Every year, Muslims around the world await the holy month of fasting, Ramadan. In 2023, Ramadan begins on March 23 and ends April 20, 2023.
Though it’s home to a large number of Muslims, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region isn't the only region celebrating and observing Ramadan. Countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, along with Muslims across Europe and the Americas also observe the holy month.
Ramadan is a time of spirituality, family, laid back entertainment, and of course shopping.
In 2020, Ramadan coincided with the coronavirus outbreak, resulting in people spending time at home and online due to government lockdowns.
But how was buyer behavior impacted during the pandemic? Did customers continue with this new behavior or did they return to their old ways? What does the data for the MENA region tell us about buying behavior during Ramadan?
What can businesses expect? And what can they do to prepare their online stores for and during Ramadan 2023?
Keep reading to find out!
In the Middle East, though it’s a month of prayer, fasting, and spirituality, Ramadan is also a month of family gatherings and spending.
Spending habits are slightly different in Ramadan because of the nature of the month and season. It’s a popular time for the entertainment industry and for the shopping industry.
In Ramadan, food and Islamic gifts rank high on consumers’ to-do lists.
Ramadan suffered lockdowns in 2020. But as the effects of the pandemic began to wane so did the restrictions imposed.
In 2020, the holy month saw an increase in the consumption of digital content. E-commerce apps flourished, with many witnessing hundreds of daily downloads.
Since then, more e-commerce, or specifically m-commerce apps emerged and have been in use since. This is not limited to Egypt or Saudi Arabia.
This has been the case for many countries in the Middle East, though Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates tend to rank at the top.
As more people stayed indoors, online searches for Ramadan-related activities, food, and do-it-yourself (DIY) home ideas surged.
According to Think with Google, Ramadan 2020 "was a big year for home baking — even more so during Ramadan. Searches for quick recipes, like 10-minute biscuits, grew 1,000% week-on-week during the holy month as people sought new ways to make traditional favorites online.
In 2020, foodies across the MENA region saw a 125% year-on-year surge in food-related queries as people sought food inspiration during the lockdown.
And because of those queries, downloads for grocery delivery apps in the UAE and Saudi Arabia rose 23% in the first week of Ramadan 2020 compared to a year earlier. (Think with Google)
A 2022 Statista study on time spent on activities showed 74% of Muslims saying they spent more time on mobile devices compared to the previous year.
Meanwhile, 73% of respondents reported more time spent on messaging apps on social media in 2022 compared to 2021.
So, how has spending for Ramadan changed over the past 3 years?
Let’s look at some statistics and forecasts for some countries in the MENA region.
A 2023 survey by TGM Research found 63% of Egyptian respondents planning to spend time with family and friends during Ramadan 2023.
Shoppers aged 30 to 55 are more likely to ‘[take] advantage of Ramadan sales and offers’ compared to younger generations, the research found.
In Saudi Arabia, consumers get their information online, especially when researching Ramadan-related products. Google ranks at the top with 74% of Saudi shoppers using it for research, according to Think With Google.
YouTube became “the top used video app in Saudi Arabia” in Ramadan 2021, which also recorded the highest number of active users at 18.1 million.
“52% of Saudi shoppers say they turn to YouTube specifically to research product information across categories.” (Think With Google)
Before you begin looking at what your store can offer to consumers in Ramadan this year, it's important to know what's at the top of people's minds during the season.
"Categories with the highest volume of sales since mid-February in [the Middle East and Africa were] personal care, clothing, kitchen and dining, electronics accessories, shoes, communications, audio, jewelry, décor and clothing accessories," Criteo data showed.
Here's a more detailed list.
Another reason why shopping for clothes increases in Ramadan is because it's followed by Eid Al-Fitr, a short holiday and feast, where consumers buy new clothes to celebrate.
As a store owner considering Ramadan buyers, you'll want to prep your store for upcoming businesses.
Here are some tips to get your products before your customers.
Remember: The first and final weeks of Ramadan are crucial.
