Something surprising is happening on Britain’s high streets, and for clever forward thinking brands, this is an opportunity not to be missed: the rise of the Muslim consumer.
In today’s straitened economic climate, Muslim consumers offer a segment that is younger than average, has a larger than average household size, above average fertility rates and unique under-served consumer needs. They are optimistic, proud to be British, and most importantly they are waiting for brands to reach out to them.
The marketplace is slowly responding to their needs. Increasing outreach from sectors such as supermarkets during Ramadan year on year has clearly demonstrated a contribution to the bottom line. But these are baby steps towards winning over a segment crying out to be served.
Who is the Muslim consumer?
In Ogilvy Noor’s global research, we found that over 90% of Muslims say that their faith affects their consumption.This holds true whether in majority or minority Muslim populations. Our findings are not a judgement about religiosity but rather the simple matter of consumption.
In an economic model where products and communications are increasingly sophisticated in targeting consumer needs, Muslims are rightly expectant that their own consumer needs should be met on the high street and online, and that brands will address their consumption requirements.
For brands this can mean anything from a simple acknowledgement that Muslim consumers exist, through to tailored communications, special brands and even innovative products.
Our advice to businesses when developing offerings for Muslim consumers is to find the approach that is right for your brand, and will make sense to the Muslim consumers. For this, businesses need to avoid stereotypical assumptions about Muslim consumers and access the right expertise.
Early Days in British Muslim Consumer Engagement
Acknowledgement of the Muslim consumer is growing within the UK. A stroll into some well known supermarket names during the month of Ramadan is an experience that Muslim consumers describe with delight. They love the Ramadan signage and the special offers, but what creates brand loyalty is the very fact that they are recognised by the business as valued consumers. But this novelty will soon wear off and brands must up the ante in branding, innovation, communications and engagement.
Despite being receptive to brand engagement, Muslim consumers rightly complain that brands seek to pass off poor quality products in a bid to win their business. Or that innovation is poorly implemented. Or that communications and customer service are clunky and insensitive.
Worse are assumptions that all British Muslims are Asians, and the only products they want are chicken tikka pizzas and prayer mats. These assumptions couldn’t be more wrong. And the opportunity to understand and respond couldn’t be more wide open.
More than Just Meat
Talk of Muslim consumers naturally throws up the word ‘halal’, which simply means ‘permitted’. And in common parlance, halal is used to refer to meat and food products. But Muslim shoppers are interested in more than just food. From the high street to online, and from the smallest to the most global of brands, there is an opportunity to tailor an offering for a young, brand conscious, well-connected and increasingly affluent consumer segment.
Globally, the Islamic finance market is estimated at $2.1 trillion. The Muslim travel market is valued at $126 billion.The Muslim fashion market is worth $96 billion. And the burgeoning personal care and cosmetics market is estimated at $13 billion, although experts agree this is very low. Yet across all these sectors, products and communications aimed at British Muslim consumer sare only slowly being developed. For any brands that want to gain first mover advantage and win over Muslim consumers, the time is now.
Brand Courage and Credibility
The wider political and social backdrop regarding Muslims can make brands understandably nervous to reach out openly. But Muslim consumers are welcoming of even the smallest of overtures, understanding that businesses feel they are taking a risk. The rewards are for the taking as Muslim consumers are supportive of even the smallest of efforts and will be a brand’s best ally through word of mouth. Being tech savvy and well-connected digitally and via the concept of ummah means that support spreads quickly. And where brands do reach out to Muslim consumers, their courage will be rewarded. The response is loyalty, pride and collective endorsement. Friends in a time of need are not forgotten
Alongside commitment, credibility is important. Whilst being acknowledged by brands can be enjoyable for Muslim consumers, it is important that engagement is genuine. Being ‘fake’, or coming across as insincere are death knells for brands in this space. And despite best intentions, brands should ensure that they work with experts who can build strong credibility based on genuine insight and understanding.
An Opportunity for the Taking
What brands need to do now is deepen their insights into the spending power, tastes and brand values that appeal to British Muslim consumers. Britain has one of the most sophisticated well-connected and untapped Muslim consumer populations in the world. It’s time for brands to pay attention.