M&C Saatchi's Anish Daryani outlines how the month of Ramadan has changed this year and offers some key behavioural insights to help brands navigate.

The dark shadow of a pandemic engulfs this year’s Ramadan season, as people struggle to adapt to a new way of life at blinding pace. The rituals of the religious season, that haven’t changed for centuries, are now being challenged. This has led to consumers behaving in unfamiliar ways, and decisions being made based on previously unknown parameters. Small wonder, that businesses are at a loss with understanding these changes, let alone coping with them.

The team at M&C Saatchi Indonesia recently released a whitepaper called “An Unfamiliar Prayer” that highlights 10 behavioural insights and strategies for 10 categories, to help brands in Indonesia win in Ramadan 2020, despite the pandemic. [To read the whitepaper in full, click here]

The report is a culmination of insights arising from a series of primary studies (behavioural observations and depth interviews), followed by secondary studies using data analytics, social listening, desk research and media resources from the Government of the Republic of Indonesia. It segments the Ramadan season into separate phases, with suggestions on when it might be best for these categories to be active.

And we have used each of these insights to create revenue-generating ideas for brands across 10 categories – FMCG, retail, fashion, HORECA (food service and hotel industries), fintech, e-commerce, travel, telecom, beauty and consumer electronics. 

Though the study is Indonesia-centric, many of the learnings can be useful for other Islamic countries as well. The following behaviour changes are being observed during this year’s fasting month:

1) A different Ramadan: Importance of Ramadan in Indonesia cannot be overstated, with 30% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) being generated during the season. The impact of COVID-19 on business, economy, occupations, earnings and social psychology is paramount, as “rituals become virtual”.

2) Ramadan without mudik (mass exodus): Social restrictions, and a ban on mudik, has led to a new travel season, which travel businesses need to adapt to and benefit from. As people adopt means of creating virtual proximity using video calls, there will, in fact, be not one but two exoduses. First, as soon as travel restrictions are lifted. And secondly, in December 2020, as the Indonesian government has moved the Ramadan holidays to the end of the year.

3) Innovation in zakat (charity): As physical zakat ceases to be an option, new ways of doing zakat have emerged. There are also new emerging causes that people want to support, which fintech companies stand to gain from. Faith has found a way of “outsmarting” the pandemic.

4) Ramadan without Tunjangan Hari Raya (Eid Holiday Bonus): With many businesses facing adverse effects of the pandemic, there will be little or no festive bonus for people, further worsened by the impact of loss of livelihood for many. People are now prioritising necessities. Less is more, as they seek value in non-material things like love, emotion and devotion.

5) Shalat (prayers) goes indoors: Restrictions on mass gatherings have led to a new trend of praying at home. “Home is the new masjid (mosque)” and people make changes to their abode to make it look and feel more like one.

6) Time becomes more valuable: Ramadan is a period where a lot of time gets wasted, with people wading through morning and afternoon traffic, planning for Iftar engagements and indulging in ngabuburit (activities done while waiting for iftar, the breaking of fast). But being forced to stay home, this takes a whole new meaning with people making better use of their time, attending webinars and undertaking online courses. This is also an occasion for brands to connect and engage with them, as “time is invested, not wasted”.

7) Different shopper behaviours: Ramadan shopping has taken a whole new meaning, where social gifting has become an obligation. This reflects how online marketplaces come of age, and traditional retail has become omnichannel.

8) New gifting behaviours: As people can’t be physically present to greet their families, they are overcompensating by sending gifts. For the first time ever, healthcare brands have now come into the consideration set of preferred gifts. Ecommerce platforms and logistics companies have become enablers to help people meet this end.

9) New media habits: As people are forced to stay home, TV becomes the lead medium, as it plays in the background, all day long. However, people are watching TV passively. They are listening more intently instead. Hence, “TV is the new radio” and brands should adapt their communication assets to ensure the audio aspects of their TV commercials work harder.

10) New work habits: As people are working from home, they become more productive and efficient. The time saved helps them become creative, giving brands an opportunity to help them in being so.