Study finds substantial increase in mobile commerce in the Middle East, Africa during Ramadan

Dirk Henke, managing director for Emerging Markets at Criteo
Dirk Henke, managing director for Emerging Markets at Criteo
Criteo’s recent report on online retail and travel industries across the Middle East and Africa region shed light on the increasing importance of mobile commerce for retailers during last year's Ramadan.

The study revealed that mobile was the preferred device throughout the Ramadan period, with spending increasing from 44 percent two weeks before Ramadan to 49 percent by the last week, and 57 percent during Eid al-Fitr.

It also found an increase in online purchases during the evening. Twice as much traffic than usual was recorded, including a significant increase in sales transactions with 16 percent more transactions taking place at night in comparison to a normal week. In addition, the study showed e-commerce activity on Fridays were only slightly below other days of the week, but mobile usage reached its peak.

“Ramadan is definitely not a dedicated shopping period, but we have witnessed a dramatic change in consumers shopping behavior during the month,” Dirk Henke, managing director for emerging markets at Criteo, told Gulf News Journal. “Last Ramadan, e-commerce in the region witnessed a 15 percent growth in the retail sector, and a significant 35 percent growth in the travel sector. Retailers who understand their consumers’ needs and interests can leverage this season by making relevant offers. There is huge potential for e-commerce companies to further boost sales during this period.”

For this report, Criteo, a Paris-based personalized performance marketing company, analyzed close to 3 million transactions from more than 35 retailers based in the Middle East and Northern Africa region (Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt, Kuwait, Morocco and Qatar) on their desktop, smartphone and tablet usage. The findings and recommendations are based mainly on data analyzed for Q2 and Q3 2015, particularly for June and July.

There are, Henke said, several reasons why there is a substantial increase in mobile spending during Ramadan.

Retail sales increase and travel bookings soar as consumers plan to spend their Eid holidays with friends and family. With such a large number of customers vacationing and visiting family and loved ones during the holy month, they increasingly turn to mobile for shopping and travel arrangements.

Also, during Ramadan, people tend to spend longer hours awake at night and in their homes, which creates an opportunity to capture after-hours sales. The three days of Eid after Ramadan are a time for feasting and family. Sales dwindle overall, but the mobile share of sales rises and peaks during this time as individuals do not spend a significant amount of time in their homes.

Though the findings were not broken down by countries, the countries observed for this report stand out in terms of mobile share of all digital sales.

“The global average mobile share is at 35 percent, whereas the region’s average is 38 percent, according to our regular Criteo State of Mobile Commerce Report,” Henke said. “Mobile may play a very special role during Ramadan, but it is also a major purchasing channel throughout the year in the region. For this reason, the findings apply to all the mentioned markets we observed in a very comparable way.”

As per the report, not all verticals were affected during Ramadan, and some categories were more in the focus than others. For example, the fashion industry benefited a lot since the beginning of Ramadan, as consumers purchase new clothes for their children at that time. And the travel sector witnessed an increase in bookings throughout Ramadan, but the user interest for different categories changed.

Based on the findings, Criteo has made strategic recommendations to e-commerce companies to ensure their marketing campaigns are predominantly mobile focused as consumer behavior changes during Ramadan; to intensify commercial offers to accompany traffic growth and convert them into sales; and to capitalize on the fact that shoppers are more active on their mobile devices at night and target them accordingly.

It also instructs online travel agents to bear in mind that individuals are still going on holiday after Ramadan and they should continue their online marketing campaigns in the weeks that follow as they will still be effective.

“Any change in consumer behavior is important information for retailers and travel providers, as they can adapt their e-commerce and marketing strategies accordingly in order to reap the best results,” Henke said. “With this study, Criteo provides insights into a dramatic shift in shopping behavior during Ramadan, thus helping companies to have access to the right information and consumer data, and adapt their strategies and marketing budget increases.”

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