What do hip and religious Muslim women want?

A JWT study on Muslim women in Malaysia and Indonesia shows that religion is a top priority, yet many do not shy away from embracing new trends.

Malaysian singer-songwriter Yuna in a hijab from Losravelda.
Malaysian singer-songwriter Yuna in a hijab from Losravelda.

Muslim women in Malaysia and Indonesia appear to be more religiously observant in recent years, and yet they are also more tech savvy and cosmopolitan in their outlook, according to a study released by JWT's Innovation Group.

Among the 1,000 Muslim women polled in both countries last month, 94 percent said Islam is very important to them. In terms of religious practice, praying is the top priority for 98 percent of the respondents, followed by wearing the hijab (58 percent) and eating or using halal products (35 percent). A large segment of the respondents were millennials, with 77 percent of the women surveyed aged between 18 and 39, and 90 percent residing in urban or suburban areas. The New Muslimah: Southeast Asia Focus is the first study released by the recently launched APAC division of JWT's Innovation Group.

Although an increasing number of  Muslim women are donning the hijab, the rise of the 'hijabster' with turban-wearing Malaysian singer-songwriter Yuna as its poster girl, shows that stereotyping young Muslim women would be misguided.The study states that understanding shifts in behaviours and what drives them is crucial for brands to succeed in these markets.
Meanwhile, Chen May Yee, APAC director of The Innovation Group, said the new sets of behaviours and aspirations of those young Muslim women present both opportunities and challenges for brands.
"These two trends—more Islamic and more global—have created a space of conflict, negotiation, adaptation and innovation that's playing out across sectors," said Chen.
One of factors that brands have to pay attention to is the halal factor, given that 91 percent of the respondents said they would always choose the halal option when buying food, followed by personal care products (67 percent), clothing (52 percent), banking and financial products (52 percent) and travel (39 percent). Therefore, the halal logo is extremely important for consumers in making purchase decisions. 
Respondents agreed that they factor in cost as well as how friendly a country's people and government are toward Muslims when selecting travel destinations. About a third of the women travel out of the country at least once a year. A Malaysian-Japanese tech firms's Halal Navi app has made it easier for Muslim travellers to find halal restaurants when they are on the road. 
Other key findings from the study:
  • Four out of five women spend at least four hours a day online.
  • Online shopping is more prevalent in Indonesia than Malaysia; 31 percent of young women in Indonesia and 24 percent in Malaysia shop online at least once a week, while 75 percent in Indonesia and 58 percent in Malaysia shop online at least once a month.
  • A typical Muslim woman owns at least 10 hijabs, 85 percent of younger women and 77 percent of older women own 10 or more hijabs.
  • One third of respondents use payments apps, mostly Google Wallet or Samsung Pay.
  • Young Muslim women aspire to Japanese brands, 48 percent described Japanese brands as "excellent", followed by European brands (29 percent), Korean (26 percent) and US brands (23 percent). 
  • 51 percent of respondents in Indonesia and 35 percent in Malaysia own a Samsung phone, compared to 14 percent in Indonesia and 17 percent in Malaysia who own an iPhone. 
  • Most popular travel destinations for Indonesian travellers: Japan, Singapore, Korea, Thailand, Europe.
  • Most popular travel destinations for Malaysian travellers: Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Australia and New Zealand. 

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