If you are selling services to Muslim consumers then you probably notice a change in preference in Muslim consumers. Perhaps you want to access this lucrative, extremely loyal and growing market. Just like Muslims have been getting unfair treatment at airports, in the media, the Muslim consumer has also suffered in recent months.
Their privacy was violated when their data from a faith-based app was bought by the US military. Their trust betrayed and their confidence shattered with the Halal meat scandal. How do you market to Muslims when their trust has been raped, their dignity trampled on and their sanctity is desecrated?
Here are just a few things that you have to take into consideration. The status quo that is enjoyed by brands that dominate the halal space is eroding. Here is what we notice is taking shape. By understanding this, you can better position yourself and your brand as a trustworthy partner in serving halal consumers.
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The Cost of Being Muslim (C.O.M.B Intolerant)
Muslims are increasingly resentful at Brands that remind them of the cost of being Muslim or COBM a term Shariah scholar, Sheikh Nizam Yaquby coined. Muslims use to tolerate and opt for brands that provide service or product at a premium just because it is halal.
Even when their service and quality is bad enough to start an uprising. Muslims no longer feel they should not be penalised for being a Muslim or wanting halal.
This resentment is brewing for quite a while now and their loyalty will also migrate as soon as they find an alternative. This status quo of profiting from COBM is prevalent in the financial industry. Islamic loans are more expensive to service, and the return on shariah-compliant investment is generally lower. This status quo has to change or brands that is surviving on COBM will become irrelevant.
What used to be the halal option is now seen as an oppressive instrument. It is debatable whether Islamic financial instruments are really more oppressive than traditional instruments. However, the perception exists and it is going to impact on Muslim consumer purchasing decisions.
Muslim Consumer wants more than Halal
Sharia compliance is the starting point. It is just the filter to determine, whether to give their attention or ignore a particular brand. What this means is halal certification is only a gate. You can open the gate but that does not mean that they will come. You must address their pain point in a manner that resonates with Muslims.
Then there are also brands that successfully market their products to Muslims without being Halal certified. These are usually non-pfood consumer goods by riding on a particular trend.
You may get a handful of impulse buyers, but as for loyalty, Muslim consumers has to trust your brand is halal. When you don’t even take the trouble to be halal certified, it creates an impression that may diminish your existing brand value. Muslim consumer’s loyalty is to Halal supersede any brand in the world.
Halal in Muslim Majority Country
If you want to access markets in the middle east, you can’t communicate to them as you communicate to a Muslim in London or New York. There is a huge difference between a Muslim that treats his identity like walking on a tight rope as opposed to a Muslim who considers that hearing the Azan five times a day is his fundamental right.
Muslims in Muslim majority countries are increasingly proud of their identity. Everything from the way they dress to what they buy as a present is different. So how do you market to Muslims in a Muslim-majority country? That deserves another article. The core Islamic values can be a guide but you must ask what is the challenge in practicing those core values.
A wudhu socks may be essential to people living in cold climates but in Malaysia or Indonesia it is practically unheard of except to those in the Tabligh movement. But a Telekung (Female Prayer Garment) is a massive market. In fact, the problem a Muslim woman by the name Padzilah Enda Sulaiman gave birth to regional brand Siti Khadijah.
Yes, Muslims tend to prefer products and services owned by Muslim businesses, and they sometimes turn a blind eye to quality and service. But this is changing, Muslim consumers’ undivided loyalty is to Islam, not Muslims.
If you can show that you can provide a better service without compromising ‘Halal’, Muslims will opt for your brand regardless whether you are Muslim or not. This is the emerging trend right now. Muslims just want Halal, it does not matter where it comes from.
Having said that, recent events have indicated on a country level there is greater effort to increase trade between Muslim countries. of course, they say this at every OIC meeting so what has changed?
The pandemic has caused a disruption in the supply chain which forces Muslims to work together. Then there is the Halal meat scandal which is also another push factor. It is expected that there are other events that will occur in 2021 that will force Muslims to work together to serve their own people, despite their differences.
It is expected this would give rise to more Muslim owned brands that understand the need challenges of Muslims.
Halal Compliance and Technology
In the past, Halal compliance was determined by scholars, but this too is changing. Those in charge of Shariah compliance are human so they do make mistakes and can be manipulated.
Sometimes they even do give conflicting opinions on the same issue depending on which shariah panel they sit. In the future, much of the compliance issue will be verified by technology, like blockchain and DNA traceability which already exists.
Of course the urgency is in the food industry and as time progresses and technology becomes more advanced, we will start to see that non-food items will also rely on technology for Halal compliance.
What this means is that if your brand is backed by verification technology, it has is an automatic selling point or. Technology will override any good marketing can do just like, Halal will take priority over brand loyalty.
Shahfizal Musa is the Founder and Managing Editor of Halalop. He graduated with a Law degree from Thames Valley University London. He is an award-winning journalist covering topics such as human trafficking, Muslim research discoveries, and exceptional Muslims.