Embracing changing times: Ramadan and Hari Raya, amid COVID-19


This post was done in partnership with Google Malaysia.

Hari Raya is just around the corner, but as COVID-19 impacts Malaysia, and the rest of the world, our day to day lives have become affected in ways we would never have imagined.

With Ramadan overlapping the Movement Control Order (MCO), Izuan Izham, Senior Account Manager of Consumer Product Goods at Google Malaysia, shares with us how the experience will inevitably be different this year.

For one, despite the coming celebrations, staying safe and social distancing are now a collective responsibility. How will this affect Malaysian Muslims, and what can brands do to help consumers celebrate Ramadan and Hari Raya in the comfort of their own homes?

To find out, let’s explore several pillars that continue to remain the foundations of this holy time, and how COVID-19 has impacted these behaviours.

Spirituality and doing good: Malaysian Muslims are looking for ways to deepen their faith, and to do good. 

In the past, Muslims have usually spent more time searching for topics on spirituality closer to Ramadan because of frequent prayers and the physical payments of zakat, the giving of alms at mosques during this period.

However, Malaysian Muslims are seeking ways to deepen their faith much earlier than usual. Since the start of the MCO, there has been a spike in “doa”-related searches, along with “bantuan” and “zakat” as people need help more than ever.

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But it isn’t just search behaviours that have been shifting. Due to the MCO, what was once only possible physically, and in a communal setting, has gone online. For the first time ever, we’ve found that places of worship such as the State Mosque of Selangor have started holding live-stream events of their prayers. 

Community and food: With Ramadan bazaars being cancelled while Malaysians continue to stay home, we’re seeing a greater interest in home cooking and deliveries.

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Seen as a time for reconnecting, Malaysians look forward to having joint buka puasa feasts, bustling Ramadan bazaars and travelling back to their home towns (balik kampung) for the festive season – myself, included. 

Despite this, searches of interest for a typical Ramadan and Hari Raya – such as “resepi kek” and “quick recipes” – have now begun to experience a significant surge outside their usual peak periods as people are cooking more at home. In fact, “resepi kek” searches are now higher than ever.  Even my family and I are spending a lot more time in the kitchen this month. 

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Additionally, with families unable to balik kampung, despite the festive season, alternative ways of expressing care and celebrating the spirit of Ramadan and Hari Raya are likely to occur. During the MCO, the use of package delivery services has seen a heightened shift which is expected to be sustained throughout Raya as family and friends send meals, Raya treats, and gifts. 

Fashion, beauty and fitness: Although Malaysians are confined to their homes, they still want to look and feel good in preparation for Raya.

For me and many Malaysian Muslims, Ramadan and Hari Raya isn’t just about food and socialising. New clothes and beauty regimes are also a priority, especially in anticipation of house visits.

Yet, there has been a five-times spike in searches of fitness topics, making it one of the largest behavioural changes seen. This could indicate a possible shift to healthier habits even during the Ramadan and Hari Raya period.

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Besides that, there has also been an early interest in “baju raya” searches. Malaysians, myself included, are turning to ready-made clothing on eCommerce sites as it is now difficult to get tailor-made clothing due to social distancing and the MCO. An interest in beauty-related topics such as “skin care” and hair cuts have also increased.

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What does this mean for brands?

Stay relevant and respectful. It’s a sensitive time for everyone and this means it’s more important than ever to be able to relate and empathise. This could mean a simple shift in messaging on how one views being at home or perhaps a refresh in assets through creative means such as Grab Indonesia to refocus on what matters.

Go live and connect. With consumers being stuck indoors, going online acts as a bridge that helps them connect beyond the walls of their own homes. So be creative and make that virtual experience special by creating helpful content or perhaps by hosting a live digital event.

The writer is Izuan Izham, senior account manager of consumer product goods at Google Malaysia.