Because Ramadan is characterized by increased shopping behavior before and after Iftar (the time when Muslims break their fast), websites suffer from traffic surges at odd hours during the day.
Roughly two-thirds of shoppers in Saudi Arabia report experiencing “online shopping issues” during Ramadan.
Shopping issues result in a bad customer experience, more abandoned carts, and naturally fewer sales.
But that’s not all. Nearly 84% of Saudi shoppers say they may switch brands because of a bad shopping experience. Moreover, 42% say they’re open to trying “a new brand, retailer, or platform if a product ships from there faster.”
Social proof is a great e-commerce marketing and sales strategy any time of the year. In Ramadan, consumers know they have a short time frame to buy products that relate to the holy month.
Shoppers tend to research products a few weeks – to a couple of months – before Ramadan begins.
Make sure you showcase customer ratings and reviews for your products on your website and mobile app.
Nearly 25% of consumer electronics shoppers and 23% of beauty shoppers in Saudi Arabia say it’s “hard to find” product reviews. (Think With Google)
It's likely that not all your products are a good fit for Ramadan. So try to show customers the products that are relevant to them.
"Ramadan shoppers are likely to be looking for things that help them observe Ramadan – and those purchases vary by time period. Before Ramadan, we could expect groceries, décor, and home goods, especially, to rise. Travel planning and gift purchases could happen as the holiday progresses," notes Criteo.
By understanding your customers and their needs, you'll be able to personalize their experience, show them what they need and help them make quicker decisions.
This is optional especially if you serve customers from across the globe. Giving your homepage an oriental Ramadan-ish look can help you not only attract Ramadan shoppers, but also give your customers a sense of togetherness and community.
If your customers are focused around the Middle East, Asia, or both, then a Ramadan feel can help you.
If you're planning a Ramadan marketing campaign, then you should target the customer base that's more likely to be shopping during Ramadan. You can also target customers by region or country.
"If you’ve run previous Ramadan campaigns, it’s important to reconnect with those shoppers," explains Criteo.
For example, you know that customers in the MENA region and some parts of Asia will likely be doing some Ramadan shopping. Target those customers.
Ramadan is an annual one-month opportunity. That said, many people in many countries around the world observe the holy month.
And while the Ramadan rituals are observed by Muslims, many non-Muslims take the opportunity to buy oriental products like home decorations and of course the variety of nuts and Ramadan dishes and foods.
That's why investing in a marketing campaign can be very good for your store – if you do it right.
Your ads should be personalized and directed to people who are more likely to buy your products during the Ramadan season.
Loyalty programs are generally a good way to create loyal customers who will come back to your store.
If you have a loyalty program, you can use it to create hype about your Ramadan-suited products.
Don’t have a customer loyalty program? Install one to start building a relationship with customers during Ramadan and then use that relationship in the future.
Loyalty programs help businesses offer personalization and engage customers in e-commerce stores.
If you're using Gameball's loyalty programs, you can send customized messages to your customers who are likely to be celebrating Ramadan or notify them of special cashback options on products they are likely to be looking to buy.
Give your loyalty program a boost with Gameball's Outbound. Whether you have a complete loyalty program marketing strategy or want to test the waters during Ramadan, you can create outbound marketing campaigns for your website, mobile app, and email using Gameball.
Create and launch campaigns faster with the new Gameball AI. Just type in what message you want to communicate and let the Gameball AI write it for you. From there, you can edit it to include the specifics you want in your message.
Ramadan is a month in a year but one that people anticipate and look forward to. It’s a month of fasting, spirituality, shopping, and gathering for family and friends.
As a store owner, Ramadan presents you with an opportunity to either create a new customer base (if you have the relevant products), or give current customers a new experience that helps you build a relationship with them.
Every year, we see trends in Ramadan along with new opportunities. Despite the pandemic, Ramadan has maintained its flavor for most people. People adapt to circumstances from those circumstances, habits evolve.
So, use this time and opportunity to understand your customers. Figure out their needs and interests this year and use that information to personalize their experiences during and after Ramadan.