While the whole world is still grappling with the COVID-19 crisis, for Muslims around the world it is the holy month of Ramadan. It’s the month of fasting - time for increased devotion, family gatherings, celebrating togetherness, meal sharing in the community, and getting ready to welcome the month of Shawwal.
On the other hand, for many businesses, it’s high time for business opportunities as Muslims are willing to splurge on food, clothes, furniture, flight tickets and many more to celebrate the upcoming Eid.
However, this year, Muslims will be observing a completely different Ramadan with restrictions, quarantine, and lockdown being put into place.
A Completely Different Ramadan
As most countries have imposed a ban on public gatherings, this means for safety purposes and to prevent further widespread of the virus, many of Ramadan's rituals and traditions will be minimized this year.
Muslims all over the world will not be attending their strong Taraweeh tradition and many will not be celebrating Ramadan with their family or community.
This will also change the way Muslims prepare for Shawwal and their purchasing behavior. With that said, let’s look into how Ramadan will be different this year for businesses:
New Regulations and Precautionary Steps
Just like many other countries affected by COVID-19, Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia are not excluded when it comes to enforcing strict precautions.
The three countries have come out with their own version of partial lockdown namely the Circuit Breaker (Singapore), Movement Control Order (Malaysia), and Large-Scale Social Restriction (Indonesia).
With that said, the partial lockdowns included new regulations such as strict curfews, enforced physical distancing guidelines, border control, and travel bans to limit the spread of the highly contagious COVID-19 disease.
In light of that, each country has come forth with their own response as an effort to contain the virus spread while still keeping the Ramadan and Eid spirit.
Indonesia Moving Eid to December
Image source: The Star
The government of Indonesia has pushed Eid-ul Fitri collective leave to December due to concerns that the annual mass departure and crowd gathering would cause further transmission of COVID-19. Businesses planning to sell during Ramadan might need to strategize their plan as Muslims will not be spending money for Eid in Ramadan this year.
Malaysia Keeping the Ramadan Spirit Online
Image source: Malay Mail
Although the religious affairs minister in Malaysia stated earlier this week that Muslims cannot pray by following an imam through online streams as a prayer’s congregation must share the same space.
However, many mosques in the Klang Valley have come up with a “digital Ramadan” that enables online Islamic lectures, and Zikr recitation streaming through social media while the Malaysian Federal Territories Islamic Religious Council has already launched its online zakat collection system, where Muslims can pay alms using their e-wallets all to avoid common congestion caused by Ramadan activities that could possibly cause further spread of the COVID-19.
Singapore Digitising Bazaar Ramadan
In light of the COVID-19 crisis, the iconic Geylang Serai Ramadan Bazaar and other similar Hari Raya festive bazaars will not be returning this year.
As a response to that, several new online platforms in Singapore are providing a channel for Muslim consumers to buy their Ramadan and Hari Raya goods have been launched. These platforms hawk food items like Satay to Kueh to clothing items such as Songkoks and Kebayas. Ramadan vendors and other businesses can now turn online to sell their goods on platforms such as Geylang Bazaar Online, B.Halal Bazaar, Virtual Celebfest, the Halal Eater, GOBAZA, and many more.
Changes in Consumers’ Purchasing and Dining Behavior
The COVID-19 has imposed new normality, the way people are living has changed since the outbreak and we will have to celebrate Ramadan in a very different way as compared to previous years.
This means we won’t be seeing the usual Ramadan environment where customers flock food stalls to purchase delectable goods. There will be no physical selling and stores might have to remain shut for most of Ramadan or even after Ramadan. So let’s look at how this has changed the consumers' dining and purchasing behavior.
Increased Takeaways and Deliveries
Although dining out is no longer practical in this crisis, customers are turning to takeaways to get their supply of ready-to-eat meals and we might just see this trend continues even after the threat passes.
The Jakarta Post also reported a 41% increase in in-app purchases within F&B delivery mobile apps while 9% increase for online shopping.
Increased Purchases of Essential Goods
As people shift to preparing their own home-cooked meals to make up for takeaways and dining out, trend reports are showing that consumers are now buying their essential goods online.
