By Lauren Hey, senior SEO executive, Assembly
The global pandemic generated a worldwide shift in the consumer landscape, prompting an urgent need for businesses to reassess their existing strategies, with the number of individuals making purchases online accelerating at an unprecedented rate.
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In 2022, 80 per cent of people between the ages of 17 and 38 shopped online frequently in the Middle East. It’s no surprise that the ever-intriguing Gen Z and millennials have transformed how businesses target consumers. With Saudi Arabia expected to become the largest market in the MENA region, businesses must take initiatives to harness their power at this pivotal stage.
1. Buy now pay later
At the end of 2022, an estimated 360 million people globally are thought to have used a ‘buy now, pay later’ scheme, with more than half of these users being Gen Z and Millennials. As digital natives, they have evolved with technology, making them quick to adapt to new digital movements. The attractiveness of a buy now, pay later scheme provides the younger generation with the freedom to manage finances as per their needs.
The launch of Tabby in 2019 proved instrumental in making online shopping more accessible to 1 million users across the UAE and KSA. In KSA alone, 55 per cent of online purchases in 2021 were made via buy now, pay later methods. Deferred payments are anticipated to soar in the coming years, making this the prime time for businesses to adapt and expand their digital payment options to attract Gen Z and millennial shoppers.
2. Quick delivery
Gen Z and millennials value a need for speed when it comes to online shopping. Quick delivery is among the most critical factors the younger generation considers before purchasing. Almost half of Gen Z says that the most frustrating aspect of online shopping is waiting for deliveries to arrive.
The rise in instant delivery services in Saudi has grown significantly, nurturing customers’ need for instant gratification and raising the bar regarding delivery times. The likes of Instashop – a platform that guarantees goods within an hour – and Amazon Same-Day Delivery has inspired more brands across the region to prioritise the demands of their customers in this way.
3. Social media
Social media usage in Saudi has been growing substantially year-on-year, with users almost tripling since 2016. Today in Saudi about 82 per cent of the entire population uses some form of social media daily. People spend approximately three and a half hours on social networking sites as a generation that craves connection.
The power of social media was magnified during the pandemic, where an increasing number of people turned to social media to stay connected and entertained, and to shop. The Middle East witnessed a 93 per cent increase in social media shoppers. The rise in popularity of short-form video platforms such as TikTok contributed to the shift in how customers interact with brands and purchase goods. TikTok is now considered the third-most influential platform for convincing the Gen Z audience to purchase. Trends like ‘TikTok Made Me Buy It’ and ‘As Seen On TikTok’ have further indicated a pivotal moment in how brands and businesses can unlock their potential. Now, 32.6 per cent of internet users go online to buy products, reportedly making this the third most popular reason for visiting social media.
While short-form videos appeal to a Gen Z market, millennials make up YouTube’s largest audience. Saudi users reveal themselves to be the world’s most dedicated viewers, consuming about one hour’s worth of video every day on the platform.
4. Influencer marketing
Throughout history, the younger generations have always been trend trailblazers. With the new-age influencer culture, it’s not a surprise that Gen Z and Millennials are at the forefront of exposure. But what is the significance of influencers, and are they still relevant?
Saudi users spend, on average, almost three hours on social media every day. That’s a total of 29.5 million social media users in Saudi who are scrolling on their devices. A recent study shows a breakdown of how individuals in Saudi use the internet. 29 per cent go online to find out what people are talking about, 28 per cent check out celebrities and influencers and 27 per cent are looking for things to buy.
Given these numbers, influencer marketing remains a popular method for helping businesses reach consumers. But it has now changed.
Gen Z and millennials pay less attention to mainstream influencers and celebrities but prefer authentic creators who engage with their audience and share relatable content they can trust. They take longer to convert when shopping online and prefer recommendations from family, friends, blogs, and reviews. By using micro-influencers to cultivate a genuine community amongst their followers and share credible content, Saudi businesses can nurture their relationship with a Gen Z audience.
5. The power of authenticity
The way the Gen Z and Millennials are influenced is different from those who came before. Previous generations bought products based on advertisements around them, without the concept of emotional connection.
Gen Z prefer to support something they feel connected to. They are focused on sustainability, ethical consumption and social awareness. Brands need to be transparent about their goals and engage in practices relevant to their values.
If Saudi businesses are to adapt to the founding principles of the newer generation, they must communicate a clear brand identity that echoes the beliefs of their target audience.
In a world of ‘cancel culture’, it’s more crucial than ever for brands to adapt their narrative
and provide their customers with the answers they need.
So what does this mean for brands?
Gen Z and millennials are reshaping the way businesses are operating. With Saudi set to become one of the fastest-growing economies, defined digital marketing strategies, enhanced business models, and genuine commitments to younger consumers can lead businesses in the region’s e-commerce capital to see considerable growth