Saudi Arabia: Has Online Shopping Caught On Yet?

The holiday shopping rush for Christmas has started in America.  Because of the downfall in the U.S. economy not only are more American’s cutting back on their shopping practices but more are looking for online bargains.  Online shopping is practical as it literally allows one to shop from their keyboard.  Online shopping allows an individual to avoid the crowds, easily do comparison shopping for the best price and save gas with the ease of shopping comfortably from your favorite chair.  Here in America many vendors are also offering free shipping with each order which provides even greater savings to you, the consumer.


So has online shopping caught on yet in Saudi Arabia?  In my experience and in discussions with many individuals in Saudi Arabia, online shopping has not really caught on yet in Saudi Arabia.  This is due to Saudi Arabia being still overall a ‘cash based’ society when it comes to shopping in addition to the difficulties and challenges of shopping online within the Kingdom.  There are difficulties as simple as lack of a physical address to the inability to order some products because of a Saudi address.  Additionally Saudi men and women are not yet as active in or see a need for shopping online.  For many Saudis, going out to a local mall or souk is part of a social outing as well as a shopping expedition for needed items.


24 Responses

  1. What’s behind the no addresses system?

    We know by now that women are denied their most basic human rights, rights to independence from economic subjugation and physical servitude, but have not discussed the reason (s) behind the no addresses system.

    Any thoughts on the matter?

  2. @ Ali Al Yami,
    This is off topic but I would like to know your opinion of a saudi political movement. I think you have heard about Eslah movement based on London and led by Dr. AL-faqih. Do you agree with them on their agenda? How do you evaluate their movement? Do you have links with them? You can answer my questions and you can avoid them. It is up to you but do not forget to pay back the scholarship funds please.

  3. Ali Alyami, I think the address system problem in Saudi is the result of extreme incompetence and neglect.


    I think the problem of credit card fraud is also a prime issue for Saudi and most of the MENA region. In the US there is some credit fraud, but the percentage is low and can be discounted by sellers as part of doing business. When the percentage of fraud exceeds 5%, it becomes impossible to operate a credit card based industry. This issue can be overcome by technology.

    In addition to the issue of the addresses, Saudi also lacks reasonably priced parcel services, due to the small volume of activities. This will require investments by companies, which will take years to recoup.It will be impossible for parcel service companies to make those investments without some government subsidies.

  4. I shop online here all the time. But I am shopping for things outside the kingdom. I am not aware of any shops selling online within the kingdom.

    I usually shop from Amazon and I use Aramex (a courrier sevice) to deliver if it is from the US. Amazon UK mails direct to Saudi, and you don’t have to pay VAT which can cover the cost of shipping depending on the item.

    I do know that now mails to Saudi and they have an option for their prices to be viewed in riiyals.

  5. Why no physical addresses?

  6. I think they are trying to set up physical addresses. We have TWO house numbers posted on our outside wall. AND a mailbox. One number was assigned when this area was developed, and one showed up with the mailbox. I am not sure of the name of my street. When we invite people to our homes we never ask for addresses we always ask- “May I have a map?”

    The PS should really get together with the GPS people. I’ve notice that GPS knows the names of all the streets whether posted or not.

  7. So when I come to visit, flying my pegasus, (or broom) the only way I would know which house to land on would be if you were shooting up a firework rocket every 2 minutes?

  8. I could show you on google earth. When coming by pegasus or broomstick it’s the best way.

  9. The address problem is the same in Morocco and Sudan. Street names change from time to time which seems odd to me. Mail is difficult and couriers are expensive.
    Sandy, is Aramex expensive?

  10. Wendy, there are a lot of variables. It is by weight and the first kilo or two is more than the later ones, so I try to ship in bunches. I also don’t order very heavy things. Also, because I use Amazon alot, I pay their annual fee to get free 2 day shipping from them- so all I’m paying is the Aramex prices. Check their website you can probably get more specific info for the countries you want.

    The Aramex office in Jeddah is FULL of stuff from Amazon.

  11. one main reason i find that is preventing online shopping in KSA is that there’s no basic transaction protection program provided by banks. Here in the US, my credit card information was once used unlawfully by another person, but i got all my money back within 2-day period the the embezzler was caught and taken to custody within a week.

