The sacred month of Ramadan brings many changes to both the routines of Muslims and also to Muslim-focused businesses. The changes in lifestyle and preparations needed for Eid al-Fitr means lots of planning – both for the celebrations and changes to routines and for the Ramadan campaigns that need to be run. In 2021, Ramadan starts on 13th April and ends on 14th May. Hari Raya Eid al-Fitr* will be taking place on 13th May 2021. This period tends to be the busiest and most lucrative period for brands that primarily target Muslim demographics in Southeast Asia – particularly Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore.
*Eid al-Fitr is known locally in Singapore and Malaysia as Hari Raya Aidilfitri or Hari Raya Puasa. In Indonesia it is known locally as Lebaran. We’ll be referring to the celebration as Hari Raya in this article.
However, 2021 brings a unique environment for Ramadan and Hari Raya celebrations. With the need for social distancing, different countries are at varying stages of keeping the virus in check and have different levels of restrictions on travel and visiting within each country. Knowing this will be the difference between promoting the right or wrong products in your target country. With this in mind, it helps to keep up with Ramadan eCommerce insights in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, now powered with data from meta-search website, iPrice.
During the height of the pandemic in 2020, social distancing measures in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore were in full force. Mosques were closed during Ramadan, house visits were limited while in many places brick-and-mortar stores were closed while physical bazaars were cancelled. The result led to more people turning to online channels in 2020, even having Hari Raya reunion dinners virtually over online platforms like Zoom.
More Platforms and Brands targeting Muslims Rose in 2020, and are ready for more action in 2021
New platforms and stores like Kedai Sujimy, SoukAsia and Choket.my which specialised in products targeted at Muslim demographics began appearing and growing during this period. Bazaars such as Singapore’s annual Geylang Serai bazaar also had to move online.
Many found themselves shopping online for the first time, and the habit stayed with them until today. Google and Temasek’s e-Conomy Southeast Asia report found that Southeast Asia had added 40 million new users in 2020 alone.1 For instance, some of them now keep an eye out for livestream selling on Facebook, particularly live auctions of products like fashion on local stores, like Princess Fashion SG.2
Ramadan Shoppers in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore are mobile first, and are likely to shop both online and offline in 2021
Now with the vaccine rollouts in 2021 along with progress on containing the virus’ spread, certain social distancing measures remain but at a lower level compared to last year. People are now allowed to visit other households again and shop at physical locations, albeit with some limitations.
In Singapore, households can only accept a maximum of 8 people a day. In Malaysia, interstate travel being reinstated is subject to the current case-load, but visits to friends and family within the same state is still allowed.3 In Indonesia, people are able to visit friends and family within the same state, but are not allowed to travel interstate.4 Mosques are open again for tarawih prayers in all 3 countries, but each of them has safe-distancing measures in place.
2021 will see a combination of both offline and online sales with brick-and-mortar stores being allowed to reopen as well as there being the possibility of physical bazaars returning to all three countries. Singapore’s Geylang Serai bazaar, one of the largest and most popular Ramadan bazaars, has been cancelled again. On the other hand, smaller scale Ramadan bazaars are being planned in Singapore. As of the time of writing, both Malaysian and Indonesian governments are weighing the situation and considering if physical bazaars should be allowed this year.
Shoppers can get most of their Ramadan essentials from these shops and bazaars, from food and dates right down to new clothes for the whole family. On the other hand, with the need for some bazaars to move online as well as consistent spikes in online orders that Janio has seen even in 2019, online channels will still see plenty of action in 2021’s Ramadan.
If you are targeting Ramadan shoppers this year, making your site or app mobile friendly is a must. More than 9 in 10 Indonesian shoppers shop online via their smartphones, while the figure is nearly 8 in 10 in Malaysia and more than 6 in 10 in Singapore.
