New Mastercard study reveals rapid shift toward digital payments in Saudi Arabia

New Mastercard study reveals rapid shift toward digital payments in Saudi Arabia
J.K. Khalil, the country manager for Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Levant of Mastercard. (Supplied)
Short Url
Updated 15 December 2020

New Mastercard study reveals rapid shift toward digital payments in Saudi Arabia

New Mastercard study reveals rapid shift toward digital payments in Saudi Arabia
  • Up to 77 percent of consumers in the Kingdom spending more money online since the onset of the pandemic

A new Mastercard study on consumer sentiment and spending has revealed the rapid growth of online shopping, with 77 percent of consumers in the Kingdom spending more money online since the onset of the pandemic.

The study provides significant insights into how shoppers are rapidly moving away from cash and opting for contact-free and digital payment experiences. These insights are helping e-retailers and businesses in the Kingdom and across the region, to leverage the shift toward online shopping and to deliver fast, convenient and secure transactions.

The study found that 81 percent of consumers in Saudi Arabia consider price as integral to the decision-making process, as well as speed, with nearly 79 percent, which can often mean the difference between checking out or not. Sixty percent of shoppers said promotions and loyalty programs are important, while 56 percent of those surveyed said a good shopping experience includes an easy returns policy.

Moreover, according to the survey, groceries, healthcare, apparel and banking have seen the highest surge of online activity. More than 68 percent of Saudi consumers said they had shopped online for groceries, 73 percent for clothing, and over 65 percent of respondents said they had purchased medicine online. And, as e-commerce increasingly becomes a part of everyday life, consumers are moving other aspects of their financial management to digital, with 64 percent of respondents having started banking online. The research also reveals the rising impact of social media on consumer spending habits, with 58 percent and 61 percent of respondents saying they had discovered new sellers through Facebook and Instagram respectively.

With the surge in digital payments, businesses and online retailers are now faced with the challenge of ensuring fast, convenient, easy and secure transactions. Mastercard has been working with businesses, financial institutions and other stakeholders to advance digital payments in the Kingdom, and the pandemic has reinforced the necessity to continue evolving a safe and secure consumer payment experience.

“It is clear from the research that shoppers are rapidly moving toward online retail and opting for contact-free and digital transactions. This, in turn, is presenting e-retailers and businesses in the Kingdom, and across the region, with new challenges on how to best leverage the shift toward online shopping and deliver fast, convenient and secure transactions,” said J.K. Khalil, Country Manager — Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Levant, Mastercard. He said Mastercard is doing its part in supporting safe online shopping for consumers.

“The focus for our customers and therefore end-users is on delivering a safe and secure digital experience. Consumers are also becoming increasingly aware of the associated risks — over half (54 percent) of those surveyed in our consumer e-commerce study said that a secure checkout was fundamental for a good shopping experience,” Khalil said.

“We continue to work hard to reduce online fraud and protect retailers from data breaches, while ensuring that consumers still enjoy a convenient buying journey. As part of this journey, we introduced tokenization, for example, which encrypts consumer data by replacing card numbers with digital tokens. It means that card numbers are not stored anywhere, which prevents improper usage and minimizes online fraud, allowing physical shoppers and e-shoppers to be confident at payment checkout points or gateways without the worry of fraud,” he added.

In October last year, Saudi Arabia introduced a new e-commerce law that was meant to unlock the country’s significant potential as a regional e-commerce hub. The Ministry of Commerce and Investment adopted the Implementing Regulations of the E-commerce Law, with immediate effect on Jan. 31, to accompany the recent shift toward electronic transactions that commerce is experiencing globally, and to help achieve the strategic objectives of Vision 2030.

The new regulations aim to (1) increase confidence in e-commerce transactions; (2) provide consumers necessary protections against fraud, deception and misinformation; and (3) boost and develop e-commerce activities in the Kingdom.

