arts Administration from University of Ottawa in Canada. Manar has experience in event and venue management within galleries, exhibitions, live events and film festivals. Across these events and venues she was responsible for managing day-to-day operations and a range of project management activities including advertising, event promotion and logistics. In her free time Manar enjoys learning new languages, reading and writing and constantly growing and improving herself.More Content by Manar Abotouk