Technology and social media have been playing the essential role of mitigators during the novel coronavirus pandemic as they're keeping people as well as businesses connected to the world in times of social distancing. With Ramadan silently occupying its usual spot this year, communities that observe the holy month were left with online platforms as the only tool to reunite with loved ones. As for businesses, they were taught invaluable lessons about connecting with customers, maintaining open lines of communication, and keeping customers informed during these challenging times.

"The living room is now a digital experience, with more people multi-screening than ever before, and mobile proving to be an integral part of people's communication. As businesses pivot to ensure their engagement remains relevant, they must explore new ways of connecting with audiences and build communities who will champion their brands," said Ramez Shehadi, Managing Director, MENA at Facebook. 

"With COVID-19 creating barriers for physical engagement, we continue to work with businesses to create community first engagement and provide them with the support they need to get through this period," Shehadi continued. 

To better understand how to create meaningful connections during Ramadan, Facebook IQ, Facebook's insights and research division in partnership with data, insights and consulting company Kantar, has unveiled findings of a study conducted during Ramadan 2019 that looks into user behavior and purchase decisions in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Egypt. The study was conducted online across nine countries, engaging with over 7,000 respondents including 2,780 from the aforementioned countries.

While many of Ramadan's moments happen in person, values and traditions are equally expressed online, the research reveals. 

However, the holy month isn't the only time of the year when focusing on customers is essential. The following tips that should help marketers navigate their way sensitively during Ramadan can also be implemented year round.

1. Be where it matters

Throughout Ramadan, people tend to spend most of their time scrolling through their social media timelines for entertainment and information.

It appears that 96 percent of survey respondents in the UAE often use at least one Facebook platform - either WhatsApp, Instagram, Messenger, or Facebook - to connect with their community and loved ones. That number is 85 percent in Saudi Arabia and 95 percent in Egypt. 

This year, as Ramadan takes place in the midst of COVID-19, people have been relying on technology and digital platforms even more to connect with the people and brands they care about. 

Meet them on the platforms they use most and share useful information to help them during this busy time.

2. Maintain customer communication

According to the research, 95.2 percent of Ramadan observers in the UAE use a mobile phone, with similar stats mirrored in Saudi Arabia (92.6 percent) and a bit less so in Egypt (76 percent).

As for the use of mobile phones while watching TV - since Ramadan shows are all the hype during this particular month - over 70 percent of worshipers multitask in the UAE (77.7 percent), Saudi Arabia (70 percent), and Egypt (76 percent). 

In light of this new landscape, focus on business continuity and maintain ongoing dialogue with customers. This could mean proactively answering customer inquiries, responding to changes in consumption scenarios, or marketing the most relevant products.

3. Tell meaningful stories while showing support to COVID-19 efforts

A boy wears a protective mask as he looks through a window in Sidon, Lebanon. Photo Credit: Reuters

Given the religious importance of Ramadan, it's fundamental to speak of the core values of the season while balancing promotional messages. 

Be respectful and connect with your audience authentically and consider use of motifs and symbols. This could mean giving back to society, taking a stance on an issue that matters to Ramadan observers, being of service to those affected by COVID-19, or simply avoiding clichés.