Global Retailers Flock to Saudi Arabia's Booming E-Commerce Market

11 Nov 2023

By Nourhan Beyrouti, Chief Revenue Officer for North America & United Kingdom, AJEX Logistics Services.

The largest economy in the Middle East, and the fifth largest country in West Asia, Saudi Arabia boasts alluring development and investment opportunities for both local and international companies. In fact, in 2023 Saudi Arabia ranked the third most competitive economy among the G20 countries according to the World Competitiveness Yearbook 2023. Home to some 32 million people, 63% of which is under-30, a burgeoning middle class, and a highly educated and digitally-savvy population, today the Kingdom’s E-Commerce sector is growing at an unparalleled rate. In this article, we explore the drivers of Saudi Arabia’s retail and E-commerce growth, as well as the flourishing opportunities, which continues to draw in merchants from around the world.

Unveiling the Growth Factors: Economic Diversification and the Rising Middle Class

Saudi Arabia's E-Commerce market has witnessed an impressive rise over recent years, with statistics revealing a staggering increase in sales from US$2,382 trillion to US$6,452 trillion between 2017 to 2023. Much of this growth can be attributed to Vision 2030 – the government’s blueprint for economic diversification. Thanks to this ambitious project, multiple government initiatives including regulatory reforms and support for digital entrepreneurship have supported the expansion of the sector

Saudi Arabia’s E-Commerce industry has also seen significant growth thanks to an expanding middle class. With GDP per capita of $30,447.9 as of 2022, a growing number of consumers are turning to online platforms for their shopping needs thanks to increasing disposable income. In turn, customer expectations are fast growing, with greater demand for convenience, variety, competitive prices, and hassle-free delivery services. Global retailers are capitalizing on this trend, customizing their offerings, marketing strategies, and logistics to cater to the Saudi market.

The Digital Payment Revolution

The emergence of digital payment options has changed Saudi Arabian transactions from traditional cash-based to digital ones. Digital payments' ease of use and security have created new opportunities for foreign retailers entering Saudi Arabia's E-Commerce sector.

By enabling those without bank accounts or credit cards to engage in the online economy, digital payments help advance financial inclusion. Additionally, they offer increased security through sophisticated authentication and encryption methods, fostering customer confidence and encouraging shoppers to participate in online transactions.

Changing consumer behavior, especially among the younger, tech-savvy population, have likewise contributed to the growth in E-Commerce. Thanks to rising internet and smartphone usage (Saudi Arabia has an internet penetration rate of about 91% and smartphone penetration rate of over 84%), customers can now access a wide range of goods and services via online shopping. These trends have been bolstered more recently owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, which further compelled many shoppers to switch from conventional shops to shopping online

As a result, shopping today is more convenient and accessible than ever before as customers can now do so whenever and wherever they choose. Popular product categories include electronics, fashion, health and beauty products, home essentials, and baby products. Global retailers accordingly now have access to a sizable market of tech-savvy customers who feel at ease making purchases online thanks to digital connectivity. As the Kingdom keeps promoting this expansion, its E-Commerce market is positioned for future growth and offers countless chances for international and local companies to prosper.

E-Commerce Success Stories: Amazon and Noon in Saudi Arabia

Amazon's successful entry into the Saudi Arabian E-Commerce market began in 2017, with the acquisition of, the Middle East's largest online retail platform. Amazon's success can be attributed to its localization efforts, diverse product range, and robust logistics capabilities.

Noon, an indigenous eCommerce platform, was launched the same year and has since grown significantly in the market. Noon's success is due to its understanding of the consumer landscape, diverse product selection, efficient logistics infrastructure, and innovative marketing strategies. The first platform to use Arabic as the language for its interface, today Noon’s operations span Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the UAE, and in 2022 generated a total of $290.7 million in sales.

Navigating Challenges and Embracing Opportunities

Global retailers eyeing the Saudi Arabian E-Commerce market must consider cultural nuances, fierce competition, and the logistical complexities of the vast country. Adherence to local customs, finding unique selling propositions, and establishing robust logistics networks are essential for success. To succeed, businesses must offer localized experiences, including Arabic language support and cultural adaptations.

Despite these challenges, the opportunities are immense. Saudi Arabia's youthful, tech-savvy population with substantial disposable income makes it an attractive market for global retailers.

In Conclusion: Thriving in the Dynamic Saudi E-Commerce Market

IIn conclusion, while the Saudi Arabian eCommerce market presents challenges, the success of Amazon and Noon, coupled with the opportunities and government initiatives, illustrate the vast potential for success. Understanding and adapting to market trends and consumer preferences are pivotal for businesses seeking to prosper in this ever evolving and dynamic market.

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