Personalisation, Digitisation, and Continuous Commerce: How Are APAC Marketers Approaching Ramadan?

Mar. 15, 2024
  • Reportage
  • HILL

Originally published on Little Black Book

Industry leaders Ajay Tawde (Ogilvy Indonesia), Syahriza Badron (FCB SHOUT, Malaysia), and Tomoka Takada (HAKUHODO, Thailand) break down the personalised strategies being employed during Ramadan

Across the world, Muslims have been eagerly anticipating the arrival of Ramadan, a sacred month of fasting, prayer, and reflection.

Ramadan, also known as Ramzan, holds immense significance for Muslims worldwide, marking the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. During Ramadan, observers abstain from food, drink, and other physical needs from dawn until sunset, focusing on spiritual growth, prayer, and acts of charity. Observance of Ramadan varies across the Asia Pacific region, with diverse cultural practices and traditions enriching the experience.

Ramadan presents a significant opportunity for businesses and advertisers to connect with Muslim consumers and communities. The month-long observance sees a surge in consumer spending, particularly in the food, clothing, and hospitality sectors.

In recent years, the digitalisation of Ramadan has transformed how Muslims engage with the holy month. Social media platforms are abuzz with Ramadan greetings, virtual iftars, and charitable initiatives, amplifying the spirit of unity and solidarity.

Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country, is home to some of the world’s largest Ramadan celebrations. According to Ajay Tawde, head of experience at Ogilvy Indonesia, Ramadan in the archipelago presents significant cultural nuances that make it a unique experience.

Mudik (home-coming) is a mass migration of Indonesians travelling to their hometown for Eid, and the Indonesian government estimates 27 million private cars and 25 million motorcycles are used during this period.

“When it comes to Ramadan marketing in Indonesia, this year, personalisation is no longer a nice-to-have; it’s an expectation,” Ajay says.

“As the experience of Ramadan changes from the start of the holy month until the end, so must personalisation strategies. Brands in Indonesia who have invested in centralised data platforms will have the power to carry out strategic and data based audience segmentations.”

During Ramadan, there’s a significant shift in meal patterns, and Ajay believes personalised data can be a major strength for food and beverage companies.

“Brands can use data and personalisation strategies to understand these changing consumption habits and personalise their offerings,” he says.

“People might appreciate personalised emails or Whatsapp messages with easy-to-cook Iftar recipes, or special offers on family meal deals.”

“Beauty, wellness and fashion brands can also leverage data analytics to understand the surge in specific product categories during Ramadan. For example, brands can create Ramadan-specific style guides or lookbooks and offer them via brand-owned digital channels in exchange for sign-ups.”

Ajay also suggests that with changes in web usage behaviour and late-night shopping during Ramadan, electronics and white goods brands can cater to unique needs and interests by hosting live shopping streams with tech guide hosts.

However, Ramadan celebrations could look very different next door in Malaysia. According to FCB SHOUT general manager Syahriza Badron, Malaysia is facing a pivotal moment in culture as residents grapple with inflationary pressure, tax hikes, and soaring living costs leaving them “less enthusiastic” about festive celebrations.

“Spreading positivity is at the heart of our work!” Syahriza says.

“During the festive season, we collaborate with celebrities and influencers to craft star-studded music videos filled with catchy melodies. To amp up the fun, we are focusing our efforts on curating engaging festive games with irresistible rewards.”

Syahriza also notes a digital trend in Ramadan advertising. Although many campaigns are yet to launch officially, the personalisation of data gives marketers an opportunity to be more relevant to consumers than ever before.

As Ajay puts it, “In 2024, the bottom funnel no longer exists. To get the most out of Ramadan, brands must adopt a continuous commerce approach — creating meaningful and relevant content that is personalised, and enables consumers to enhance their festive experience further.”

And it’s not just marketers saying this.

A report recently published by Japanese agency HAKUHODO, ‘Ramadan and ASEAN Muslim gen z Sei-katsu-sha’, found that gen z Muslims in Malaysia and Indonesia are unique in their way of practising their own faith.

“Digitalisation and the arrival of social media has enabled them to explore the teachings and practices of real-life Muslims around the globe and different types of religious teachers,” says Tomoka Takada, regional strategic planning director at the Hakuhodo Institute of Life and Living ASEAN (HILL ASEAN).

“Regardless of the activeness of their daily religious actions, a relatively high percentage of young Muslims see the month of Ramadan as the best season for them to revisit their own faith.”

According to the study, 51.4% of Malaysian respondents said they try to strengthen their bond with Allah during Ramadan. This number was 79.2% in Indonesia.

However the study also found that during the month, young Muslims spend time doing religious actions such as fasting and self-growth-related activities. These included things like learning new skills, or keeping a journal.

“For the Muslim gen zers in Malaysia and Indonesia, Ramadan is the month when they revisit both their faith and their own selves,” Tomoka says.

Each region has cultural nuances and traditions that influence consumer behaviour and preferences. During Ramadan, brands must take the time to understand and adapt to these to effectively engage with consumers, and drive success in local markets.

The Indonesian government estimates that 2% of its total GDP will be derived from Ramadan-related spending in 2024, proving just how vital it is for marketers to better understand the festivities.

Ramadan is clearly a personal time of the year for its observers, and therefore there’s a greater onus on marketers to meet audiences where they are. To that end, relevance and digital personalisation are some of the most powerful tools available.

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