More than half of online shoppers in Saudi Arabia use the internet to buy airline tickets, book hotels, shop for home appliances, and more.

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Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: Online shopping is becoming increasingly popular in Saudi Arabia, according to the 2014 Online Shopping Behaviour Study conducted by MasterCard. Nearly 50 per cent of those surveyed indicated they access the internet for online shopping, of which 80 per cent said they were highly satisfied with their online shopping experience.

The Online Shopping Behavior Survey, which measures consumers’ propensity to shop online, was conducted at the end of last year and was based on interviews with 3000 respondents from 6 markets across the Middle East[1]. Consumers said they spend the most amount of money on airlines, hotels, travel, and groceries, followed by home appliances, electronic products and clothing.

Aaron Oliver, head of emerging payments – Middle East and Africa, MasterCard said: “The e-commerce industry is witnessing rapid growth in Saudi Arabia. Rising internet penetrations rates and the availability of secure online payment options means companies can expand their online presence to grow their business and diversify their customer base. For consumers, online shopping is convenient, fast and safe. When you consider the benefits, it is not surprising that more people are going online to make purchases.”

According to the study, more than 60 per cent of the respondents made at least one online purchase last year, a significant increase by 10 per cent cent than 2011. Nearly half of the respondents identified Souq, the largest e-commerce site in the Arab world as the most commonly visited website for online shopping. Amazon, eBay and Saudi Airlines have emerged as the next three most popular websites for online shopping in Saudi Arabia.

That said, whereas airline portals, followed by websites offering home appliances, electronic products and app stores have seen a significant increase in visitors since 2012, websites offering computer software, coupons and deals, personal care and medicines have witnessed a downward trajectory compared to previous years.

Saudi consumers were clear about what factors sway their online purchasing decision, citing the reputation of website, security of payment facility and value of items as the most important considerations when making an online purchase.

When asked how online shopping could be improved in the future, 55 per cent of shoppers stated this could be done through free or minimal delivery charges. Ease of getting transactions done and elimination of additional service charges also emerged as popular suggestions.

Mobile Shopping

With the world’s third highest smartphone penetration rates, consumers in Saudi Arabia are fast exploring and adopting mobile shopping options available across various categories.

While the number of respondents that confirmed making a purchase through their mobile phones was similar to last year, a significant number of respondents intended to use their phones to make a purchase in the six months following the study. This points to the growing role of the mobile phone as an e-commerce and payment tool.

“Young Saudi consumers have shown an increasing propensity to adopt the latest communication and payments technology and m-commerce is indeed the next big frontier for companies in Saudi Arabia. Consumers are increasingly experiencing mobile shopping as they become aware of the safety and security features of this platform.  For businesses looking at exceptional growth through online presence, the inclusion of a mobile payment method is not an option anymore. It is indispensable,” stated Oliver.

In fact, the convenience to shop through mobile phone and the availability of an increasing number of mobile apps have been voted as the top two reasons why shoppers make purchases using their phone.

The top three items purchased through mobile phones are mobile apps, toys & gifts and airline tickets.

Other notable results include:

  • 50 per cent online shoppers believe in ‘ethical spending’ and are more likely to buy from merchants who are environmentally responsible, who partner with or donate to charities, and who are socially responsible.
  • Shoppers are increasingly turning to local websites to make online purchases, but almost 45 per cent of online shoppers still purchase products from foreign websites.
  • Safety and the wide variety of products available locally have been cited as some of the top reasons for shopping from local websites.

NOTE TO EDITORS: More information and previously released MasterCard survey results can be found at The survey and its accompanying reports do not represent MasterCard financial performance.

MasterCard and its Suite of Research Properties
The MasterCard Index suite in Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa includes the long-running MasterCard Index of Consumer Confidence , as well as the MasterCard Index of Women’s AdvancementMasterCard Survey on Online Shopping, MasterCard Index of Financial Literacy, and the MasterCard Index of Global Destination Cities. In addition to the Indices, MasterCard’s research properties also include a range of consumer surveys including Ethical Spending and a series on Consumer Purchasing Priorities (covering TravelDining & EntertainmentEducationMoney Management, Luxury and General Shopping).

MasterCard also regularly releases Insights reports providing analysis of business dynamics, financial policies and regulatory activities in the Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa region. Over 80 Insights reports have been produced since 2004. MasterCard has also released a series of four books on Asian consumer insights, authored by Dr. Yuwa Hedrick-Wong, Global Economic Advisor for MasterCard and published by John Wiley & Sons.

About MasterCard
MasterCard (NYSE: MA),, is a technology company in the global payments industry. We operate the world’s fastest payments processing network, connecting consumers, financial institutions, merchants, governments and businesses in more than 210 countries and territories. MasterCard’s products and solutions make everyday commerce activities – such as shopping, traveling, running a business and managing finances – easier, more secure and more efficient for everyone. Follow us on Twitter @MasterCardNewsjoin the discussion on the Cashless Pioneers Blog and subscribe for the latest news on the Engagement Bureau.

For more information, please contact:

Nesreen Hijazi,, +966 5 046 269 42

[1] Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Lebanon