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Second Ramadan during COVID-19 saw uptick in indexed traffic and sales across Southeast Asia

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Criteo findings also reveal improvements in air travel in the region


SINGAPORE – Media OutReach – 28 May 2021 Criteo S.A. (NASDAQ: CRTO), the global technology company powering the world’s marketers with trusted and impactful advertising, today announced their latest research around ecommerce trends observed during Ramadan this year, which took place from 12 April to 12 May.

The second year in a row that Muslims are observing Ramadan under COVID-19 conditions, Criteo’s data revealed an uptick in indexed traffic and sales in Southeast Asia[1], when compared to the baseline[2]. Regional retailers saw a surge on 2 May, with a 26% increase in traffic and 21% increase in sales, respectively.

“As a result of the ongoing COVID-19 restrictions across our region, worshippers had to adjust their observance of the holy month of Ramadan. With social distancing measures deterring gatherings in large groups, consumers are rethinking their buying patterns, regarding areas such as gift giving. It is key that marketers and brands understand these shifts and engage consumers with what they need the most, especially during important observances,” explained Taranjeet Singh, Managing Director, Southeast Asia and India, Criteo.

Fig 1: Indexed values based on average sales from 12 Mar-12 May 2021

However, while the recent Ramadan season saw performance above its baseline, Criteo notes that an underperformance when compared to last year’s Ramadan period. A notable dip was also observed in the final week of the Ramadan period, with sales and traffic dropping below the baseline, may be indicative of consumer’s caution in spending amid the ongoing economic downturn.

Mobile and App purchases continue to rise

When making purchases during Ramadan, Southeast Asian consumers continued to use mobile and app platforms this year.

Specifically, mobile sales saw the largest lift throughout the Ramadan period this year, marking a 107% increase in sales at the end of the Ramadan period on 12 May. App sales also rose by 60%, earlier on 1 May. Meanwhile, desktop sales saw the smallest spike of 40% during the second week of Ramadan period.

Fig 2: Indexed values based on average sales across devices in Southeast Asia from before Ramadan (12 Mar-11 Apr) to Ramadan 2021 (12 Apr – 12 May)

COVID-19’s Impact on Consumer preferences and behaviors during Ramadan

Comparing purchasing patterns during Ramadan pre-COVID, in 2019, and this year, Criteo data revealed that the growth in purchases this year have only been in two categories – Fashion/Luxury, and Mass Merchant[3] products. Criteo also found that the Fashion/Luxury category outperformed Mass Merchants during Ramadan, with a 50% increase from baseline from 23 April to 5 May.

In 2019, however, top product categories were in Health and Beauty, Electronics, Toys and Games as well as Home and Living. The trends observed this year are likely to be due to consumers not being able to commemorate Hari Raya in large social settings or house visitations, as a result of distancing measures.

Fig 3: Indexed values based on average sales by category across Southeast Asia (12 Apr – 12 May 2021)

Another distinct trend observed during Ramadan in previous years was a consistent rise in web traffic and sales for travel players. Before the COVID pandemic, prospective travelers usually searched travel websites during Ramadan, before making their bookings late in the month and after Ramadan, to make trips to celebrate Hari Raya with their family and friends. This was noticeably absent from this year’s data.

Travel plans and optimism continue to rise in Asia

While COVID-19 is expected to continue having an impact on travel plans, Criteo’s latest Travel Data for Q1 2021 has revealed that air travel is expected to improve more quickly in the Americas and Asia Pacific than in EMEA, and with domestic flights recovering faster than international flights.

In fact, according to Criteo’s findings, 86%, 65% and 89% of respondents from Australia, South Korea, and Japan, respectively, say they are likely to make an online booking for domestic travel.

One year after the first outbreak of COVID-19, air bookings remain low at -36% in April 2021. However, this is a 12-point increase from -48% in January 2021. Criteo’s data also found that travel players with a booking app have seen app usage grow especially in APAC, where app sales account for 77% of bookings, followed by mobile at 13% and desktop at 10%.

“For marketers and travel players, it is important to know that the priorities of travelers are two-fold – the ability to fully refund on bookings if travel plans are disrupted, and secondly, that social distancing and the highest levels of sanitation are ensured. According to our survey, travelers said that they are more likely to book travels if bookings are fully refundable and travelers reported the importance of social distancing and sanitation measures amid the ongoing pandemic,” explained Singh.

“Understanding this, travel players can take action by providing consumers with longer-term options, and safer, socially-distanced stays. Also, travel providers should leverage consumer preferences for apps to create an engaging app experience to encourage usage and sales,” he continued.

Ensuring successful customer engagements amid the continuing pandemic

With restrictions starting to ease, many customers in the region are able to access both in-store and online retail options, while adhering to social distancing measures.

Consumers are expected to continue alternating between online and in-store experiences throughout their shopping journey. It is key that marketers keep in mind the following strategies to see continued success with customer engagements:

  • Strengthen your omni-channel strategy: this will be key for marketers and brands to deliver seamless offline to online experiences. Ultimately, to build customer loyalty and drive long-term growth by driving customer lifetime value.
  • Develop meaningful promotions and ad messaging: While consumers remain price sensitive during this time, brands should prioritize connecting to the heart. For example, during observances like Ramadan, brands are encouraged to focus less on promoting the price, and more on the meaning of the season. This can play an important role in whether consumers notice or respond to the ad or not.
  • Target the right audience or reconnect with consumers who have purchased in the past: By syncing CRM data, marketers should engage customers who previously have shopped with them, and provide them with personalized, relevant ads to compel purchases. Taking Ramadan as an example, shoppers are likely to be looking for things that help them observe Ramadan. Before Ramadan, purchases in groceries, décor, and home goods are expected to rise, while gift purchases could happen as the holiday progresses[4].

Methodology for Ramadan data

Criteo identified these trends through the analysis of over 557 million retail shopping transactions across desktop, smartphones, and tablets from 116 major advertisers in Malaysia and Indonesia.

Methodology for Travel data

Criteo identified these trends through the analysis of survey data from 11,161 respondents across 9 countries – Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Spain, United Kingdom and United States as well as organic data from 815 Travel Players who partner with Criteo in over 20 countries, accounting for $1.6B annual bookings (220 million bookings in the US).

[1] Criteo data. Indexed Daily Sales, 2021 compared to average in the last 14 days of March 2021. Same set of retailers with stable sales tracking during the period of 2020 and 2021.

[2] Criteo took the baseline for data to be the last 14 days of March

[3] Refers to large retailers that sell across all categories

[4] Reference – Criteo’s 5 Things to Know About Ramadan Marketing Campaigns in 2020 https://www.criteo.com/blog/5-things-to-know-about-ramadan-marketing-campaigns-in-2020/

About Criteo:

Criteo (NASDAQ: CRTO) is the global technology company powering the world’s marketers with trusted and impactful advertising. 2,500 Criteo team members partner with over 20,000 customers and thousands of publishers around the globe to deliver effective advertising across all channels, by applying advanced machine learning to unparalleled data sets. Criteo empowers companies of all sizes with the technology they need to better know and serve their customers. For more information, please visit www.criteo.com.


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