Cyber Week is Canceled Blog Series: Macro Conditions Affect Consumer Celebrations and Gift Giving

We previously covered 2020’s prolonged shopping season and the impact that COVID-19 will have on how consumers will shop. For our final part of our Cyber Week is Canceled series, we’re discussing how consumer lifestyle changes will affect shopping and what media buyers can do to capture consumer attention.

In 2020, predictions have come in all shapes and sizes but we never seem quite prepared for reality. Our every day lives may vary regionally from the effects of COVID-19, but there are some consistent underlying themes on how our pandemic lifestyle will influence holiday shopping.

1. Holiday Celebrations
As much as people will try to fight this, festive events will not look the same as in 2019. While some folks will decide to be business as usual, (hopefully) others will take precautions to stop the spread of COVID-19. Family gatherings will be kept to more intimate affairs and in-person corporate holiday parties will most likely be canceled as most companies remain remote.

This translates to less in-person gift-giving, less travel, and less spend at grocery stores since holiday festivities will be kept to a minimum. Consumer budgets may allow for more generous gifts since there will be less spending on holiday travel and groceries. This may help soften the blow of missed face-to-face visits.

2. Changing Economics
2020 has been an uneasy year of economic instability with unemployment filings reaching as high as 6.5 million people in April and we continue to hear about layoffs. While unemployment rates have stabilized as the country began to slowly reopen, many industries continue to remain closed. On the flip side, stay at home orders have created unexpected savings since discretionary spending on restaurants, travel, entertainment, and certain luxury items halted. While many are hesitant to spend due to the economic downturn and political uncertainty, wallets may open up for extra gift-giving or luxury splurges.

Many retailers continue to struggle against meeting the same fate of established stores like Lord & Taylor, Niemen Marcus, and Pier1 as in-store shopping was suspended. According to the National Retail Foundation, since 2002 Q4 holiday shopping accounts for approximately 20% of annual sales for retailers, with 2008 the only year where there was a drop in sales.

3. Shopping Behavior & Lifestyle Changes
Many consumers will opt out of large crowds and any potential exposure to COVID-19 which means in-store shopping will decrease dramatically. In 2019, buying online and picking up in store was a new shopping rage and saw a 35% YoY increase. Now- it’s a way of life. In 2020, we’ve now leveled up with curbside pick-up due to COVID-19 precautions and overall convenience. Retailers also have to consider how to staff their stores to accommodate for consumer lifestyle changes. It’s really hard to tell how in-store traffic will be but creating a seamless customer experience with curbside pick up will be a key defensive strategy.

Consumers have also taken up different hobbies to keep sane during the pandemic. If you would have asked your 2019 self if you would have become such an avid bread baker, gardner, mountain biker, musician, fitness enthusiast, etc. in 2020, would you have believed it? Most likely not. We’ve seen a YoY rise in demand for audience segments like home improvement, alternative medicine, and fitness.


Business intelligence. Like most things in 2020, your customer has changed. Having an optimal understanding of user behaviors and media consumption is integral, especially now that the cookie is starting to crumble and shoppers remain out of the office. Cookieless signals like engagement actions will be key this holiday season.
See: What You Need to Know about Engagement Data Signals

Attention! Over here. We’re big believers in attention. If you aren’t using ads that are seen or engaging, you’re already 10 steps behind. High impact formats that are efficient and effective will turbo charge your media budgets. With the earlier start date this season, Q4 is a marathon, not a sprint.
Case Study:
Quality & Cost-Effective Shoppers

Level up with intent. With customers trying new hobbies and interests, having access to fresh audience segments based on intent are essential. Signals based on 2019 will earn you a lump of coal. Power your campaigns with fresh data and high impact formats for an extra boost.
See: COVID-19 Holiday Guide

When companies began their 2020 planning a year ago, little did they know that everything would be upended by an invisible threat. COVID-19 has influenced just about every aspect of our lives from our family, work, education, and how we assess what’s necessary. We hope that our Cyber Week is Canceled Series has been useful and informative. Don’t forget to check out the previous installments for more information on the prolonged shopping season and how supply chain issues will influence shoppers to start their gift buying early.