Always-On’ in Saudi Arabia

Introducing the Always-On Connected Consumer

The oil-rich Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has witnessed an enormous growth in internet usage and social media. The market records the highest Twitter penetration in the world (41%)1 , as well as being home to the world’s top per capita of YouTube2 users demonstrating the growing appetite of residents to engage and communicate online. With internet usage reaching a critical mass (three out of four residents now access the internet), a new segment named Always-On Connected Consumers has emerged. These can be classified as those who access the internet on a daily basis as well as accessing the web via a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet. 

29% of Saudi residents are Always-On Connected Consumers and the segment is growing rapidly. Not surprisingly, youth forms the core of Always-On as 72% of the segment falls into the age group 15-34. Only 10% of Always-On are 45+. More than 75% of Always-On reside in Western and Central Provinces and these two provinces share 65% of the total adult population in Saudi Arabia. 

The past and the present

A declining trend in usage of fixed telephony, desktop PC or even conventional laptops is clearly visible, whereas mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets are gaining popularity. Laptop penetration seems to have already peaked at around 61%, while tablets are now gaining in usage with 25% penetration amongst adults. Alongside this, every adult in Saudi Arabia owns a mobile phone. Smartphone penetration crossed the half way mark around two years ago, which demonstrates the desire for portable online devices and signifies the establishment of the Always-On. There exists a mammoth opportunity for mobile commerce as nearly half of the Always-On segment make payments via mobile devices. Additionally a similar percentage access email on their phone. 25% of the segment has accessed mobile TV in the past 12 months. Gaming is growing very fast and 56% of Always-On play games on their mobiles compared to 40% of the average adult.

Apps are taking centre stage

Apps have taken a centre stage in the consumer’s life throughout Saudi Arabia with 41% usage amongstthe total population. 26% of Always-On adults have consumed paid apps and furthermore 61% of them use either free or paid for apps. Gaming tops the type of apps used, with 39% of Always-On Connected Consumers claimed to have played compared with 24% of the total adult population. Social networking apps closely follow with 35% usage and communication apps like What’s App are being used by 33% of Always-On consumers. News apps have a usage of 25% amongst Always-On adults.

The role of social networking

Social networking is used by 41% of the total adult population and the average adult spends over three hours a day on social networking sites. Always-On adults are 72% more likely than the average Saudi Arabian adult to use social networking and this has had an impact on the way in which consumers stay in contact with others in their personal life. The average number of active social networking contacts is 63 and this has exceeded the average number of active face to face contacts (61). 62% of social networkers are daily users and this figure reaches 70% amongst Always-On users. Every fifth adult (20%) accesses social networking sites on a mobile device compared to 36% for the Always-On Connected Consumer.

For brands, social networking holds a significant importance as 71% of Always-On Consumers have visited social media sites, 30% have visited brand pages and 23% have commented in a brand page and have ‘liked’, ‘plus’ or promoted a brand page. 12% have even registered a complaint on a brand’s social networking page demonstrating its significant position as a modern day communications platform. These figures increase when considering the Always-On Consumers who uses social media – almost 50% visit brand pages and a third have posted a comment and have ‘liked’, ‘plus’ or promoted a brand page in the last 12 months.

8% of the adult population and 12% of Always-On Connected Consumers have published a blog in the past year. 57% of Always-On Connected Consumers read a blog compared to 39% for the total adult population.

Considering the official language it’s no surprise that the Arabic language share in blog reading is as high as 91%. Along with this, the Arabic language share with regards to search engine content is also high at 67%. 

Online habits

The online financial and travel habits of the Always-On is also significantly different from the average adult. 40% of Always-On have accessed their bank accounts online as compared to only 23% for the national average. Always-On are around 70% more likely than an average adult to buy an air ticket online or booking a holiday using the internet. In fact, 31% of Always-On have bought an airline ticket and 15% have booked a holiday online. 8% of Always-On Connected Consumers have made online purchases with vouchers (including deals or coupons sites such as groupOn, Cobone and NailtheDeal etc.), compared to 4% for an average adult.

The changing daily life

The internet has manifested a change in the daily life of a Saudi adult. More than half of adults agree with the statement that ‘social networking sites are an integral part of social life’. Half the population agrees that ‘using the internet can become addictive’ and this statement is agreed by 80% amongst the Always-On.

We see the internet is acting both as an independent media vehicle and one which is capable of carrying others. Printed newspapers with a total penetration of 54% is facing a challenge as one out of five adults (20%) reads the online version of a newspaper resulting in publications adapting and responding to this change in the industry. 53% of the total adult population seems satisfied with the change as they agree that ‘more sophisticated audio-visual technology has improved their quality of life’. Sites that allow users to engage, express and communicate will have success with consumers as every second adult (50%) agrees that they ‘value websites that allow input from their users’. Amongst Always-On the figure stands tall at 75%.

It’s clear that advertisers now have more targeting options and the opportunities for brands are changing and deepening. Reacting to the change and understanding the consumer from a 360 degree perspective are key elements in effective targeting.



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