This is our fourth Ramadan since we launched in mid-2014. Ramadan for Melltoo is a month of work, reflection, preparation and execution. We continuously learn how to accommodate the needs of our customers and partners as well as develop better engagement campaigns that result in improved customer experiences and higher retention
If this is your first Ramadan as a business in the region, we would like to share with you our experience of the past three years.
Invest in Your Core Users
Retailing in the UAE
Peer-to-peer retailing in the UAE is typically slower in the summer since a significant portion of the population (mostly families) travel outside the UAE when school is out. Thus, we, at Melltoo, take this opportunity to focus on our core users. We do not typically launch any new acquisition campaigns during the summer. We prefer to reward and invest our money in customer experience (e.g. discounted products, better-vetted listings, a faster delivery time).
Ramadan in the Muslim world has been traditionally a month for hyper consumerism that benefit some industries such as traditional brick-and-mortar retail, food and beverage, beauty services, etc. As retail and other services ramp up, businesses use this opportunity to connect with their customers and offer them deals they can’t refuse. As discretionary income increases during the month, businesses compete to get their share.
Typical engagement campaigns in the Muslim world concentrate on charity and giving back to one’s community since Ramadan is the month of benevolence and philanthropy in the Muslim calendar.
In the last Ramadan, we ran one of our feature discount campaigns called “flash sales.” The basics of the flash sale campaign rest in the name. They’re flash i.e. they only last one to few hours, and they’re primarily sales campaigns. Flash sale campaigns run per category each time. We may run one campaign at a time or a few on the same day. During each campaign, we reward each buyer with 50% credit-back on the value of their purchase. Sellers benefit with a larger flux of engaged buyers who are present in-app to buy.
The primary goal of each campaign was to boost transactions per category. Secondary goals are to push the users to explore the app, scroll down the feed, use the many features of the app such as search, liking and commenting, looking into ratings on seller profiles and ultimately create a more dynamic marketplace. We have run this campaign and other forms of this campaign successfully since launch.
At a time of carefully managed growth, we increased our daily transactions by 50% for the overall month of Ramadan.
The main distribution channel for the campaign was in-app messaging (automated live campaigns via intercom.io) and social media.
Since last Ramadan, we introduced new changes to the app’s UI. We changed two things. We now run marketing campaign visuals on the app’s main browse feed. We also outsourced crediting rewards to users. Our staff does not add back credits to users. The users use coupons on the app and add money to their wallets themselves. Thus far, our coupons have been redeemed 1500 times since the first week of Ramadan 2017.
You can read more about Ramadan 2017 reward campaign and earn money on Melltoo right here!!
Understanding Customer Needs
User behavior typically shifts during the month of Ramadan even when the users themselves are not observing the religious duty, they are influenced by trends around them.
In a peer-to-peer classifieds, great customer experience is a combination of efforts from the sellers’ side who provide their pre-loved items for sale, logistics companies who ship the items and the buyers who may accept these items or choose to return them; and of course our operations team’s ability to manage user participation and expectations.
During Ramadan, working hours are shortened. This sometimes results in sellers being unavailable to ship their items on time and logistics companies having fewer hours in the day to complete deliveries. Our team’s responsibility is to maintain a positive user experience despite the inevitable logistical challenges. We take extra care to manage expectations and to be on top of sellers and logistics companies throughout the month. Customers are very reasonable people as long as they provided with timely and accurate information about their order. We let them know if a delay is anticipated, we revise our CS timings to accomodate the fasting schedule, we work with logistics companies to manage the flow of orders to prevent bottlenecks. Authenticity and honesty are key in our approach to customer service. We treat our customers as our partners and regularly update them on the status of their case.
Special Hours And Flexibility
In the UAE and many other Muslim countries, working hours are reduced. While legal hours may not always correspond to your operating hours, in order to strike a balance between both, you have to know your customers and reach out to your partners.
For most e-commerce businesses, you will deal with two important time slots: Working in the day will be crucial to make sure your sold items are shipped. Working the night shift is important because this is when your fasting customers will feel at ease to share their concerns and queries.
Flexibility is important too. We, at Melltoo, operate a location-independent business which means we don’t have core hours people need to clock in and out. We focus on getting things done, right. As a result, our hours are easily flexed to accomodate the needs of the month.
In the words of our customer service manager, Mostafa Gamal, who deals primarily with customers and manages customer-communications, “if you work in a healthy work environment and with a proper mindset, fasting won’t affect your productivity at all. Keeping yourself busy helps passing some time so might as well keep yourself busy with something productive.”
Sharene Lee is our co-founder and COO. She is a person whom I admire a lot for her focus, self-discipline and work ethic. Sharene is a mother of six. She manages several people with several functions. I often wonder how she does it.
“Not having to eat during the day actually makes me more productive because I don’t have to stop midday and figure out what to eat and get everyone else sorted. I like Ramadan coz It gives me uninterrupted time to do more ‘brain-intensive’ things like financial modeling and working on product roadmap and strategy,” she wrote me.
How you can lead the path forward?
Ramadan is a month of blessings for Muslims around the world. It can be time for activity, testing and training depending on your business. The key factor is to know your customers well, to reach out to them and keep them interested in your brand even if they’re not buying. Reach out to partners, find synergies and find out how you can ride the Ramadan wave and stay relevant. Focus on CSR campaigns. If you manage a diverse workforce, it is important to invest in cultural sensitivity trainings to avoid tension in the workplace. If you intend to jack up your growth this month, lay the foundation to measure this growth and speak with your customers as much as you can.