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Many performance marketers and affiliates deal with international traffic and campaigns. On that note, paying attention to and adapting content for international events, holidays and festivals can be a great way to optimize performance.
For those running campaigns in Islamic GEOs or targeting a predominantly Muslim audience, take note: the holy month of Ramadan is coming up from 12/13 April to 12/13 May in 2021. Even if you don’t usually target Muslims in particular, you should still consider segmenting your audience and optimizing accordingly, since there’ll be distinct shifts in Muslim consumer behavior during this period.
As of 2020, an approximate 5.76% of the Europe population are Muslim, equating to over 42 million individuals. Countries in the region with a significant Muslim population include:
|Country||Muslim Population||Muslim Population Percentage|
Statistics taken from Muslim Population in Europe 1950 – 2020
If you target Middle East, Asia Pacific or Southeast Asian GEOs, it’ll be even more important to adjust your marketing tactics for the sizable Islamic communities present in these regions. If you haven’t already, you can take the opportunity to gain new audiences and build up a brand relationship with them.
What is Ramadan?
Ramadan is the holiest month of the year in Islamic belief. It is the month where God revealed the first chapters of the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad. It is celebrated as a time for spiritual discipline, prayers, get-togethers, and charity.
The date of Ramadan varies every year. For 2021, it is expected to fall on the 12th or 13th of April, depending on the confirmed sighting of the first crescent of the new moon. Muslim communities will either go by local verified sightings, or follow announcement dates from Mecca, the holiest city in Islam. This means there’ll be some variations in the date for countries all over the world.
While there are some differences in how the different schools of Islam celebrate Ramadan, most practices remain the same between them.
Refrainment & Fasting
The most well known practice of Ramadan is the fasting. For the entire month, healthy adult Muslims will be fasting from dawn to sunset, abstaining entirely from food and drink. Depending on the location, the fasting hours may vary, ranging from 11 to 20 hours. In Iceland, early sunrises and late sunsets saw Muslims fasting for up to 22 hours.
This practice upholds ṣawm, one of the five pillars of Islamic belief, which means “to refrain”. Fasting reminds them to be thankful to God for sustenance, and to be compassionate towards the needy. Muslims will also abstain from immoral behavior and sexual activity, focusing on their religious commitment to God.
During Ramadan, Muslims come together as a community to engage in communal prayers at mosques and share meals, breaking the day’s fast together. After Ramadan comes a three-day holiday, Eid al-Fitr. Aside from prayers, people visit the homes of their relatives and friends, getting together to exchange gifts and sweet treats, as well as share meals. Depending on the local culture, they wear their finest new clothes, attend food bazaars or even go to the beach.
Unfortunately, due to the current situation with the pandemic, large scale congregational prayers will probably continue to be restricted in 2021, as it was in 2020. While vaccines have started rolling out worldwide, it’s a gradual process. Tarawih prayers this year will probably continue to be a private affair, held on a smaller scale at home with closer family and friends. Gatherings will most likely be held on a smaller scale as well.
Charitable giving, Zakat, is another essential pillar of Islam. Aside from exchanging gifts with family and friends, Ramadan is also about generosity and supporting the needy. It is a period for volunteering and supporting charity organizations. Muslims are supposed to donate a percentage of their income for their prayers to be accepted.
Consumer Behavior & Spending
Ramadan is huge in the Islamic world, marked by a big uptick in spending behavior. It is commonly compared to Christmas, Black Friday, and Chinese New Year. Based on retail data in the Middle East, sales and traffic start to increase around 2 weeks pre-Ramadan, and reach their peak near the 3rd week of the holy month. Eid al-Fitr is marked by a notable dip in numbers, most likely since people will be too busy with visiting to shop. Interestingly, it’s observed that when sales pick back up after Ramadan, they tend to be higher compared to the period before Ramadan.
Verticals to Consider
What are Muslims purchasing? Aside from food items needed to prepare for festive meals and pastries, Muslims will also be on the lookout for:
- Entertainment: Toys, games, streaming, movies, music etc.
This will most likely be the biggest vertical to look into for affiliate marketing. As mentioned previously, COVID-19 considerations will probably see people staying indoors where they can help it. Indoor entertainment offers will help keep Muslims busy and their minds off hunger. Since this festival centers around community and family, family-friendly products and services, or family promotion bundles hold great potential to convert.
- Fashion & Accessories
yMany seek to buy new clothes during this period, either for themselves when they go visiting or as gifts for others. Some will go for traditional Islamic attire, but general clothes are also popular. Keep in mind the Islamic dress code, where modesty is key for women. eComm fashion offers of long dresses, long-sleeved apparel will do well. Headscarves are also a popular accessory. Avoid promoting clothing that reveals too much skin, especially for Muslim women – it’ll only be a waste of your traffic.
