Ramadan is the time of togetherness, charity and spending time with family and friends.
In the Middle East, it also means shorter working days and longer holidays toward the end of the month.
All of this results in unique user behaviors that marketers can capitalize on.
Data from e-commerce marketing tech company shows that consumers spend time – and money – on shopping, traveling and eating out.
The data showed that the highest rise in online retail sales and website visitors was seen in the week before Eid-al Fitr. Weekly retail sales showed a maximum uplift of over 42% and visitors of over 35% in the Middle East during Ramadan. In the week of Eid al-Fitr, sales and visitors decline as many residents travel during this period; however, sales still remain higher than in an average week before Ramadan. This sheds light on the trend of buying activities commencing before Ramadan and escalating in the following weeks, with the highest uplift in sales seen in the third week.
Retailers offering cash on delivery and multiple payment options would achieve higher sales during Ramadan as the majority of consumers shopping online in the Middle East still prefer to pay cash on delivery for their purchases. 55% of the people in the UAE and 59% in KSA chose the Cash on Delivery over other e-payment options.
“Ramadan is a period of great significance in this region and influences purchasing and consumption patterns, due to the traditional gifting during Eid al-Fitr, with 61% of survey respondents in KSA and 58% in UAE planning to buy gifts for others during Ramadan. It is thus important for marketers and advertisers to consider the shift in habits during this time and tailor their approach to consumers in order to provide superior value and meet their needs,” says Michele Iozzo, managing director, Middle East & Africa at Criteo.
Throughout the month, 78% will eat out in restaurants with 46% doing so at least once a week in the UAE while in Saudi 65% will eat out in restaurants with 38% doing so at least once a week. Even though those fasting will abstain from eating throughout the day, the number will spike up after iftar. This is big business for restaurants in the region.
Home delivery might drop a bit with 26% in the UAE and 15% in KSA planning to order home delivery during the month.
Ramadan also has a significant impact on travel plans and bookings. However, travel trends are the opposite of retail trends with little change in consumer behavior until the third and fourth week when they dramatically spike. People travel less during Ramadan weeks, but the activity picks up during Eid-al Fitr and the following period of the summer holidays. Travel bookings witnessed a sudden surge in the fourth week of Ramadan with an increase of up to 75% in weekly sales and an average sales uplift of 39% during Ramadan.
The research found that the bookings mainly took place via online channels such as the airline’s website, travel agent or comparison site, and at least 1 in 4 travel tickets are purchased using airline apps. The research also found that travel searches steadily increase during the first 25 days of Ramadan and a sharp rise after Eid al-Fitr with an increase of over 350% was witnessed on June 30, 2017. Travel advertisers should thus target consumers on apps and mobile web in the week after Eid-al Fitr.
Role of mobile
Mobile contributes largely to the share of travel sales in the last weeks of Ramadan. Bookings are mostly made online with mobile accounting for a lion’s share of these sales. Within mobile too, as 25% of consumers use an app, brands must not only optimize for mobile web, but also adopt in-app marketing techniques. Prompting users to download their travel booking app before Ramadan will help drive sales and benefit from the spike in bookings in early Ramadan.
Further, mobile also plays a key role in retail sales during the month. Data showed that the weekly mobile share of retail fashion sales rose to over 91% during Ramadan from a median mobile share of 86.3%. Marketers can consider adopting targeted in-app marketing to further drive mobile sales during Ramadan.