This year, Ramadan will begin on Sunday, May 5th — a full 10 days before last year. Eid al-Fitr celebrations will begin on June 15th. These dates also mark a special season for advertisers, because online retail sales and travel bookings rise significantly as consumers buy gifts and make plans with family and friends.
At Criteo, we partner with over 18,000 customers and thousands of publishers, offering insights into how 1.9 billion active monthly shoppers search, browse, and buy. We analyzed a massive amount of data to understand how consumer behavior changes through the holy month in the Middle East, including United Arab Emirates and The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Southeast Asia.
Here are the top Ramadan marketing trends every advertiser should prepare for.
Travel Bookings Increase During Ramadan
Travel seems to vary by region during Ramadan, but the single commonality we can expect across the board is an increase, the only difference is in when this happens.
Travel in Turkey
Source: Indexed values based on average sales and traffic in April 2018. Criteo Data. All travel, Turkey.
In Turkey, we see a continuous uptick in traffic to travel websites during the holiday. Last year, traffic increased by up to 69% in the weeks after Eid al-Fitr and bookings also surged, increasing by up to 26%. While bookings return to the baseline after Ramadan, traffic remains high going into the summer months. Brands invested in the travel industry should plan to maintain strong advertising strategies before, throughout and after Ramadan, so they can capture the most interest and bookings before summertime.
Much like our findings in Turkey, many who observe Ramadan in Southeast Asia will travel during the holiday period. We see a continuous uplift in traffic to travel sites, increasing by up to 50% in the week after Eid al-Fitr. This later surge in bookings lasts for 2 weeks, rising by up to 13%.
In the Middle East, most bookings happen after Ramadan. During this period, we saw an increase by up to 51% in traffic to travel sites. In 2018, travel bookings remained at or above +35% in the final 10 days of Ramadan. Though consumer activity dropped during Eid al-Fitr itself, we saw traffic spike up to +105%, and bookings rose up to +63% in the days after. Travel players should plan to maintain strong advertising strategies throughout Ramadan so they can capture the most traveler interest and bookings in the weeks following.
Retail Sales Rise During Ramadan
In the Middle East, online retail sales start increasing early. In 2018, Ramadan sales started to surge even earlier than the year prior, nearly 3 weeks (20 days) before Ramadan began. Sales rose 106% by the second week of Ramadan anddropped back to the baseline as Eid al-Fitr approached.
Retail in the Middle East
Source: Indexed values based on average sales and traffic in April 2018. Criteo Data. All retail, Middle East.
In 2017, sales started to rise 8 days prior to the start of Ramadan and remained high for nearly 2 weeks, peaking at +88%.
The conversion rate in 2018 had a similar rise, spiking up to +35% a week before Eid al-Fitr. It surged again to +41% a day later. At their peak, average order values increased by up to 14%.
Last year, in Turkey, the increase in online retail sales began with a 20% surge a week before Ramadan. Sales gradually increased during Ramadan, reaching a high of +50% a week before Eid al-Fitr. Consumer activity slowed at the start and end of the period, with sales and traffic dropping by up to 49% during Eid al-Fitr.
Southeast Asia wasn’t much different: The surge in online retail sales and traffic began 10 days into Ramadan and lasted through the 10 days before Eid al-Fitr.
Retail in Southeast Asia
Source: Indexed values based on average sales and traffic in April 2018. Criteo Data. All retail, Southeast Asia (Indonesia and Malaysia)
Most surprisingly, in all regions, we found a reinvigorated shopper interest and activity in the 1 to 2 weeks following Eid al-Fitr. While people may be more focused on celebrations with family and friends during Ramadan, in the weeks following we see a see an enthusiasm to shop.
Given the highest uplift in sales happens 1 to 2 weeks before Eid al-Fitr, we found that shoppers start browsing and buying throughout the build-up to Ramadan. This trend is key for advertisers who are looking to find the opportune time for campaign launches to ensure the best visibility.
Sales seem to spike pre-holiday, but conversion rates are highest in the second half of Ramadan. If you’re an advertiser, make sure your strategy is in market well in advance of the celebrations and maintains consistency throughout the weeks after.
Mobile Shopping During Ramadan
Mobile is no longer a phenomenon; it’s a primary channel when it comes to shopping and travel, particularly during seasonal periods. Last year, mobile sales and bookings shot through the roof across the Middle East, Turkey, and Southeast Asia.
Mobile in the Middle East
Source: Weekly share of mobile sales in 2018. Criteo Data. All retail, Middle East.
Mobile appears to be a growing channel for travel bookings for the Middle East during Ramadan. The weekly mobile share in bookings steadily increased and surged to 47% during Eid al-Fitr. The mobile share of bookings stayed at 45% and above for the 2two weeks after as well.
During Ramadan, when mobile usage increases, apps have helped to drive sales. In step with the surge in retail sales during Ramadan, we saw in-app sales grow by up to 79% in the Middle East in 2018. The largest spike indicates that consumers may be moved to buy within apps when they provide an easy, convenient shopping experience.
In Turkey, sales grew during Ramadan last year, with the weekly mobile share in sales climbing to 29% during Eid al-Fitr. We even saw a surge in mobile share 2 weeks prior to Ramadan. Mobile travel bookings grew in Turkey last year as well – the weekly mobile share steadily increased and surged to +57% on Eid al-Fitr.
During Ramadan, we see higher surges in mobile web sales. If you’re a brand or retailer, don’t forget to optimize your mobile presence — easy-to-navigate pages and a seamless checkout experience can make all the difference. It’s also essential to optimize your mobile experience during the run up to Ramadan.
Shoppers are willing to use apps when available. Make sure yours delivers a frictionless user experience. Similar to mobile web, product pages that load quickly and easy checkout are 2 key elements that can help drive in-app sales.
Top Tips for the Run-Up to Ramadan
Retailers and travel players should keep these trends top of mind to get the most out of their advertising efforts during Ramadan. Here are a few tips to see the biggest ROI on a global scale.
Start a couple of weeks before Ramadan begins – Ramp up your advertising campaigns early during Ramadan and increase your efforts in the days leading up to Eid al-Fitr.
Optimize your mobile site and app – Creating convenient app and mobile web experiences will help you maintain strong sales during the Ramadan weekends.
Continue beyond the end of Ramadan – Keep your shopping campaigns strong throughout the weeks following Eid al-Fitr to capture maximum retail sales and travel bookings.