DUBAI: Social networking giant Facebook has revealed the results of a study in which it has analyzed the shopping and media consumption habits of people during Ramadan.
The company’s new report “Ramadan: This is the Joy of Discovery,” conducted by its insights and research division Facebook IQ in partnership with data and analytics firm YouGov, advises marketers on how best to reach their audience.
The impact of COVID-19
During its research process, participants were asked how certain behaviors during Ramadan were affected by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
The survey found that in the UAE some activities, such as shopping, were hardly affected, while in Saudi Arabia, people shopped more.
When it came to reading or watching news on any device, 32 percent of people questioned in the UAE said they took more notice because of COVID-19, while 26 percent reported only a little more, and 24 percent had not changed their habits.
In Saudi Arabia, 29 percent said they read or watched a lot more news due to the global health crisis, 25 percent only a little more, and 27 percent said there was no difference.
In both countries, users spent more time using technology to connect with family and friends during the holy month of Ramadan.
When users In the UAE and Saudi Arabia were asked, “which of the following do you spend more time on during Ramadan/Eid?” the unanimous answer was “using my mobile device” (44 percent in the UAE and 42 percent in the Kingdom), followed by WhatsApp (42 percent in the UAE and 39 percent in Saudi), and watching videos online (36 percent in the UAE and 33 percent in Saudi Arabia).
In Saudi Arabia, TV was the fourth-most consumed platform with 32 percent of respondents watching TV, while in the UAE it was the seventh-most used platform at 29 percent of respondents.
In both countries, the use of “other messaging platforms” ranked higher than the use of Facebook Messenger (29 percent versus 22 percent in the UAE and 25 percent against 22 percent in the Kingdom) – although it was still well below the use of WhatsApp.
With Ramadan and Eid being big occasions for shopping, it is important to understand the shopping behaviors and habits of consumers right from the discovery stage to research and purchase.
Facebook’s research found that when it came to discovering ideas or browsing for inspiration for Ramadan purchases, the digital medium overall and mobile were the top two sources followed by the physical in-store experience.
Traditional media channels such as TV, outdoor, print, and radio trailed behind at the bottom of the list.
Ramez Shehadi, Facebook’s managing director for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, told Arab News: “The way people live, connect, shop, and discover during Ramadan has changed one year after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This Ramadan, we see the emergence of new discovery and shopping behaviors that we have illustrated as six key insights for brands to leverage.”
The six insights are based on the discovery of:
The demand for online shopping and discovery is greater than ever. The research found that shoppers in the UAE and Saudi Arabia were three times more likely to feel safer using mobiles to shop compared to in-store shopping.
This means that brands should offer their customers a seamless, cross-device shopping experience.
Among those observing Ramadan, half in the UAE and less than half in the Kingdom agreed that public figures and celebrities influenced their purchasing decisions.
Creators also offered a layer of credibility that was especially useful for customers discovering and purchasing new products and services.
Brands must therefore engage with partners and creators to help reach new audiences.
New ways to support businesses
The idea of charity and giving back to the community was deeply rooted in the ethos of Ramadan. Seventy percent of those quizzed in the UAE and 74 percent in Saudi agreed that brands should find ways of giving back during Ramadan.
Consumers looked more favorably at brands that gave back, with 62 percent in the UAE and 57 percent in Saudi Arabia becoming more interested in a brand after learning about their business practices.
That was why, the report suggested, brands must raise awareness of their support for local businesses and the community during the COVID-19 pandemic in a clear and simple way.
During Ramadan, people looked to technology, especially mobile, to stay up-to-date and connect with family and friends. They also used mobile to shop and stay entertained.
Because of the pandemic, the use of mobiles has grown with 44 percent in the UAE and 42 percent in the Kingdom spending more time using their mobile during Ramadan. This means that more people are now using mobiles for discovering, researching, and buying products and services compared to going to a store.
With this in mind, Facebook said brands must leverage the rise in mobile entertainment and resources to reach the right audience where they are adapting to how and where they like to discover new things.
According to the report, despite Ramadan being one of the biggest shopping moments of the year, most advertisers switched off spending during the period, based on the misapprehension that most people finished their Ramadan shopping early.
People, however, were continually preparing their homes, meals, and gifts during the month and looked for deals before and during Ramadan.
While 28 percent of the respondents in Saudi and 22 percent in the UAE started planning by March last year, about a month before celebrations started, only 13 percent had completed their shopping when Ramadan actually started.
The research also indicated that the periods just before Ramadan and Eid were the biggest shopping times. Brands must plan ahead to stay relevant and prepared for these shopping peaks, reminding people of what they love by tapping into their preferences, added Facebook.
The virus outbreak had made shoppers more price-sensitive and they were therefore more likely to look for deals and bargains. In the UAE, 64 percent of respondents said they were looking to discover more bargains during Ramadan and Eid, while the figure was 62 percent in Saudi Arabia.
This price sensitivity applied to essentials such as food and beverages, as well as to clothing and gift items, making big sales all the more important during Ramadan.
“Brands and marketers in the MENA region must pivot to ensure their engagement remains timely and relevant by constantly discovering new ways to connect with their audiences during Ramadan,” added Shehadi.
“They must also adapt to the ever-changing online shopping trends in the market by persistently tapping into their consumers’ needs and preferences.”