- Home and Living
As Muslims prepare their homes to receive guests and host gatherings, demand for products of the home & living category will increase. They’ll be looking to replace or stock furniture and supplies such as tissue paper, paper cups, curtains, rugs, cleaning products et cetera.
- Consumer Electronics
Electronics are popular as gifts. Smartphones, tablets, cameras and various electronic peripherals will be good to promote during this time. Some will probably buy them for their own use as well, for entertainment purposes or to connect and engage with Islamic content online.
- Health & Beauty
Cosmetics go hand in hand with fashion. Health and beauty products also work well as gifts. However, it is essential to make sure the product you’re promoting falls in line with Islamic requirements.
Products will need to be Halal, using only ingredients permissible in Islam. Anything derived from pork, dead animals, blood, alcohol, animals that are not slaughtered in a Sharia compliant way are haram – unlawful and forbidden. Halal products should also be water-permeable, for Islamic religious practices.
Due to the strict requirements, options for Muslim consumers are limited. If your product is Halal compliant or certified – state it. It’ll be a checkmark in their consideration of your offer.
Before COVID-19, travel sales tended to surge in the last week of Ramadan, for vacation during Eid al-Fitr. As it is now however, it unfortunately won’t be as relevant a vertical for 2021.
Time-wise, Muslim shopping and online behavior will shift considerably during Ramadan. Given fasting happens from dawn to sunset, many will be up in the wee hours of the morning to prepare for Suhur, a prefast meal taken before sunrise.
Because of this, many will be up at 3AM, which is the most popular time for Muslims to engage with content on social media in Dubai. Sales at 4AM are 17% higher than typical days, with the peak of it happening between 8PM to midnight. Barely any shopping is done at 6PM, since they’ll finally get to eat after a whole day of fasting.
The week before Ramadan, traffic tends to peak on Thursday, Friday and Saturdays. During Ramadan however, these days perform lower than usual while traffic for the other days of the week go up, making performance more even.
With all this in mind, you should tailor campaign schedules for this audience accordingly. Driving time-limited food or dining promotions to Muslims while they’re fasting would be unwise. Stuff like a 1-for-1 offer for a Starbucks purchase between 3-7PM wouldn’t be relevant to them at all.
Additionally, you should scale up your marketing campaigns in the run up to Eid al-Fitr. SEA and the Middle East sees sales peak 1-2 weeks before the end of Ramdan.
Ramadan has many icons strongly associated with it. Since the start of the religious event is marked by the view of it, the crescent moon is a strong symbol for Ramadan. Dates, which are traditionally eaten when breaking the day’s fast during iftar, are another. Other symbols include the Ramadan drummers, Islamic lanterns, teapots, and canons. Mosques, prayer rugs, and the 8 pointed star are common representations of Islamic worship that can be depicted as well.
With regards to color, green is to Muslims as red is to the Chinese. Green is said to be the Prophet Muhammad’s favourite color, representing moderation, nature and life. Historically, it is used in religious attires, flags and banners.
Take note that left and right hands are assigned different functions in their culture. The right is for purification and food, as well as interacting with others. The left is for using the toilet and removing dirt. There shouldn’t be an overlap where one can help it, and depictions of using the right for ignoble purposes and the left for noble purposes can be upsetting. Make sure your creatives reflect this accordingly.
Marketing Do’s and Don’ts
Success can be found in considering how products and services can cater to Islamic religious practices during this time. Apple, for example, showcased how best to use the iPhone during Ramadan, highlighting specific functions that can be used to accommodate their rituals and prayers.
Likewise, Facebook has just launched the #MonthofGood initiative this year, releasing new tools to enhance user experience celebrating Ramadan on the platform. Starting with a guide of 30 ideas to celebrate Ramadan, they will also be collaborating with creators, publishers and NGO to produce video content and information sessions. Themed stickers, camera effects, and specific Messenger tools will also be released.
These initiatives were developed to support the distinct way users have used Facebook during Ramadan in the past. #MonthofGood serves as an excellent example of a platform stepping up to meet their audience’s unique needs this festive period.
Ultimately, it is important to remember that Ramadan is a religious event that is highly important to Muslims. Be respectful, and avoid gimmicky and potentially insensitive marketing. You have a huge opportunity to reach out to a large audience, but results can be disastrous if you don’t research the appropriate customs beforehand. It will be good to get feedback from a few locals about your material before publishing it.
With all that being said, we wish you good luck in your Ramadan marketing campaigns!
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