This opportunity was helped further by an affluent and tech-savvy population that sought the convenience and security of digital experiences. The Kingdom enjoys one of the highest Internet penetration and mobile usage numbers in the region. According to recent data, 74 percent of the Saudi population were Internet users in 2018 and this figure is estimated to grow to 96 percent in 2023 while smartphone users in the Kingdom are expected to grow from 19.4 million to 21.3 million.

“The potential for e-commerce in the wider MENA region right now is huge. The e-commerce market in Saudi Arabia is estimated to reach nearly $24 billion by 2026, according to ResearchAndMarkets.com. And the initial capital investment of $1 billion by Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund as part of its 50 percent equity stake in noon.com in 2017, forever changed the e-commerce landscape in the region,” Khalil said.

Commenting on Mastercard’s latest consumer study, he said that while adapting to the “next normal,” people have been changing the way they consume entertainment and learn new skills. “In fact, 79 percent of KSA consumers said they were using the downtime as a positive learning experience. More than half of the respondents (64 percent) said they had taken a virtual cooking class, 47 percent have been mastering a new language and 26 percent have been learning to dance online,” Khalil added.

He noted that 45 percent of respondents have been educating themselves on do-it-yourself (DIY) projects, and just over a third (37 percent) said they have been learning how to film online. As people spend more time at home, the demand for online entertainment has also surged, with 73 percent of respondents having invested in entertainment subscriptions and 62 percent in online gaming.


Rosewood Jeddah rolls out summer offers for GCC guests

Rosewood Jeddah rolls out summer offers for GCC guests
Updated 21 June 2021

Rosewood Jeddah rolls out summer offers for GCC guests

Rosewood Jeddah rolls out summer offers for GCC guests

Rosewood Jeddah is offering a range of exciting summer offers under its “Summer Splendor” program, since travel restrictions have been lifted, allowing GCC travelers to return once more. The hotel has vaccinated its entire staff to ensure guests returning to one of the city’s most beloved hotels feel safe and secure in the knowledge that a strict COVID-19 protocol has been put into place. 

In spite of the soaring summer temperatures, there is much to tempt guests whether traveling for business or pleasure. From its spectacular rooftop pool with panoramic views of the Red Sea to its state-of-the-art fitness center, four dining venues and lounges, Rosewood Jeddah will leave guests feeling relaxed and revived. 

Versatile spaces make Rosewood Jeddah a magnificent backdrop for the city’s most prestigious occasions, including meetings and conventions. Located on the Jeddah Corniche, the luxury hotel features versatile venues for meetings, small business affairs and private dining, ensuring guests can return to in-person events with the comfort of space and safety protocols. 

“As business meetings start to return to normal and the region is increasingly vaccinated, demand for business travel has been rising,” said Ahad Al-Saneei, director of sales and marketing at Rosewood Hotels & Resorts. 

The “Summer Splendor” program ensures the whole family has a reason to love their stay, with a special 10 percent discount on the best available rate at one of the hotel’s 127 rooms and suites. For a restful weekend getaway or quality time with friends or family, the summer special includes a daily buffet breakfast for two adults and two children at Habsburg Restaurant, in addition to a discount on seafood night on Thursdays and brunch on Fridays. 

“Both business and leisure travelers are looking for hotels that can ensure that the maximum safety measures have been taken to reassure them that it is once again safe to travel, which we have done in many ways across the property,” added Al-Saneei. 

The “Summer Splendor” is valid through summer until September.


HRDF recognizes GCC BDI’s board secretary program

HRDF recognizes GCC BDI’s board secretary program
Updated 21 June 2021

HRDF recognizes GCC BDI’s board secretary program

HRDF recognizes GCC BDI’s board secretary program

The GCC Board Directors Institute (GCC BDI), a not-for-profit organization that helps board directors acquire the know-how and tools to achieve and sustain effective governance, announced that its Board Secretary Certification Program is now recognized by the Human Resources Development Fund (HRDF) in Saudi Arabia. 