Ramadan Shopping and Promotions Begin Two Weeks Before Ramadan, and Peak 1 – 2 Weeks before Hari Raya
Source: Think With Google 20195
Experienced merchants begin running Ramadan promotions two weeks before Ramadan begins. Muslims begin preparing for the Ramadan month by purchasing supplies like dates before the fasting begins. Dates are eaten to break their fast in the evenings before their meals and prayers and they tend to be bought in bulk before the month begins or early in Ramadan.
Ramadan sales figures tend to peak 1 – 2 weeks before Hari Raya itself for a number of reasons. Lisa Widodo, Senior Vice President of Operations and Senior Vice President of Product Management at Indonesian online marketplace Blibli, shared that transaction volumes rise approaching Hari Raya, particularly in the third week of Ramadan.
In Indonesia and in some Malaysian companies, annual bonuses to staff are paid out around the Ramadan month, with the latest being 1 week before Hari Raya begins. In Indonesia, this payout is known as Tunjangan Hari Raya. Lisa also mentioned that once people receive their Hari Raya bonuses, they spend it on stocking up groceries and fashion items in preparation for Raya celebrations.
Another reason for the sales’ peak timing is because of logistics. Many want to ensure that their products arrive in time for Hari Raya, and both the customers and merchants will have cut-off timings for when they’ll make their purchases to give the deliveries enough time to reach their destinations.
Ramadan Online Shopping Happens during Sahur, Lunch and After Breaking Fast (Iftar)
Muslims’ daily routines change during Ramadan. They wake up earlier at 3 am for sahur prayers and their first meal of the day. In Indonesia, there are some special television programmes designed to help people keep awake during those times.
The infographic above, based on 2019 and 2020 app and site visits data provided by iPrice, also shows some Malaysians and Indonesians also choose to shop online to pass the time before work. Another thing to note from iPrice’s provided data is that there is higher online shopping activity in all three countries in 2020 relative to 2019, shown by the higher peaks in 2020 on the graphs.
In Indonesia and Malaysia, work hours tend to be shorter as Muslims during this period don’t eat lunch and need to return home sooner to prepare to break their fasts. In place of lunch is a short break period, usually lasting 30 minutes. In all three countries, the first major daily shopping peak happens during the lunch period of 11 AM to 3PM.
In the evenings, they have their iftar prayers and break their fasts. As they are resting after their fasts, some will even shop online, as seen in the peaks which are even higher than the lunch peaks.
These timings can be noted down to help optimise your paid campaigns on platforms like Google, Facebook and the like.
Methodology: Data featured in this list were obtained by aggregating thousands of product pages from hundreds of online merchants through https://iprice.my/; https://iprice.co.id/; https://iprice.co.sg/. Data on the increase in searches were analyzed by comparing the impressions during pre-Ramadan period (23 March – 22 April 2020) with Ramadan period (23 April – 23 May 2020).
Ramadan celebrations in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore have many similarities, although there are some slight differences that affect the type of items they purchase during Ramadan.
Wearing new clothes on the first day of Hari Raya is a cultural tradition for Muslims, whether or not visits are taking place. This can be seen with fashion items appearing among the top searched products in all three countries shown above – such as Kurta (men’s top), Baju Melayu (male traditional wear), Jilbab (long and loose outer garment for women) and Chino pants among others. Apart from modest wear itself, prayer accessories such as sejadah (prayer mats) and telekung (prayer wear) are also in high demand during the Ramadan period.
Depending on the family structure, mothers tend to be key decision makers for most of the Ramadan-related purchases – clothes included. This can result in her looking for stores that offer clothing for all family members all in one place. With one person making the purchases, some families tend to coordinate their clothing for house visits, wearing similar patterns and colours. While this doesn’t apply to all families celebrating Hari Raya, this does tend to occur in all three countries. Other families could agree on a theme before different family members set off to buy their own clothes.
Modest wear is also a trend that is still going strong in Southeast Asia. Modest wear is a fashion style that allows Muslimahs, younger Muslims who wish to express themselves more while adhering to their faith, to express themselves while adhering to their faith’s requirements to be modest.
