(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) New business avenues - both offline and online - bode well for retail and travel companies UAE residents are busy shopping and travelling during the holy month of Ramadan. Retailers, as well as travel companies, smile through the sweat and hard work as business is swelling and rebounding in 2017, thanks to new avenues promising more business online and offline during Ramadan.
Ramadan is a cherished tradition in this region, and has an observable effect on the purchasing habits and online activity of shoppers. Retailers and travel providers need to accommodate the changes that take place in the lifestyles of millions of people across the region in order to effectively engage shoppers across all touch points.
Karan Patel, head of commercial at Etisalat Information Services, said one of the hallmarks of Ramadan is the dawn-to-dusk fasting. That means that throughout the 30-day period, daytime quiet gives way to nighttime buzz when people are able to eat and drink, giving retailers more opportunities for incremental sales increases at night, such as those in Ramadan night markets.
"Also, schools are on the verge of closure and with travel plans already in line, retailers have gained with the perfect timing, while stiff competition has paved the way for good offers and promotions. Lately reputed retailers are even offering up to 90 per cent discounts; with these promotion strategies, retailers have definitely gained in terms of sales," said Patel.
"Additionally, the travel market has also gained from various Ramadan offers and last-minute Eid deals; the market has also seen an increase in travel-based startups offering good deals due to stiff competition within this sector, with European destinations becoming more affordable compared to the previous year."
Data from Criteo, a performance marketing technology company, revealed that Ramadan traditions influence shoppers' behaviour throughout the day. To engage with shoppers, retailers need to know when they are most active online. Compared to the period prior to Ramadan where e-commerce transactions amounted to 73 per cent during the day, transactions during the holy month dropped to 64 per cent. However, Criteo measured an increase in e-commerce sales to 36 per cent during the evening after consumers break their fast - an increase from 27 per cent at the same pre-Ramadan period, representing a timely opportunity for retailers to reach out to shoppers.
Based on consumers' online browsing and buying activity, two periods in particular have been identified by Criteo as the most opportune times for retailers and travel providers to engage with consumers: the two weeks leading up to Ramadan, as well as the last two weeks of the holy month, are when consumers are actively browsing and purchasing items for upcoming celebrations. During this period in 2016, retail sales increased by 51 per cent on average, whereas travel sales grew by 27 per cent.
Endorsing the trend is Geet Bhalla, CEO and co-founder of HolidayMe.com, who thinks the expat population in the UAE make their travel plans during the Ramadan period to near destinations like Armenia, Baku, Georgia and, lately, Montenegro. Increasing disposable income year-on-year is also one of the key factors that has contributed to this increase.
Similalry, Deepa Rajesh, head of sales for holidays and business development at Cozmo Travel Group, observes that, as such, there seems to be an increase this year compared to 2016, the reason being that clans not fasting realised that during the holy month, costs in the region are 30 per cent lower than what it would be effective Eid right through the next two to three months across the summer, so non-Muslims seem to be taking advantage of this. Popular destinations are Europe and the US for long getaways, where people have more budgets to spend. Short ones are countries that offer visa on arrival or free and are affordable for larger families, such as Georgia, Yerevan, Kiev, Baku and Montenegro.
The Mena region has seen the shift to online shopping more than anyone has expected. E-commerce trade in the UAE was at $2.5 billion in 2014 and is expected to be at $10 billion by 2018, a 400 per cent increase over just four years. Sales and selection have been the key to e-commerce success in the region where fashion and apparel rank first, shoes and accessories second, and jewellery and watches third, according to e-commerce platform MallfortheWorld.com.
With the e-commerce industry in the UAE is expected to hit the $10 billion (Dh36.7 billion) mark by the year 2018, regional retailers are in the process of consolidating their online presence in a bid to remain competitive and profitable.
"With the UAE's current e-commerce value estimated to be around $2.5 billion, analysts are optimistic that the region's e-commerce market is on an accelerated growth trajectory," said Chris Folayan, CEO and founder of Mallfortheworld.com.
In the last 12 months, 68 per cent of UAE consumers shopped online with 48 per cent more likely to increase their online spend in the next one year, according to the 2016 Third Annual Cross-border Consumer Report by Ipsos and Paypal.
Mallfortheworld.com is now urging UAE retailers to take advantage of the 3.6 hours the region's consumers spend daily on social media to strategically position their products and brands in the market. The UAE's high smartphone penetration, currently at over 70 per cent, has also been cited as one of the key drivers of e-commerce growth. This, according to Mallfortheworld.com, presents a golden opportunity for online shopping growth with 60 per cent of UAE consumers having made a purchase with their smartphone over the last 12 months.
Sandhya D'Mello Journalist. Period. My interests are Economics, Finance and Information Technology. Prior to joining Khaleej Times, I have worked with some leading publications in India, including the Economic Times.