Ramadan 2022: An explainer for digital marketers
Ramadan is fast approaching. For Muslims, it means fasting from sunrise to sunset, plus spending time with family and often travelling to see loved ones. In countries with significant Muslim populations, life can follow a slightly different rhythm to other months of year – which affects how (and what) consumers buy online. Read on to find out more.
What is Ramadan?
In Islam, Ramadan is the most sacred month of the year. It commemorates the month that the Qur’an was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. The actual night that the Qur’an was revealed is a night known as Laylat ul-Qadr (‘The Night of Power’).
Ramadan is a time for Muslims to reflect, be thankful and help others. During this month, most Muslims fast between dawn and sunset. Fasting is thought to teach self-discipline, as well as showing empathy for those who are less fortunate. There are exceptions – children, pregnant women, the elderly, people who are ill or travelling don’t have to fast. Those who do fast will have one meal (known as the suhoor) just before dawn and another (known as the iftar), directly after sunset.
To mark the end of fasting, Muslims celebrate Eid ul-Fitr – a festival which involves visiting family and loved ones, exchanging gifts, and feasting. You can listen to Oban’s podcast on Eid ul-Fitr here.
Online shopping is common before and during Ramadan, with people preparing their homes, cooking suhoor and iftar, and buying gifts. It’s also a time when people research and plan trips. From a marketing point of view, this means fierce competition and increased sales in most channels, including e-commerce.
When is Ramadan in 2022?
This year, in the UK, Ramadan begins on the evening of Saturday, 2nd April and ends on the evening of Sunday, 1st May. Ramadan dates change every year – this is because Islam uses a calendar based on cycles of the moon. For the same reason, the start and end dates for Ramadan each year will vary by country by about a day.
Which countries celebrate Ramadan?
Because Islam is a global religion, with followers around the world, Ramadan is a truly global experience with observers across all regions. Statista estimates about 1.6 billion people worldwide participate in Ramadan.
Each country has slightly different Ramadan traditions – if you want to know more about how a specific country approaches Ramadan, it’s best to check with a Local In-Market Expert. By thinking beyond borders and localising content, brands can take advantage of the opportunity to scale success.
How does consumer behaviour change during Ramadan?
Ramadan shopping behaviours are complex as consumers across different countries are using both offline and online channels to purchase many different products and services.
In 2020, Criteo published a report about consumer behaviour during Ramadan, based on analysis of over 8 million online shopping transactions in Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore from 143 retailers. These insights emerged:
The third week of Ramadan is the prime opportunity for online retailers to engage with their customers – this is when people are mostly actively looking for items for the upcoming Eid ul-Fitr celebrations. Criteo’s research showed a 67% uplift in online retail sales and 14% uplift in online travel sales in the third week. In 2022, that will be w/c 25th April.
The nature of the sunrise-to-sunset fasting has an impact on sleeping patterns, which in turn affects shopping patterns. For example, Criteo’s data showed retail sales at 17% above the baseline at 4am during Ramadan. There was a significant drop in sales between 6-7pm, coinciding with iftar, the first meal after a day of fasting.
Mobile is key during this period – partly because many people are away from home, visiting friends and family. Criteo’s research showed app and mobile sales are higher during the increased shopping at 4am, with strongest recovery in app and mobile sales after iftar. Weekly mobile sales grew by 61% during the week of Eid ul-Fitr.
The Covid-19 pandemic changed how Ramadan was celebrated in 2020 and 2021, including driving more online purchases – a trend which is likely to endure in 2022.
What product categories are popular during Ramadan?
The retail industry sees a huge boost as consumers make Ramadan-related purchases. Categories to benefit include food, home, health and wellness, fashion, beauty, plus electronic goods including smartphones and tablets.
Google has some interesting research about how searches evolve before and during Ramadan, which illustrates the kind of products consumers are looking for:
- Before Ramadan, searches focus on grocery shopping and deliveries – in anticipation of the iftars to prepare and the entertaining at home.
