Advance planning is always a wise policy to pursue. With Ramadan round the corner, it’s essential for all brands to put things together not just to provide customers with a more fulfilling Ramadan experience, but also to build a stronger connection with them for the times to come. Google research reveals interesting trends that one can keep in consideration while designing customer engagement strategies around the biggest festive season in the region. Searches for recipes spike 50% higher than the annual average, especially at the start of the month. Watch time on YouTube for cooking videos starts to increase steadily a month before the start of Ramadan, and peaks at almost 30% higher than average in the first week of Ramadan.
One of the interesting findings from Google data was that during last Ramadan, people in Saudi Arabia searching for iftar recipes also searched for ‘brownies’ and not just ‘kanafeh’, meat or iftar. Maggi Diaries, for instance, is a brilliant example of how a brand capitalised on the increase in a specific interest, and delivered content that resulted in 12 million+ views, 10X increase in subscriptions to Maggi’s YouTube channel and 39% increase in VTR. Restaurant searches related to traditional iftar and suhoor meals also increase drastically during this time. In previous years, Google has witnessed strong spikes even on an hourly basis. The busiest search times are usually between 6 PM and 8 PM - just around iftar time to breakfast. The heightened activity continues well after midnight, until around 2 AM as suhoor concludes.
The holy season also sees an increase in searches related to faith and religion, even in terms of music and films. Queries for religious music, for example, increases by 2030% in the first few and last few days of Ramadan. Google data showed that in addition to iftar and religious music, the popularity of animated movies also went up significantly, implying parents’ keenness to entertain their kids.
The popularity of video continues to grow in the MENA region. During Ramadan, people seem to spend even more time watching longer videos and engaging more with the content. In fact, average view duration increased by 11%, users’ subscription increased 13%, and comment rates jumped 57% during Ramadan compared to the rest of the year in 2016, according to Google data. It was further observed that viewing habits and activities that start during Ramadan became sustained user behaviour for the next three-four months - basically, through the end of the year, and that’s something for brands to keep in mind. The top three food videos during Ramadan 2016 were around desserts and baking.
The watch time for TV drama series saw a rise of 151% in Ramadan. Another interesting spike was seen in the search for automobiles- while searches for sedans were pretty steady through the year, Ramadan saw a particular spike in interest for luxury cars (+9%) and SUVs (+5%).
One thing that’s clear is that during the Holy Month brands have an opportunity to engage more with consumers, spend more time with them and share with them longer formats and stories. The key is to create content that builds personal connections, that’s shareable, and that makes viewers want to tune in. Since the behaviour has a tendency to sustain for several months post-holy season as well, it makes sense for companies to develop and implement well-thought of strategies around this time, and build up loyalties that last long.