At the onset of Ramadan in April last year, the UAE was under strict lockdown designed to curb the spread of coronavirus and as such consumers mainly purchased only essential food items onlines, said a VP at local digital marketplace giant Noon.

Neha Choudhary, Noon’s vice president – Onsite Operations and Strategy explained that since restrictions have slightly eased this year, e-commerce stakeholders such as herself are expecting consumers’ online spending trends to resemble those of 2019 to some extent.

“Things are looking more positive this year and this is being reflected on the typical Ramadan trends which we’ve already started seeing on our platform,” said Choudhary.

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“Last year, we weren’t able to see anybody because we were in strict lockdown and while large gatherings still can’t happen this year, small family gatherings can and restaurants are open. Therefore, I think we’ll be closer to the 2019 trends than we were last year but not fully there yet,” she continued.

E-commerce platforms typically see a surge in purchases during Ramadan and Choudhary believes this will be even more pronounced this year as consumers have become more comfortable purchasing online.

“We’ve acquired a lot more customers in 2020 because of Covid and a lot of customers have gotten used to online shopping when they probably weren’t before,” said Choudhary.

“While omnichannel will always exist, Ramadan for us and other e-commerce platforms is a great time of big traffic. It’s also a good time for our sellers to get their products in front of millions of customers,” she added.

Neha Choudhary, Noon’s vice president – Onsite Operations and Strategy at Noon

Home décor, appliances and groceries are among the categories that witness the biggest peaks in purchasing as consumers get their homes ready for the Holy month, said Choudhary.

“Because Ramadan is also a time where people are at home a lot, there is a need for entertainment and as such we have seen gaming and toys, for example, pick up a lot,” she explained.

During the first two weeks of Ramadan, the grocery category continues to perform well and the fashion and beauty category picks up as people prepare themselves for iftars with extended family.

In preparation for gifting during Eid, in the last two weeks of Ramadan see a growth in items such as fragrances or makeup, outlined Choudhary.

While these trends apply across the three markets Noon covers – meaning the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt – Choudhary said they are highest in Saudi Arabia because the “UAE is more expat-dominated while in Saudi Arabia more of the population segment celebrate Ramadan.”

During a government media briefing earlier in March, it was announced that only one family living in the same house can have iftar and suhoor meals together and that family or organisational iftar tents or group iftars in public spaces will not be allowed.

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