Saudi Report 2021: Add to cart, by Bassmat’s Abdulrahman Saud

Online shopping is a pandemic trend that has come to stay, says Bassmat’s CEO Abdulrahman Saud.

In Saudi Arabia, the market volume is expected to reach $8.2bn by 2024. Reflecting expanded consumer choice, analysis shows that consumers worldwide are making purchases at a greater number of websites and online marketplaces than before. Residents in countries like Saudi Arabia are buying from 33 per cent more online stores, on average, followed closely by Russia (29 per cent), the UK (22 per cent)  and the UAE (21 per cent).

In the era of tap-like-love, the add-to-cart and shop-now buttons have become two of the most popular. They introduced to the world a different shopping experience, and when the pandemic hit the shop-now button became an integral part of people’s lives all over the world, giving e-commerce platforms an edge.

And that brings us to the question: Have Saudi consumers and local businesses followed the same change in shopping behaviour as seen in other parts of the world, or will the love for malls never fade away?

Not all consumers convert to online shopping, as it is mainly popular among the younger generation that has been boosting the online market. Millennials and Gen Z are the future of purchasing power. Their consumer behaviour is shaping the future market and is pushing marketers and agencies to change their strategies.

In addition to that, young Saudi consumers are increasingly using their mobile phones rather than their laptops or desktops to purchase online, which shows that convenience is king.

Taking a deeper look into the Saudi consumers’ behaviour, the most popular shopping items online are clothes, airline tickets, watches and mobile phones. The most popular e-commerce platforms in KSA are Amazon, Noon, Haraj.com and AliExpress. Within the fashion industry, they are ASOS, Namshi and Shein.

So, what does all this mean for agencies – digital ones in particular – and brands in Saudi Arabia?

Firstly, online presence has become a must for every business to keep up with the changing consumer behaviour and the new normal of this era. Covid-19 has forced a real-life, real-time digital transformation on the majority of enterprises, start-ups and even regular services. Many entrepreneurs such as Jahez, Marsool, Nana and other emerging applications have seen digital’s long-term value as a result. Accordingly, agencies play an important part in boosting the digitising of services and the emergence of apps.

Secondly, convenience and trust for consumers is vital, especially for fintech solutions, which sped up their plans in some ways as a result of the pandemic. For such solutions, technology consultants should explore creating campaigns or programmatic (in-app) advertising opportunities and using social platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and, most of all, TikTok.

To step up their games, enterprises, brands and agencies need to keep in mind that nowadays user experience sells. So, the more attractive the campaign is and the more entertained the user is, the higher are the chances of making an impression and even more of a buzz. Therefore, brands should be looking to create immersive experiences through every online opportunity, such as 3D, augmented reality and video experiences.

Another important point for agencies is to make sure they integrate all the new communication options such as social media ads, programmatic ads, search engine marketing and influencers to keep up with consumers and ensure the safety of consumer data within their platforms.

During each programmatic campaign, agencies need to develop a 360-degree understanding of programmatic advertising, its effect on consumer perceptions and behaviour, current industry best practices and its projected future. Consequently, they should pay attention to multiple phases and research methods.

Qualitative research with managers and a field experiment with consumers have shown that programmatic advertising positively affects purchase intentions of online shoppers to a greater extent than other forms of online advertising, and builds more positive attitudes towards brands. New findings have broad implications for consumer behaviour researchers, and advertising and media executives.

Panellists said marketers, strategists and campaign executives now have a better understanding of the customers’ needs using customer data analytics in order to understand the requirements of the consumer better. Data collection and analysis should be part of their communication strategy. It is all about trying to get to know your consumer better through their online decisions and behaviour in order to be able to cater to their needs more and guide their decision later. With data, it becomes easier to make business decisions regarding targeting and future strategies.

As the whole world and the region are still coping with the long-term impacts of Covid-19, the pandemic has definitely favoured digital marketing, as we can all see a spike in opportunities in this sector, which will eventually force businesses to change.