Another Ramadan Celebrated During the Pandemic: A Snapshot from Southeast Asia

Another Ramadan Celebrated During the Pandemic: A Snapshot from Southeast Asia

Ramadan is one of the biggest festivals in Southeast Asia, especially in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore. The festivities, which continue for almost a month also help drive many economic activities in the form of shopping and restaurant visits. As observed last year, the celebrations are subdued by the pandemic to a large extent. The level of impact may be varied in different countries based on various factors. However, one way of studying this impact is to explore the people and places data in the months preceding Ramadan and then compare this with the same period last year. 

That’s what we at Near did. We dug into our proprietary people and places data, acquired through various data partners in a privacy-led approach, and then analyzed people’s movement to understand their real-world behavior. The research focused on which activities were most popular right before Ramadan and which were the worst hit to enable marketers across segments to make an informed decision on the best ways to reach out to the target audience. 

We’ll look into the data by country and start with Indonesia, followed by Malaysia, and then finally conclude this study with Singapore.

Indonesia

With the second wave of the pandemic hitting Indonesia in August 2020, there was a spike in the number of cases. The government enforced strict restrictions to curb the spread. Non-essential categories were the worst hit in the first two months of 2021, compared to the same months in 2020. As expected, essential services like grocery stores were the least impacted. However, after going through a year of fear and uncertainty, Indonesians preferred to travel shorter distances for necessities and entertainment.

In January 2021, the government decided to vaccinate young workers below sixty before the elderly population, in contrast to most other countries. Hence, those above forty-five years reduced their footfall across all categories due to apprehensions. The least impacted age group in terms of footfall was between twenty-five and thirty-four.

Movement data also tells us that female footfall declined at most places during the pandemic. Mosques and grocery stores were the top-visited places in 2021, whereas before the pandemic, women visited restaurants and beauty salons more often than grocery stores. 

One place that has emerged as the top-visited location across age group and audience segments are mosques. This prompted us to look at the brand affinity of mosque visitors during the pre-Ramadan period. Top home locations for mosque visitors are Pasar Kliwon, Bekasi Selatan, and Karawang Regency. When it came to grocery stores, Indonesians preferred to visit Super Indo, Indomart, and Lotte Mart as compared to other grocery stores. They chose Petramina and Shell to refill their cars and liked to eat at Texas Chicken, McDonald’s, and KFC in that order.

Malaysia

Since January 2021, Malaysia has been under movement control orders (MCO) from the government. Non-essential services were closed in January and February 2021. Daily new cases hit a peak in the 1st week of February. Restrictions on sit-out dining and mosque worship were lifted with conditions from February 2021. This brought some interesting findings, as Malaysians preferred to travel longer distances for grocery shopping.

In the first two months of 2021, young adult males preferred to visit mosques and restaurants, whereas, for females, it was led by grocery stores, followed by restaurants. Tourist attractions and clothing stores were shunned by almost all age groups, despite being in the top 5 in 2020. Footfall for the 45+ reduced more than other age groups since they were the most conservative age group due to the pandemic.

Industries patronized by women, like retail, shopping malls, tourism, and garments, were the most affected due to Covid, and mosques, grocery stores, and restaurant takeaways emerged as the most visited categories for professionals in 2021.

Mosques emerged as the highest visited place, both in 2020 and 2021, similar to Indonesia, and the preferences for mosque visitors are a mix of local and international brands. Petaling Jaya, Bandar Sarikei, and Kajang are top home locations for mosque visitors, and they preferred to shop groceries at Pasar Raya, Borong SSW Giant, and Jaya Grocer. Petron and Shell are their favorite gas-filling station, followed by Petronas, but they prefer to go for international brands like KFC, Pizza Hut, and McDonald’s for quick-service restaurants. 

Though cases are rising again in Malaysia since the start of Ramadan, people’s real-world behavior still holds. But with the unpredictable nature of shoppers and patrons, it becomes crucial for marketers to depend on live real-world data rather than data that is a couple of months old, which is like a lifetime right now. 

Singapore

Singapore displayed a very different behavioral pattern in Feb 2020, as it was one of the first countries in the world to get impacted by Covid and responded pretty swiftly to that. There was an average decline of 17 percent in footfall in January 2021 compared to January 2020 in combined categories. However, in February, it was observed to be negative 5 percent. Footfall from tourists experienced the most significant decrease due to low international visitor arrivals.

Young adult females in Singapore contributed to a higher footfall across categories than young adult males in 2020. Overall, young adults in Singapore were interested in eating out, buying clothes, and in consumer electronics.

As seen in all other countries, the average footfall of young adults and millennials was the highest across all categories. The above forty-five age group was most cautious; they preferred staying at home and making home improvements. The footfall of female professionals remained higher than male professionals due to the higher numbers of female workers in Singapore. Female professionals preferred to visit restaurants the most in 2021, while the clothing stores were at the top of the charts in 2020. When it came to male professionals, the share of footfalls remained the highest at restaurants in 2020 as well as 2021.

If we look at all segments, the footfall of men and women having kids did not change much in 2021 compared to 2020, due to the early return of normalcy as compared to other countries. For parents in 2020, restaurants and home improvement received the highest share of footfalls. However, in 2021, parents seem to prefer visiting grocery stores and restaurants more.

Mosque visits did not feature at the top of footfalls in Singapore due to multi-ethnicity and religious populations. However, we still analyzed the brand affinity of mosque visitors during the pre-Ramadan period. Gelang, Kampong Glam, and Arab Street were top home locations, and the audience group preferred to buy their groceries from Fair Price, Cold Storage, and Giant stores. However, for eating out, even Singaporeans chose international brands,with McDonald’s topping the list, followed by Subway and KFC.

Conclusion

These insights can help marketers decide who to target and for what products, as real-world behavioral data has multiple such identifiers to build the ideal target segment. This can help companies reach out to them directly when they are ready to make a buying decision. These data points can provide marketers with enough ammunition to reach out to their target audience with the click of a button, more so in an ever-evolving scenario. 

However, this data is only the tip of the iceberg for marketers looking for innovative ways to target Ramadan shoppers. With the extent of Covid impact varying in different countries, it becomes even more important to keep your eyes and ears open for real-world signals. The key lies in effectively harnessing the power of data. And this is where Near can help. With the largest source of intelligence on people and places, Near provides insights from patented methodology to enable marketers across the world to make the right decision.