HRDF is a Saudi government authority that was established by a royal decree in July 2000 under the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development. The fund provides financial support to organizations that train and qualify Saudis in the private sector.

Saudi nationals who complete the full certification program and become certified board secretaries can apply for a partial refund from HRDF up to a value of SR5,400 ($1,440). 

Jane Valls, executive director of GCC BDI, said: “Board secretaries occupy a unique position in organizations. They are the key points of contact for the chairman, as well as central members of the senior management team. They bridge the gap between the boardroom and the executive due to their privileged access to both. However, the role and its value are frequently misunderstood and overlooked, which can result in board dysfunction and the failure of the board secretary to deliver effectively. GCC BDI’s Certified Board Secretary Program seeks to address these misconceptions and help board secretaries gain clarity on their responsibilities vis-à-vis all stakeholders in the corporate governance system.” 

She added: “We are proud of the recognition of our Certified Board Secretary Program by HRDF. The support of the fund will enable more Saudi nationals to benefit from the program in line with the objective of Saudi Vision 2030 to develop the country’s human capital and empower its citizens to reach their full potential.” 

The Certified Board Secretary Program is designed for new and aspiring board secretaries, as well as seasoned board secretaries who have not had any formal professional training. The foundation course is also suitable for governance professionals, anyone involved in company law and regulatory compliance, and employees who are responsible for corporate governance or who are seeking a better understanding of the role of the board secretary. The four-module program prepares participants to provide professional guidance on the governance aspects of strategic decisions to shareholders, boards, directors, management and other stakeholders.

GCC BDI is the most influential network of senior board directors in the GCC region with more than 2,000 members.


Swvl launches corporate transportation solutions in Saudi Arabia

Swvl launches corporate transportation solutions in Saudi Arabia
Updated 21 June 2021

Swvl launches corporate transportation solutions in Saudi Arabia

Swvl launches corporate transportation solutions in Saudi Arabia

Swvl, an international Dubai-based tech startup, is extending its mass transit solutions for businesses to the Kingdom, serving the corporate and business sector as a Saudi limited company. The Kingdom is Swvl’s sixth market after its success across nine major cities in the MENAP (Middle East, North Africa, Afghanistan and Pakistan) region, since its establishment back in 2017. The other five markets include: Egypt, Kenya, Pakistan, Jordan and the UAE.

Through this service, Swvl provides the best means of daily mass employee transportation, by customizing routes and destinations per different company requirements, to more than 100 companies ranging from food and beverages, construction, oil and gas, textile, and education to consumer electronics manufacturing, accounting, telecom, and mobile network operators alongside others.

Alexandre Epure, Swvl’s regional sales director, said the company is excited to enter the Saudi market to provide safe, quality transportation services powered by its state-of-the-art technology, to organizations. Swvl, on its journey to solve the issues plaguing mass transit, optimizes the whole mass transit operation at the highest level, allowing organizations and corporations to lower costs and increase revenues significantly. Swvl’s technology cuts transportation costs by up to 25 percent via reducing the number of vehicles, KMs, overhead, and optimizing routes through a unique network planning AI engine. Moreover, Swvl maintains efficiency in fleet utilization and thus, cost savings. Most importantly, Swvl can do all of this while providing an outstanding ride experience on both driver and passenger levels.

Epure also added that the company helped to move millions of riders globally during the pandemic year of 2020, providing a fast and safe transport service that is also environmentally friendly. 

The result is less traffic and less pollution, which is in line with the latest international designs and specifications to digitize the transportation experience for companies. Swvl offers 100 percent data-based transportation solutions, which are in alignment with the Saudi’s government initiatives and Vision 2030.