    In KSA, however, the banks don’t even refund you for ATM malfunctions let alone online theft. One time the ATM broke down on me in KSA and i lost more than SR5000. what did the bank do? Nothing!! until i went to the headquarter and had a heated argument with the “customer service” representative and they promised to look into the matter. until now, 2 years later, i got nothing back.
    the bottom line is, i believe the road to be part of the 1st World Nation is still long for KSA.

  12. Another reason online shopping has not caught on here is corruption at the border. I have had three shipments sent to Saudi in seven years. Two never showed up despite being tracked to the area and a third showed up four months later after obviously having been opened. Many folks in the EP have things shipped to Bahrain and go pick them up there. I ship to the States and then bring things back in my very heavy suitcases!

  13. I don’t like to order online or have stuff shipped over because the parcels do get opened and things disappear. I’m still waiting for a few shipments from Finland that were supposed to arrive for christmas 2 years ago!
    I guess they are opening the parcels to check for haram stuff, but the things that have been missing are chocolates and other sweets. Once I ordered from victiorias secret and they had taken the lace panties and bra!

    Also many companies don’t ship to P.O box address in KSA, so what we sometimes do is ship it first to a P.O box in the states and from there to saudi.

    I also don’t know the name of the street we live on 😀 You just give directions like take the second right from x rd then make first u turn then its the 5th house from the
    needless to say its difficult to have food delivered to your house too.

  14. Although I have written multiple articles in the past about shipping options and the Saudi Post, I will repeat that I also did not receive packages that had been sent to me via Saudi Post. ): It does make one wonder if there is a huge warehouse somewhere with all the unreceived packages…NOT!

    Aramex really does seem to be the best option for receiving packages from outside.

    Yet as to the topic of the post itself, it’s too bad that businesses within the Kingdom do not have online shopping options. However as has been pointed out, the banking network and high risk for fraud would need to be overhauled too.

  15. I asked Aramex once- their packages go through the same customs agents – but it seems I miss less stuff when it comes through Aramex rather than a direct delivery. It’s been a few years since I”ve had stuff go missing.

  16. I use the UPS store which has a similar service. I started doing this after every other piece of mail even letters sent from the US did not show up in Saudi. Now everything comes through even though the packages do get opened and checked. I wonder if Aramex is cheaper than the UPS store.

  17. Any service coming in to Saudi Arabia is not going to be cheap. Also much depends on the weight and size of items too. At least though there are now options which have proven to be reliable.

  18. I notice that this thread is not receiving much Saudi input. I’d like to know more views about why online shopping has not caught on. For example, how important or desirable is it to go out and shop as compared to if there were more online shopping options? Which would win out – online or still going out? I know that for many in KSA going out to shop is also a social outing.

    On Sat, Dec 4, 2010 at 7:58 PM, Carol Fleming wrote:

    > Any service coming in to Saudi Arabia is not going to be cheap. Also much > depends on the weight and size of items too. At least though there are now > options which have proven to be reliable. > >

  19. If something is heavy it is expensive. Things like clothes are difficult to return. It just isn’t worth it. There is also a lot more available in the markets than there used to be. I think if, for example, there was a local Amazon and we didn’t have to pay for shipping it would work better. If I order something and it comes via Aramex, I pay shipping to Aramex, then shipping overseas. Then I have to ship it back if there is a problem, and sometimes the turn around time for returns doesn’t work well.

  20. hmmm…now there’s a marketing opportunity…creating an Arabian (Saudi) equivalent of Amazon or maybe even e-bay…..

  21. Speaking of e-bay, a friend of mine recently told me about a new online buying/ selling site located in Saudi Arabia. I haven’t tried it, but here is the link:

    I heard it was popular in the UAE, but it remains to be seen if it will catch on here.

  22. Thanks for the link, California. I will check it out!

  23. I checked it out, Bedu. It operates like a “craigslist” more than like e-bay. I noticed that a lot of postings were from expat compounds. If they have a site in Arabic like this maybe more Saudis will use it?

  24. Glad you checked it out. I agree that if more things were in arabic then that would help set the stage for online purchasing in Saudi.

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