Reigniting Ramadan: a return to togetherness, by Snap’s Jake Thomas

By Jake Thomas, Head of UAE at Snap Inc.

It’s no surprise that the past few Ramadans were celebrated a little bit differently in the context of the pandemic. People sought new ways to reflect and come together in that environment. Adapting to the changing times, behaviour shifted—and new experiences came to life.

We saw across the Snapchat community, for instance, that people were rediscovering the spirit of Ramadan. Embracing personal contemplation, purposefulness, and even nostalgia, many people connected and celebrated virtually with close friends and family versus what may have otherwise been in-person occasions.

This year, communities across the MENA region are returning to togetherness—perhaps more than ever before.

In speaking to our own Snapchat community, people are clearly ready to enjoy Ramadan. Approximately 46% say that they plan to take part in more celebratory activities this year compared to 2021. About half also plan to get together more, invite loved ones over for iftar more, and engage with their neighbours more.

Of course, these behaviour shifts have real implications on commerce. For example, we can see the Snapchat community in MENA getting excited for Ramadan earlier than many others. About 42% are actually planning to seek inspiration for Ramadan celebrations three weeks or earlier before Ramadan begins, versus 27% for non-Snapchatters. One in three (36%) say that they will also start shopping three weeks or more before Ramadan, versus one in four (24%) of non-Snapchatters. In either case, these are big numbers.

But it’s not just about anticipation. This year, people are also planning to spend more. Over half (56%) of consumers we’ve surveyed expect to increase their spending on personal care products this Ramadan, and nearly half (48%) anticipate spending more on travel. More than 40% also say they’ll spend more on categories such as fashion, luxury products, and even groceries.

Digital platforms that help close friends and family stay connected, informed, and express themselves are influencing these purchasing decisions. Perhaps more than other traditional media platforms. We’ve found that 65% of our own community will look to social and video apps for inspiration this Ramadan. That’s substantially more than those looking purely at online searches and websites (39%), online influencers (37%), TV (28%), or print media (17%).

What does this all mean for brands?

Well, this moment presents both challenges and opportunities to stand out. Media effectiveness, audience segmentation, authentic communication, and the ability to bridge digital and physical worlds are essential considerations in planning 2022 Ramadan campaigns.

Technologies like augmented reality (AR) are now playing a significant role in delivering on these goals. AR has become an innovative way to have fun, create new traditions, and connect. Last year, for example, more than one billion Snaps were posted to Stories during Ramadan. In KSA alone, people viewed AR Lenses on Snapchat over 90 billion times. It’s perhaps no surprise that during Ramadan, campaigns for retailers running an AR Lens on Snapchat deliver a 4.3x higher average purchase value compared to other formats.

But it’s not just about a single technology or function. Brands can benefit from having one place for everything that matters during Ramadan. In addition to AR lenses, for example, we see that people are watching more of their favourite Ramadan content than ever on mobile. Time spent viewing Ramadan content on Discover last year soared 33% year-on-year, showing a clear desire for the latest and greatest trending content. With this in mind, brands have found that a multi-product approach on Snapchat during Ramadan (i.e., the combination of AR lenses and Discover ads) delivers 2.5x the brand awareness compared to a single-product approach, and twice as much ad awareness.

In the end, we’d all do well to remember that a lot has happened over the last two years. Communities have adapted and their behaviours have changed. Brands need to adapt to these preferences also. They must make sure they reach their audience at scale through immersive and impactful experiences across the entire consumer journey. Most importantly, it’s all about planning early across the entire fifty-day celebration cycle to offer consumers new ways to seek inspiration, shop, or simply share the joy of the holy month.