Visa appoints Dr. Saeeda Jaffar as senior vice president for GCC region 

Visa has announced the appointment of Dr. Saeeda Jaffar as group country manager and senior vice president for its operations across the GCC region. (Supplied)
Visa has announced the appointment of Dr. Saeeda Jaffar as group country manager and senior vice president for its operations across the GCC region. (Supplied)
Updated 20 June 2021

Visa appoints Dr. Saeeda Jaffar as senior vice president for GCC region 

Visa has announced the appointment of Dr. Saeeda Jaffar as group country manager and senior vice president for its operations across the GCC region. (Supplied)
  • Jaffar joins Visa with deep financial services and payments expertise

RIYADH: Visa has announced the appointment of Dr. Saeeda Jaffar as group country manager and senior vice president for its operations across the GCC region. Jaffar will join the global digital payments company to oversee its presence in six countries and will be based in Dubai.

Jaffar joins Visa with deep financial services and payments expertise. She has spent the past five years serving as managing director for the Middle East at Alvarez and Marsal, while previously holding leadership positions in the region for both Bain and Company and McKinsey and Company, working with private and public sector clients. In her new role, Jaffar will report directly to Andrew Torre, regional president for the Central Europe, Middle East and Africa (CEMEA) and will be part of the CEMEA Leadership Team.

“The past year has brought tremendous change to commerce in the Middle East with consumers and merchants shifting to digital with greater speed and urgency,” said Jaffar. “As we continue the path toward recovery, Visa’s mission to help individuals, businesses and economies to thrive is more important than ever. With digitization high on the regional government agenda, I am looking forward to further helping establish Visa as a partner of choice, while unlocking growth opportunities for new and existing clients and partners across the GCC.”

“At Visa, our commitment to the GCC region remains as firm as ever, and as we further strengthen our presence, I am delighted we will be joined by a leader of Saeeda’s expertise and experience,” said Torre. “The GCC region is rooted in payments innovation, and with an expanding network of banks, fintechs and partners, Saeeda will play a critical role in further accelerating consumer payments, while advancing some of the new and exciting areas where there is demand for seamless, fast and secure money movement.” 

Jaffar holds a bachelor of science in biomedical engineering from Boston University, and a masters of science, in addition to a doctorate in chemical engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which she gained through the Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum EDAAD scholarship.


AMC Cinemas says ‘Thank You’ to frontline workers

AMC Cinemas says ‘Thank You’ to frontline workers
Updated 20 June 2021

AMC Cinemas says ‘Thank You’ to frontline workers

AMC Cinemas says ‘Thank You’ to frontline workers

AMC Cinemas has launched a campaign in recognition of frontline healthcare workers and their endeavors with “Take The Step” — the national initiative to combat coronavirus, which was launched by the Ministry of Health (MOH) and Saudi authorities across the country, in response to the outbreak of the pandemic.

The “Thank You” initiative reflects AMC Cinemas’ commitment to its social responsibility at this critical time and demonstrates its support for the dedication of health sector staff as they work tirelessly to protect the citizens and residents of Saudi Arabia. AMC Cinemas worked closely with the MOH to design the initiative, which jointly seeks to raise awareness of the vital role of frontline healthcare workers and remind people of the importance of their individual and collective cooperation in the fight against COVID-19.

Since cinemas and the entertainment sector are both notably contributing to the Kingdom’s development, AMC Cinemas seeks to use its locations and channels to take a proactive role in providing support for public health awareness campaigns.

The “Thank You” initiative follows the previous “#Your_Health_Matters” campaign, which was introduced by AMC Cinemas to highlight the importance of adopting healthy habits. It was well received, gaining traction across all social media channels.

In 2018, Saudi Arabia granted AMC the first license in the Kingdom to operate movie theaters. At the time, the US giant announced that it planned to open 100 cinemas by 2030 across the Kingdom.

The recent opening of AMC Stars Avenue 9 cinema in Jeddah last month, in addition to the opening of the first cinema in Dawadmi (a town in Riyadh region) in April, brings the total number of AMC Cinemas in Saudi Arabia to nine locations, with five in Riyadh and one each in Hafar Al-Batin and Al-Majmaah governorates.