Houthis forced to sit at negotiating table after failed military campaign, analyst says

DUBAI: Ramadan is a time of introspection, spirituality and closer family ties. Many Muslims change their daily habits during the holy month, not only fasting from dawn to dusk, but also showing more charity and devoting more time to prayer.

This change in habits extends more and more to the virtual world. Indeed, many people are spending more time online in search of seasonal offers, as well as entertaining and witty content.

Researchers have found that the total time users in the region spend online increases significantly during Ramadan. They do a lot of research and browse the web more than at any other time of the year.

“According to a recent study, six out of ten consumers say their mobile phone use increases during Ramadan,” said George Maktabi, CEO of media and technology company Webedia Group Mena, in an interview with Arab News.

About 50% of respondents in Saudi Arabia say they spend one to three hours on their smartphone every day during Ramadan, according to a survey by advertising platform AdColony and research firm GlobalWebIndex.

“The Mena region, and specifically Saudi Arabia, has one of the highest proportions of paying users in the world. During Ramadan, revenue and daily active users increase,” adds Maktabi.

About 74% of Muslims in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon say they would use their smartphones as much or more than usual during Ramadan this year, according to a report. study conducted in 2022 by Statista.

It’s perhaps unsurprising that smartphone usage during Ramadan has been steadily increasing lately, but it’s worth looking into the reasons why.

“Last year saw notable spikes in searches for fashion and beauty (particularly makeup), food (particularly quick recipes, desserts and small appliances), online deals, gifts and spirituality were recorded during Ramadan,” says Maktabi.

In Saudi Arabia, he continues, there is a sharp increase in the number of people interested in new content.

Nearly 90% of users surveyed in the UAE and 86% in Saudi Arabia used social media both to make new discoveries and share their wishes during Ramadan, according to a study conducted by Statista. And 84% of respondents in Saudi Arabia and 77% in the Emirates have also watched videos online, either to learn how to do something or to be entertained.

People not only find a sense of belonging and sources of entertainment in the virtual world during the holy month, but also spirituality. Reading the Quran before iftar is a popular activity, with significant levels of participation in the activity among both men (68%) and women (46%), according to Statista, which also reveals that 48% of people in Saudi Saudi Arabia bought religiously related accessories before Ramadan.

According to a 2022 report from Google, requests for prayer hit a year high in the two weeks leading up to Ramadan and the highest number of religious app downloads occurred in the first week. of the month.

“The central themes of the holy month, spirituality, giving and kindness, can also be detected through research,” says Maktabi. “We saw a 100% increase in search interest on YouTube for “donations” and “charitable donations” in Saudi Arabia during the four weeks of Ramadan in 2021 compared to all other months of the year.”

These trends are particularly evident on social media. The Instagram reels and TikTok audios trending this time of year tend to be those with Islamic themes, according to Sohaib Mazhar, co-founder of Brand Agency and social media specialist at BMB Group.

“There are remixed or slowed-down, TikTok-style versions ofanachid or of qawwalis (types of music), which many brands also choose to use for their Ramadan content,” he says.

TikTok, the currently fastest growing social network, is unsurprisingly one of the most popular platforms for messages and celebrations during the holy month.

Last year, videos posted with the hashtag #Ramadan2022 were viewed 3.9 billion times on the platform, while videos posted with the hashtags #RamadanPreps and #RamadanHealth were viewed 551 million and 439 million respectively. of times.

“Other popular categories that literally gave users food for thought and sparked creativity were #WhereToEat, with 371 million video views, and #ModestFashion, with 156 million video views,” says Arab News Sacha el-Jurdi, content programming manager for TikTok Mena. “We also see a lot of content with the #MyFamily hashtag, where we find heart-warming vlogs that show family members celebrating the spirit of Ramadan together.”

Separately, consumption of entertaining content increases on TikTok during Ramadan, especially in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE, as users turn to the platform for inspiration and ideas on topics like DIY trends for Ramadan decorations, modest fashion and popular recipes, adds Mr. El-Jurdi.

For example, 57% of TikTok users say content creators inspired them to try new household products during Ramadan, and 85% spent more time watching cooking videos during the month, according to a study. by TikTok.

TikTok is not the only social network to experience an increase in use during Ramadan, however. Internet users in the Middle East also spent almost fifty-eight million more hours than usual on Facebook during the month, an increase of 5%, according to Google.

In 2022, in a pre-Ramadan survey of Twitter users in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt, 60% of users said Twitter was their platform of choice for finding out what was going on during the holy month.

Additionally, YouTube was the most popular video app in Saudi Arabia during Ramadan 2022, with 18.1 million active users, an increase of 190,000 users from the previous year.

According to Mazhar, the increase in online activity has been accompanied by a change in hours of use. “Online activity is increasing dramatically in the age of shour and after midnight, as well as after iftar, when people await the prayers of the‘isha“, he remarks.

Online consumer spending during Ramadan was valued at $6.2 billion ($1 = 0.91 euros) in 2022, up 39% from 2021, according to Statista. According to a study conducted by Google and Kantar this year, almost all Saudi consumers say they research products online before buying them. Google is the top option for this type of search, with 74% of Saudi shoppers using it to verify product information, while 52% check YouTube for the same purpose.

Shopping is a major driver of online activity during Ramadan, studies show. This year, consumer activity in Saudi Arabia during Ramadan is expected to increase by 44% compared to 2022, according to a recent study by Toluna, a market research and consumer data provider.

“There is an increase in all sectors, including entertainment (44% more than last year), shopping (+51%), foreign travel (+35%), local stays (+42%), food delivery (+39%) and beauty care (+31%)”, observes Mr. Maktabi.

Ramadan and the ensuing Eid holiday are special times when shopping is not only about personal needs, but also gifts.

The Toluna survey indicates that the majority of respondents (91%) plan to give gifts for Eid this year, with children (66%), parents (56%) and friends (37%) being the main recipients.

Additionally, 46% of respondents plan to increase their spending on Eid gifts this year, while 39% expressed a desire to make the occasion more special to compensate for the calmer pandemic years, focusing on pleasing and pleasing their loved ones, according to the same study.

Although nearly half of respondents saw prices skyrocketing this year, they still plan to spend more on gifts. More than a third of them even said they intended to give gifts to more people this year.

Ramadan and Eid are very important times of the year for Muslims in the Middle East and around the world, and digital channels are increasingly providing ways to bring people closer to each other and to the things that fascinate them.

As Mr. Maktabi pointed out, it is remarkable that the biggest change in online behavior during Ramadan is not in people’s shopping habits, but in their increased engagement in spiritual and religious activities.

This text is the translation of an article published on Arabnews.com

Houthis forced to sit at negotiating table after failed military campaign, analyst says