Middle East eCommerce insights Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates

The Middle East presents a unique opportunity for international retailers, we look at some of the reasons Saudi Arabia and UAE are important markets for global expansion


Saudi Arabia – A Brief Overview

Saudi Arabia is the largest and among the most attractive markets in the Middle East. Those entering the Saudi Arabia market must embrace COD payments. It’s home to a young, tech-savvy population with a median age of 26. The currency here is the Saudi riyal. The Saudi Arabian government will have invested over $100 + billion in the development of logistics infrastructure between 2010 and 2020.

Key stats:

  • 75% of the Saudi Arabian Population is 35 years or younger.
  • Over 60% of purchasing is split between Ryidah and Jeddah (Saudi Arabia’s two biggest cities) with the rest of the cities making up much smaller shares of online sales.
  • Home to 15.6 million internet users, 3.9 Million of these are already online buyers.
  • Largest number of High Net Worth Individuals in the Middle East.
  • eCommerce revenue to reach 6.8 billion USD in 2016, and is projected to grow at an average annual rate of 12.53% until 2020.
  • eCommerce user penetration is expected to grow from 50.57% in 2016 to 71.92% in 2020.
  • Saudi Post has introduced the Unified National Addressing System which covers the entire Kingdom and each of its parcels, buildings and constructions have been marked and addressed geographically with the standardized fundamentals and methodologies of the Saudi Post.
  • The country also has no taxes for citizens and has a very large middle and upper class, meaning there are a lot of individuals with high disposable incomes.

 United Arab Emirates – A Brief Overview

Perhaps the most talked about opportunity in the Middle East, the UAE is home to a large expat community. With a population of 9.3 million (a number which has tripled in under 20 years) and featuring in the World’s most urbanized countries, this is one of the youngest populations in the Middle East and boasts an internet penetration rate of 85%. Less than 30% of the online buyers, in the UAE, are of Arab descent, which means there are a large number of expats purchasing goods online.

Key stats:

  • 2 million internet users, with 6.8 million online buyers.
  • Highest smartphone penetration in the world.
  • Online buyers under 31 years of age represent 73% of overall online transactions and make up 64% of the population.
  • eCommerce revenue expected to reach 4.4 billion USD by 2020.
  • 60% of online shoppers are based in Dubai, with 6.8 million consumers based across the United Emirates cities.
  • UAE is ranked 13th on the World Bank’s Logistics Performance Index.

If you’re interested in reading more about the Middle East Cross Border eCommerce Opportunity, you can read our white paper here.