When it comes to fashion, Indonesians love experimenting with colours and don’t have a defined traditional look as Indonesia is made up of diverse cultures. When it comes to fashion, they take cues from influencers which includes online personalities, famous actors and actresses to religious leaders.6
Regarding the styles that appeal to Indonesians and Malaysia, Anastasia Gretti Schender modest wear brand HIJUP’s Head of Online Marketing and PR mentions that they have different preferences. She says that women in Indonesia prefer gamis and abaya which are easily mixed with a square hijab or pashmina, while women in Malaysia prefer Baju Kurung paired with pashmina.
She adds that while each country has different tastes, similar trends can be seen in colours, materials, details and so on. HIJUP’s prediction that one of the trends is increased awareness of sustainability and environmental issues underpins their launch of their INFREENITY which is made from natural fibres.
Prior to the pandemic, offline locations like bazaars and brick-and-mortar stores were popular places for Hari Raya clothes shopping. Since the pandemic hit, many have gone online to make their Ramadan preparation purchases. Since then, the habit has stuck for many who had previously had no experience with online shopping, with some even looking out for livestream sales or live auctions of fashion products via outlets like Facebook Live.
Modest fashion brands tend to be split into mass-market, local brands and premium brands, with those with higher incomes preferring premium brands. Premium brands include well-known international brands that have expanded to include modest wear such as Zara, Hugo Boss, Uniqlo, and the like. Certain local brands have also entered the mid to premium segment such as FashionValet from Malaysia, Sociolla, Hijup and the like. There also tend to be more options for female fashion compared to men’s fashion.
If you’re currently planning your Ramadan campaign, consider that some of your shoppers could be looking for a one-stop-shop with their whole family in mind. Some of your promotions could bundle multiple sizes as well as matching colours together to further encourage buying for the whole family from your store. These decision-makers are also more active on social media like Facebook and are on the lookout for good deals, so investing in a paid social media presence can go a long way for your store in these three countries.
Similar to fashion, skincare and cosmetics are also hot items among Muslims during Ramadan and Hari Raya periods. From Google Trends data, interest in cosmetics and skincare in 2020 began recovering in the weeks leading up to Hari Raya in Indonesia,7 Malaysia,8 and Singapore.9 Think With Google also reports that searches for beauty tutorials grows in the months leading up to Ramadan, which could mean room for teaming up with local beauty influencers.10
Another trend worth noting is that in Indonesia and Malaysia which have needed to instil stricter lockdown measures for longer, interest in skincare is growing while interest in cosmetics is beginning to reduce compared to 2019 levels for both. In Sirclo’s report, skincare and body care were some of the top performing categories in Indonesia.11 An iPrice report also found that toners, face masks and serums had higher search volume in 2020 compared to 2019.12
Halal cosmetics and skincare are big winners during this period. Homegrown brands like dUCk Cosmetics from Malaysia and Indonesia’s Wardah see more attention while marketplaces like Sephora push halal brands.
Muslimahs want to ensure their religious principles are respected and reflect these in their product choices. Halal certified brands and brands that are built around a halal identity like Wardah perform well in this regard. To further appeal to this segment, some brands also push ethical traits like cruelty-free, vegan and organic according to Cosmetics Design Asia13.
Health supplements such as vitamin C saw massive demand during Ramadan in 2020. As Ramadan that year was close to the height of the coronavirus pandemic, products that boosted one’s immunity were high on everyone’s minds.
With the vaccine roll-out currently happening and restrictions beginning to loosen, it does not seem likely that health supplement sales will reach similar levels in 2021’s Ramadan periods compared to 2020 from what can be gathered from Google Trend reports for Singapore,14 Malaysia,15 and Indonesia.16 On the other hand, with the sustained need to stay safe, health supplement demand is likely to remain higher than pre-pandemic levels.