As there is a heavier reliance on digital platforms, Google reported that consumers are also shopping for essentials, with 1.8 times growth in delivery searches worldwide.
Increased in Online Retail Purchases
Though the e-commerce sector was already booming, with the pandemic outbreak enforcing people to
stay at home and limiting physical activities outside, the online shopping scene has been catapulted to a complete overdrive.
Data from ACI Worldwide shows that many online retail categories saw an increase in sales during March—as much as a 74% year over year increase compared to March last year.
Changes in Business Strategy
While Muslims are currently going through a completely different Ramadan, for many businesses such as stall vendors, food and beverage outlets, and retail stores that rely heavily on offline purchases, this means that they will lose a huge portion of their income as the Ramadan period generates the highest amount of sales for these businesses.
With that said, this period and circumstance have forced many businesses to change their business strategies to accommodate preventive measures for COVID-19. This includes going online, accepting cashless payments, offering deliveries, and taking online orders.
With the on-going crisis, F&B and essential businesses are seen to bring their businesses online with deliveries and Takeaways.
A popular Malaysian fast-food brand is enjoying a 120% surge in delivery sales during this period of MCO. In Indonesia, transactions of delivery applications increased to 17% over the same period.
Retail stores are turning to eCommerce platforms and brand websites to boost sales. Stores such as Iuiga and Awfully Chocolate have reported that their online sales have experienced a surge, even though they have been experiencing a drastic drop in sales at their offline stores in shopping malls due to COVID-19.
As the spread of the virus escalates to a more serious level. It is highly likely that more small and medium-sized retailers will utilize the internet as a channel to remain accessible to their customers who are stuck at home and having more time on their hands than before.
Tips for Businesses to Sell During Ramadan
This year businesses will have to adapt and innovate to sell during Ramadan so here are a few tips for businesses to sell during Ramadan.
Deliver a Strong Meaningful Message
Whether it’s offline or online, business marketing during Ramadan needs to be able to deliver a strong social message that could help get the attention of consumers.
These days, the internet is saturated with information and getting the attention of consumers has become a solid concern for businesses.
Businesses need to focus on delivering strong meaningful content especially those that demonstrate generous display and practice of humane values such as compassion, charity, and empathy as these values resonate with the spirit of Ramadan.
This way, businesses will be able to catch the attention of online consumers and increase engagements. This is evident with the GO-JEK company’s Ramadan Ads titled Cari Pahala and Cari Kebaikan that made headlines and garnered the attention of many consumers.
Similarly, Fave has also introduced the GiftaMeal campaign in Singapore that resonates with the same value but with the main focus to distribute meals to those affected by the COVID-19 crisis. The campaign seeks to match meal requests with gift meals to ensure that there are not wastage and donations are distributed to the corresponding requests.
Operating in an uncertain environment means that you have to be prepared to accommodate changing needs and trends. Understand more about Ramadan consumer trends. Remember that little things go a long way in helping consumers.
For instance, this Ramadan, search queries for recipes peak as families enjoy Iftar together this season. This trend is visibly increasing in the current climate as searches are already surpassing 2019 peaks.
With large dining spaces or public buffets to be avoided this season, try to innovate with simple recipe recommendations or fun communal activities such as online cook-a-longs or simple Iftar recipes to stay relevant and stimulate more engagements with people. A fine example of this would be Nestle’s Ramadan recipes that made the brand closer to the Muslim community, especially during Ramadan.
Consumers will likely shop for goods online this year. eCommerce sites and apps can help improve the experience by offering multiple functions and features with higher marketing exposure. Fave is currently featuring takeaway/delivery deals for its merchants that are operating their own delivery. This helps merchants save money from high margin delivery platforms, and at the same time reduces customers' touch points by accepting cashless payments.
Fave is also accommodating businesses with the feature of generating up-front payment through eCards. Together with Malaysian local celebrities in the Save Our Fave movement, the campaign aims to increase merchants’ online visibility, and enable merchants to receive up-front payment with every eCard purchase.
As we work towards building our business plan in the face of adversity, we have to come to terms with the fact that Ramadan will not be business as usual. However, this might be a more conducive environment for you to connect with your consumers. Have a blessed Ramadan ahead!