- At this time, searches also focus on how to decorate your home and prepare for guests. YouTube content creators see a spike in views for videos showing their grocery shopping and home decorating journeys.
- As a religious festival, there’s also a spike in searches for people looking up prayer times.
- The need to prepare meals for large groups at home also sees a spike in searches for kitchen gadgets and cooking appliances.
- Next, people are thinking about Ramadan fashion, such as colourful abayas and themed accessories, as people plan to spend time with friends more often. YouTube sees a spike in fashion-related searches at this time.
- Once Ramadan is underway, there’s an increase in downloads of religious apps, as people connect with the spiritual aspect of the festival. There’s also a spike in traffic to YouTube videos which focus on spirituality and community service.
- Google found that men’s interest in cooking and food-related searches increases during Ramadan. Google also found a difference in men and women’s food interests, with women more likely to search for recipes and desserts, and men more likely to search for barbeques and entertainment.
- Gaming is also big at this time – not just people playing games, but watching people play games online.
- As Ramadan draws to a close, attention switches to Eid. Beauty searches increase, with women looking for Eid-inspired make-up looks and skincare, and men searching for shaving and grooming products. Whereas Ramadan is more about eating at home, Eid is more about going out – so restaurant searches see an increase.
- Eid is about gift giving – with people actively looking for gifts for family and friends in the second half of Ramadan.
- Once Eid is upon us, people search for holidays, flights, and hotels, as people look ahead to summer travel – as well as last minute trips they can book now.
Six tips for marketers
Ramadan is a holiday which focuses on gratitude, community, family, and prayer. In 2020, Google carried out a survey to find out what lifestyle people most associated with Ramadan – and the top answer was ‘generous giver’. It’s important that any marketing campaign throughout this time feels respectful, not exploitative. A Local In-Market Expert can help to tailor your messages for specific markets.
Think about time of day/week:
The nature of the sunrise-to-sunset fast, plus the fact that many are likely to be spending time with family and friends after sundown, changes the normal pattern of online consumption throughout this period. In addition, in most Islamic or predominantly Muslim countries, work and school hours are cut short during Ramadan (which is something B2B marketers should bear in mind too). Retailers must pick the right time of week/day to increase their digital marketing efforts, to capitalise on an uptick in online transactions.
Embrace omnichannel but ensure mobile is central:
During Ramadan, shoppers are browsing in stores and purchasing online, and vice-versa. However, mobile is increasingly the key retail driver – for example, over half of retail transactions in Southeast Asia take place on mobile. Make sure your approach is mobile-first.
Engage your audience with special offers, customised content, and gift ideas:
Targeted content helps you to stay top-of-mind when people are ready to buy something special for family and friends. Eid ul-Fitr is a good opportunity to create interesting offers – this is an occasion when consumers are looking for new clothes, jewellery, and bigger ticket items, as well as thinking about travel plans.
It’s important to plan ahead because some media can be booked well in advance of Ramadan. Factor in too, that once Ramadan is underway, some outlets you may wish to advertise with could be understaffed or slow to respond because of decreased working hours – this is especially the case in more traditional Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia.
Ensure seamless UX:
Statistics vary by market, but one of the biggest reasons for cart abandonment is a confusing or sub-optimal check-out experience. Given traffic volumes throughout Ramadan, it’s important that your UX is as good as it can be, including your check-out process and a customer journey which feels relevant and tailored for each market. Read Oban’s tips for cross-cultural UX here.
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If you are planning an international digital marketing campaign at Ramadan – or any other time of the year – Oban can help. To find out how, please get in touch.
Oban International is the digital marketing agency specialising in international expansion. Our LIME (Local In-Market Expert) Network provides up to date cultural input and insights from over 80 markets around the world, helping clients realise the best marketing opportunities and avoid the costliest mistakes.