Rahul Sachitanand
May 4, 2020

Brands in Indonesia need to be inventive to capture at-home consumer interest during Ramadan

From ecommerce to travel, marketers need to find new ways to do business, suggests an M&C Saatchi Indonesia report.

Markets that are normally packed with Ramadan shoppers are almost empty this year
Markets that are normally packed with Ramadan shoppers are almost empty this year

The holy month of Ramadan is traditionally a time of plenty in Muslim-majority Indonesia, where the rush of preparations can account for as much as 40% of a brand's annual sales. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping across the country just as this festive season came around, hundreds of millions of people have been confined to their homes, away from friends, family, markets and mosques, cutting off brands' ambitious plans at the knees.

Even as many brands have rushed back to the drawing board, to make the most of a tough time, a new paper from M&C Saatchi Indonesia, titled An Unfamiliar Prayer, suggests that they should recast their plans to maximise their exposure to the at-home audience. While some segments such as ecommerce may have an obvious upside, M&C Saatchi Indonesia suggests that brands in sectors such as travel could also tweak their plans to set more long-term goals for themselves. 

Even as brands rethink their plans, they need to be mindful of the importance of this season to Muslims, who account for nearly 90% of the population. Within the holy time of Ramadan, important physical events such as Mudik, when migrant labourers return to their hometowns, and Zakat Fitrah, which involves the giving of alms and the annual bonus called Tunjangan Hari Rayah, are important drivers of conspicuous consumer consumption.

With most of these events curtailed or constrained, brands now need to think differently about Ramadan. For instance, with sweeping lockdowns in place, consumers are going from sachet purchases to buying larger quantities. Many of them are cooking at home for the first time and online recipes and video tutorials could be popular too. 

Elsewhere, as people change their online buying from impulse to planned purchases, ecommerce brands can create flash sales during key periods (Iftaar and Sahoor) to cater to this audience. By allying with NGOs and charities they can also piece together purposeful marketing plans to burnish their brands.

Meanwhile, travel brands, which have seen their business vanish due to the pandemic, can also plan ahead to be ready for two surges in bookings, when the lockdown lifts, according to the agency. With Ramadan holidays postponed from now to the end of the year, there will likely be a huge jump in demand then. And, as soon as the lockdown lifts, Indonesians are expected to rush to travel. By keeping consumers engaged with quality content and providing open coupon tickets and December Mudik promotions, travel brands can yet salvage something from this time. 

Ramadan is usually peak travel time in Indonesia

In contrast to the headwinds buffeting the travel industry, telecom companies have prospered as people have sought to stay connected to family and work. During Ramadan, as people seek solace and celebration virtually, telecom brands can stay connected by offering live streaming of sermons, sharing of talk time and bandwidth and other bundled packages to help remote consumers feel more connected. 

For women celebrating from home, the need and use of cosmetics has evolved in Indonesia. According to the paper, these brands could stay connected and relevant to their audiences by moving in-store consultations to virtual sessions from KOLs, offering DIY makeover kits and building stronger campaigns to communicate the benefits of their products. 

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