Skip to main content

Taking advantage of new trends post-COVID

Checkout recently brought together payments and ecommerce experts for a three-part series called Embracing Changing Trends in Connected Payments: Thriving in the Post-Pandemic Ecosystem. Hosted by Dan Simon of communications agency Vested, the series looked at industry developments driven by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The digital economy in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) is going from strength to strength Valued at USD 10.75 billion in 2021 and predicted to soar to $14.21 billion by 2025. Combining this with the fact that the country has a population of approximately 35 million people and a GDP of USD 833.54 billion, there's a lot of promise for businesses in KSA and those organizations operating in the market. In this article, Remo Giovanni Abbondandolo, SVP MENA at, offers perspectives on the trends shaping the digital economy in Saudi Arabia.

What forces are driving the growth of digital commerce in the country?

There are two major forces at work. First, around 70% of the population of KSA is under 35 years old. This demographic demands digital experiences from the businesses they interact with. The second factor is that under our Vision 2030 national transformation plan, the country is making significant investments in digital infrastructure and pushing more and more activity online. The combined forces of the public and private sectors moving in one direction rapidly accelerate the digital transformation in all corners of the Kingdom.

The pandemic has supercharged this digital transformation. Now everything you need is online—food delivery, rides, and various products to make your life easier. In fact, in 2021, there was an increase in digital spending in every sector of the Saudi economy for business-to-consumer goods and services.

What role are payments playing in this digital transformation?

The government of KSA envisions a 70% cashless society by 2025. And the rollout of Saudi Arabia’s first instant payments system in 2021 was a significant step toward this.

Merchants are responding ; 82% say their investments in digital payments have already paid off and will play a major role in their business recovery going forward.

Digital wallets, such as STC Pay and Apple Pay have become increasingly popular, so more people than ever are using an alternative to cash. In fact, 26% of consumers in Saudi now say that digital wallets are their most preferred payment method.That’s why we were the first in KSA to enable Apple Pay and Mada, and we want to ensure that we are the first to enable any new payments services to keep our merchants ahead of these trends.

What are the key topics that are concerning merchants?

A challenge for many merchants is their new to the world of digital payments. So many understandably adopted a solution offered by a provider they already have a relationship with. The problem is that these providers may not be suitable for merchants. As a result, we know of some who have experienced painful issues where their provider goes down, or they experience a large volume of declined payments. These outages and issues cost merchants millions of Saudi riyal. 

As a result, we're seeing a shift where merchants are being a lot more considered in the solution they are choosing. They're looking for a gateway that is stable, and one that provides them specific explanations for why a payment is declined to help them improve their payment acceptance rates.

And, it's for these reasons, that a lot are starting to speak with as we provide that stability, performance and support that businesses in the Kingdom seek—and as they expand throughout the region. 

What support do businesses in Saudi Arabia need?

Our engagement with policymakers in the region positions us as an enabler, more than a service provider. Our goal and our commitment are to empower local companies so they can grow and expand globally. That is why our global experience adds value to the market. 

Our solutions are really advanced because we build everything in-house. Merchants can leverage our data and insights to improve their businesses in the future. And we are proactive. We don't wait for the merchants to flag something. And we can rapidly capitalize on market trends. If there is any success story globally, and we believe it would fit the KSA market, we wouldn't hesitate to replicate the success story in the KSA market. wants to ensure that everyone involved in the payment ecosystem works together to improve the payments industry.

What's your top prediction for the digital economy in KSA in 2023?  

I think we'll witness impressive moves from the entrepreneurs in the region. They’ll surprise us with their solutions — with the way they'll adopt new technology. Buy now, pay later has changed the payment system in KSA, and it's facilitated payments for a lot of consumers. 

Additionally, we are going to continue to see cash usage in the country decrease in line with vision 2030. This will open up space for even more innovative ideas in the coming months. 

So we are watching everything just to ensure that we,, can keep ahead of the trends and provide the best for our merchants. 

To find out more about the trends in KSA and the wider MENA region, take a look at our latest report.