High levels of digital awareness and a desire for new experiences set to transform the future of retail in Saudi Arabia

High levels of digital awareness and a desire for new experiences set to transform the future of retail in Saudi Arabia

In a bid to catalyze digital innovation in the retail sector, Snap Inc. and Kearney took center stage at the 10th anniversary of Retail Leaders Circle MENA. Highlighting the immense potential and desire for retailers to meet the expectations of tech-savvy Saudi consumers, Snap Inc. introduced their joint whitepaper with Kearney, titled ‘Retail Innovation vs. Customer Expectation: Who is Falling Behind?.’

As governments and businesses across the Kingdom continue to embrace digital transformation in alignment with Vision 2030, the paper serves as a forward-looking guide for retailers embarking on this journey. Underscoring the pivotal role of technology in elevating consumer experiences, the whitepaper touches on why retailers are struggling to prioritize innovation, and offers a roadmap for those aiming to maintain a competitive edge. Today, seamlessly integrating technology across operations is paramount, specifically in the areas of advertising, branding, eCommerce, in-store experience, and supply chain management.


High levels of digital awareness and a desire for new experiences set to transform the future of retail in Saudi Arabia


Abdulla Alhammadi, Regional Business Lead for KSA Market, Snap Inc. said “In recent years, we’ve witnessed the pivotal role of creative technology in the region’s digital transformation journey, revealing its true value proposition for both consumers and businesses. The essence of our whitepaper emphasizes that it’s time for retailers to embrace this digital wave wholeheartedly. At Snap Inc., we’re committed to providing retailers looking to elevate their consumer journey with the right tools and technologies, enabling them to unlock unprecedented possibilities to make each consumer experience more personal, accessible, and convenient. We have already seen remarkable results from our partners across the industry and are eager to expand on this success, particularly when utilizing technology as a driving force for brand engagement and personalization, within a secure space for consumers.”

The study reveals that with an internet adoption rate of 97.2% and 99.9% for smartphones, Saudi consumers express a strong desire for technological prowess in both digital and physical retail spaces. The majority, 84%, prefer omnichannel or exclusively online shopping experiences, presenting opportunities for retailers to provide interactive and seamless experiences. In comparison to other retail segments, lifestyle brands and grocery retailers appear to be ahead of the pact, yet significant opportunities still lie ahead when it comes to prioritizing innovation.

Mohamed Dhedhi, Partner at Kearney Middle East & Africa – Consumer & Retail Practice, Kearney said: “As the Kingdom advances its innovation economy, we see a gap between consumer adoption and retail digitization. Through our whitepaper with Snap Inc., we have delved into the challenges and opportunities within the evolving digital landscape of Saudi Arabia. With a smartphone penetration rate of nearly 100% and a consumer base that is digitally engaged for more than five hours daily, there lies great potential for further retail innovation. Our research suggests that consumers desire more from the retail sector’s technological advancement. Through adopting regenerative digital strategies and focusing on key areas like advertising, branding, and omnichannel experiences, retailers can better meet the growing expectations of Saudi consumers.”

Saudi consumers have shown high levels of digital awareness and a desire to embrace new experiences, especially within the retail sector. However, the study identifies key barriers hindering transformation, including a lack of prioritization within executive strategy, reluctance to abandon traditional media methods and resistance to value chain digitization.

Social media plays a crucial role in product discovery, shifting away from reliance on traditional methods. This is why businesses looking to build an online presence should optimize content for relevant platforms and search engines. Platforms like Snapchat have showcased the power of narrative-driven content in influencing purchasing decisions. In KSA alone, the platform reaches over 22 million users monthly, and is the most frequently used app throughout the day with users opening the app 50 times a day on average. Today, video content that incorporates AI and AR technologies is gaining traction in driving product interest.

Ali Shahid, Principal at Kearney Middle East & Africa – Consumer & Retail Practice said: “Due to the dynamic nature of the digital landscape in Saudi Arabia, consumers are increasingly turning to platforms like Snapchat for their shopping needs, indicating a fundamental shift towards fully integrated digital retail experiences. Our whitepaper underscores this trend and provides actionable insights for retailers to not only meet current digital expectations but also to stay ahead of future innovation. The disparity in digital maturity among different sectors, particularly between lifestyle and grocery brands, highlights the need for retailers to overcome investment hesitations and resistance to change. Success in the retail industry hinges on comprehensive innovation and technological advancement across all crucial facets of a company. While the spotlight often falls on ecommerce and advertising, and rightly so, strategic investments in vital areas such as supply chain and in-store technologies also promise substantial returns.”

Tailoring to a world that is becoming increasingly digital, and where consumers have come to expect this, Snap Inc. ‘s findings aim to transform the future of retail.  The insights provided in the paper cater to various business areas, and are intended to be adaptable to businesses on any stage of their digital transformation journey.