MENA region e-commerce activity surges post-pandemic
According to the latest market research, the e-commerce industry in the Kingdom has begun to rival larger, more established markets worldwide, especially in the wake of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
A Mastercard study conducted in November of 2020 revealed the rapid growth of online shopping, with nearly three out of four Saudi consumers shopping more online than they did before the pandemic, with the grocery, healthcare, apparel, and banking industries witnessing the highest surge of online activity.
According to the same study, over 68 percent of Saudi consumers shopped online for groceries, 73 percent for clothing, and over 65 percent had purchased medicine online. Respondents also noted moving other aspects of their financial affairs to digital, with 64 percent of respondents having started banking online.
E-Commerce across the region
The e-commerce boom isn’t restricted to the Kingdom either. A 2021 report by Checkout.com, a global payments company, estimated that at least 209 million customers in the MENAP region (the Middle East and North Africa, with the inclusion of Pakistan) had shopped online for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic in March of 2020. Additionally, the report revealed that 53 percent of Saudi respondents shop online at least once a month – above the regional average of 45 percent.
The industry also witnessed specific seasonal peaks, such as during the holy month of Ramadan and the Eid holidays, where 76 percent of consumers in Saudi Arabia and the UAE said they were more likely to buy products and services online.
However, even as more of the Kingdom’s population becomes immunized against COVID-19 and no other lockdowns or curfews since mid-way through last year, the e-commerce boom shows no signs of slowing down.
E-Commerce in a post-COVID Kingdom
A more recent report by the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce, published in September of 2021, stated that the volume of transactions in the sector reached about SAR 21.375 billion (USD 5.7 billion) last year. Additionally, the total value of the e-commerce sector in the Kingdom was estimated at SAR 39 billion (USD 10.4 billion) last year.
The global e-commerce index of 2020 also ranked the Kingdom ranked second in the Arab world and 49 globally out of 152 countries.
With online shopping in the region on the rise, local companies have made significant moves to carve out a slice of the market for themselves. In October of 2021, online retail giant Noon.com revealed plans to raise SAR 7 billion (USD 2 billion) over the next three to four years, funded by the Public Investment Fund (PIF) and other investors.
Noon, which operates in the Kingdom, the UAE, and Egypt, is looking to expand to other MENA countries to rival other e-commerce market leaders like Amazon and Alibaba. And in a statement to Bloomberg, Noon founder Mohamed Alabbar expressed confidence in Noon’s ability to do so.
“Traffic is growing on a monthly basis. We’re easily doubling every year, and the volume of package delivery is up almost 2.5 times,” he said.