With visits to a certain extent being allowed in all three countries, preparing one’s home for visitors will be higher on families’ agendas in 2021 compared to the year before. In line with the theme of renewal, some families who are house proud will add new furnishings to their homes in addition to their spring cleaning.17 Usual home and living products that are bought can include pillow cases, curtains, furniture, table cloths and the like. Green is a popular colour for these products, signifying peace and tranquility.
There were a few large ticket items among the most searched items in 2020 from iPrice’s data, such as air fryers, mixing bowls, massage chairs, air conditioners, refrigerators and ovens. There currently isn’t a strong indication how much of this is linked to Ramadan 2020 coinciding with lockdowns in all three countries or whether these types of products will still see high demand in 2021.
iPrice’s data shows that ‘date fruit’ and ‘chocolate’ were among the top searched products in Indonesia in 2020. Packaged food items such as dates and confectionaries are also important for families preparing for Ramadan and Hari Raya in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. Dates are eaten to break their fasts each day, and tend to be stocked up at least one or two weeks before Ramadan begins each year. Some families also purchase dates via cross-border eCommerce too. Confectionaries like cookies and the like are stocked up closer to Hari Raya itself.
In Malaysia and Indonesia, many families who have gone to cities to work will return en masse to their hometowns to visit their parents and extended family during the Raya holidays. This is known in Malaysia as ‘balik kampung’ (returning to one’s hometown/ village) and ‘mudik’ in Indonesia. These trips tend to be long and families tend to prepare by buying items that make the journey easier, such as getting baby chairs, sleeping bags, and more.
While the government of Indonesia has barred interstate travel again for 2021’s Ramadan,18 the government of Malaysia is monitoring the situation to see if it’s safe enough to allow interstate travel in time for 2021’s balik kampung. If the situation permits, Malaysia could see a rise in these travel items in time for Raya this year.19
Indonesia also tends to see increases in demand for consumer electronics and toys and games during the Ramadan period. This likely has to do with annual bonus payouts that coincide with Ramadan in Indonesia known as ‘Tunjangan Hari Raya.’
Think With Google’s 2018 report showed a spike In search volume for terms like ‘laptop gaming’ and smartphone terbaik 2018’ in Indonesia. In addition to this, Indonesian families also tend to reward their children with toys and games during this period, in some cases as a reward for a child successfully completing their first fasting. Toys and games in this case can include construction sets, dolls, board games, computer games and the like.
Deliveries during Ramadan and Raya undergo a unique set of challenges compared to other periods, particularly in Indonesia and Malaysia. During Ramadan itself, working hours are shorter for most staff in addition to traffic jams that occur in the early evening as people leave work earlier.
Closer to Hari Raya itself, spikes in order volumes could cause problems for logistics partners who aren’t prepared. Deliveries will also stop during the first two days of the Hari Raya holiday itself. There are also cargo truck restrictions around 3 days before and after Raya to minimise traffic accidents for those going and returning to their hometowns – although this might be less of an issue in 2021 if interstate travel is still banned.
Cash on delivery is still an important payment method in Southeast Asia, particularly in Indonesia and Malaysia. This is the preferred method of payment for 11 percent20 and 14 per cent21 of transactions in Malaysia and Indonesia respectively. Some shoppers prefer this method of payment as they lack standard payment facilities or that they are wary of fraud and want to see the parcel arrive before finalising the payment. Working with a logistics provider who can help you facilitate cash on delivery across Southeast Asia can help you reach this audience.
These challenges aren’t without solutions though. You can solve these by working with experienced eCommerce logistics and last mile partners like Janio who pre-empt the level of manpower needed to maintain delivery timings and capacity during the Ramadan month whether your customers are in Indonesia, Malaysia, or Singapore.
In addition to providing cash on delivery services, we will also keep you in the loop if additional buffer times are required for deliveries to help you manage the expectations of your customers to help ensure that you can provide your shoppers with the Ramadan eCommerce experience they’ll love.
You can also get a more in-depth look at logistics challenges and their solutions for each of the countries below:
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