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Mon 21 May 2018 10:51 AM

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Middle East online retail industry to accelerate in Ramadan 2018

Opinion: Facebook's Shant Oknayan expects online purchasing activity to increase of 36% during Ramadan

Middle East online retail industry to accelerate in Ramadan 2018
A study by YouGov last year across UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt showed that while 53 percent of consumers spend more during Ramadan, a large part of the respondents claimed they would buy from brands with the best offers.

The Holy Month of Ramadan brings people across the region together as they connect with family, friends and faith.

The combination of different working hours and an increased pace of life after Iftar creates a setting unique to the MENA region.

During this month, the way people spend their time changes significantly, and this creates a positive impact on the e-commerce industry.

Data tells us how the region spends time during Ramadan

Over 86 percent of Facebook’s 172 million monthly active users in the Middle East and North Africa celebrate Ramadan.

Users not only share their own Ramadan experiences with friends and relatives, but also connect over common passions and goals to do good.

During Ramadan, Facebook usage grows by 14.8 percent across the MENA region, and surges to a 36.9 percent increase in usage at night. This translates into an extra 57.6 million hours that MENA users spend on Facebook.

With growing spends on food and household items, lifestyle products, clothing, as well as gifts particularly in the week before Eid – brands need to increase visibility to effectively leverage this heightened online consumption.

To do this, they need to understand when they’re audiences are most active online. Ramadan tradition largely influences lifestyle in the region, and subsequently on online purchasing activity – with most activity taking place after consumers break their fast.

During Ramadan, the window of opportunity widens for brands to capture the attention of a massive audience and create meaningful connections. There is an average increase of 35.8 percent in e-commerce activity in the region during Ramadan, with night time use increasing by 78 percent.

Mobile phone adoption has transformed shopping experiences for users and during Ramadan we see a 43.2 percent increase in mobile-commerce when compared to a 5.5 percent increase in desktop activity during the Holy Month.

Brands can now directly engage with customers, leveraging the latest in technology and applications to reach the right audience, optimise their purchase journey and truly reinvent how people buy online.

Social brands know how to discover audiences at moments that matter

Brand loyalties switch rapidly during Ramadan as well: you’re only as good as your promotion.

A study by YouGov last year across UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt showed that while 53 percent of consumers spend more during Ramadan, a large part of the respondents claimed they would buy from brands with the best offers.

To drive both brand awareness and engagement while fighting strong competition in the same space, smart brands no longer wait to act on intent signals; they create them.

We know that there are key phases of brand activity around Ramadan across 9 weeks, with the first phase focused on discovery and inspiration for four weeks leading to the Holy Month.

Fashion brands for example, push out dedicated Ramadan collections to influence clothing purchases, which are about 1.63 times more likely to be planned than impulse buys in the UAE. The next phase – which lasts about 3-4 weeks – is mobile engagement, with brands creating mobile-first content to reach over 169 million monthly active mobile users in the Middle East and North Africa.

Finally, the last phase begins a week before Eid, and is centered around last-minute gifting, and an increase in engagement with content related to planning travel.

During Ramadan last year, Splash – part of the Middle East fashion retailer Landmark Group – leveraged Facebook to promote its Ramadan collection, driving acquisition and re-engagement campaigns to drive sales.

This resulted in a 75% increase in sales during Ramadan, with an 80% increase in conversion rates, yielding 15% higher return on ad spend.

Create content which drives business results

This means that brands need to engage with their audiences at the right time, understanding their intent and purchase needs. In a mobile-first world, brands need to build strategies for mobile.

Whether static or video, visual content is immersive when done well, and builds talkability and trust in a brand, driving customer interest. With personalised touchpoints that resonate with audiences, brands across fashion, beauty, technology and dining can create dialogue with consumers, leading to purchase.

To make the most of the increased time spent online during Ramadan, video content for mobile audiences will unlock several opportunities.

Regional marketers also have access to a suite of video products across Facebook and Instagram including Stories, Canvas and 360; as well as performance products like Collection or Dynamic, Link and Lead ads – all of which can help brands achieve their Ramadan objectives with measurable results.

The opportunity to create powerful, creative stories, ultimately allows brands across the region to share in people’s Ramadan experiences and become an important part of moments that matter at one of the most important times in the region’s calendar.

Shant Oknayan is Regional Head of e-Commerce, Retail and Online Services at Facebook MENA & Pakistan

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