We Talked to Our Listeners, And They Plan on Shopping Small During the Holidays

Alex Fredkin, Vertical Marketing SMBNov 23, 2020

To help small and local businesses navigate this difficult time, we polled over 2,000 people in our Pandora listener base on their shopping habits, how they feel about small businesses, and how they plan on spending their hard-earned dollars this Holiday Season. This data revealed some interesting insights regarding consumer shopping behavior. Read on to see the data, where they plan on shopping, and why audio ads can help you win.

Here are the most important insights we gleaned:

Consumers Want to Support Small Businesses this Holiday Season

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During the Fall we conducted a study to find out how our listeners felt about shopping small and where they were planning on shopping during the Holidays. We tapped into our 1st party listener data via Soundboard—our proprietary panel of 75,000 individuals—to get exclusive insights from consumers you are trying to reach.

Best news of all to the small business is that consumers want to shop small during the Holidays. Over half (52%) of Pandora gifters plan to shop at local businesses this Holiday season.1 This was the same amount that planned to shop at Walmart, and more than large retailers such as Kohl’s and Macy’s.

And while Amazon is the go-to retailer for this Holiday Season, 48% of our listeners planning to shop Amazon say they would consider shopping small too.1

Businesses who Can Reach Young Americans and Women Have the Upper Hand

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While the sentiment to “shop small” is widespread, it over-indexes in the millennial, Gen-Z women, and high-income household ($100K+) demographics, who are 8%, 21% and 11% more likely, respectively.1

Small businesses with products and services that are utilized by these demos have a big opportunity this Holiday Season to capture consumers. And for businesses with products that appeal to a wide demo base, consider creating ads that speak more specifically to these target audiences, as they are more likely to buy.

Empathy and Understanding in the Face of the Pandemic

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Our studies have shown that during the COVID-19 Pandemic, consumers appreciate when company advertisements show empathy, understanding, and a willingness to be there for people given this difficult time. In fact, COVID-related ads make consumers feel informed, and give a sense of community; few feel anxious or annoyed by them.2 At this point almost all consumers have heard these types of ads, as high as 86% in the 18-24 demo.2 Businesses who are tone-def to the realities the country is facing, or ignore it altogether are not viewed favorably.

While a local or small business may be afraid of the consequences of missing the mark on a COVID-related ad, don’t shy away from this. The data shows that not speaking about it is a mistake. Lead with empathy, be transparent, and speak to your audience as real people.

Brand Affinity: Start Now, And Think Long-Term

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While most businesses are eyeing the December Holiday season of course, don’t forget two important November dates, Black Friday (Nov. 27) and Small Business Saturday (Nov. 28). According to our Soundboard Study, nearly half of shoppers plan to shop on Black Friday, and one third on Small Business Saturday.1

Small businesses who are not taking advantage of this opportunity already should act now and not wait until the Holiday Season. And those that are taking advantage with small investments should consider increasing them to extend campaign reach and frequency. Our Audio Insights Lab recently conducted a frequency experiment across 170 campaigns that found 4+ exposures generated the highest lift in brand awareness, favorability, and recall.7

How Digital Audio and Pandora Is Effective for Local Businesses

The audio space is very suitable to a small and local business’ needs, more so than traditional radio, and has advantages over search and social as well. These include: uncluttered environment, with ads served one at a time and adjacent to brand-safe content.

For one, audio is now more popular than ever. Digital audio listener minutes surpassed Terrestrial Radio in 2019, and that difference is growing.5 169 Million Americans have listened to internet radio in the last week,6 with Pandora listeners spending an average of 5 hours a day with audio.4 Lastly, during COVID, Pandora audio consumption has increased 42%.3

Audio ads are inherently agile. The audio assets and other creative can be turned around within days using Pandora’s own Studio Resonate. Messaging is easy to change, so brands can not only create different ads for each target persona, but can easily change the conversation to speak more to COVID and other current events if needed.

Audio ads are highly targeted, and can target audiences at a 1:1 level, rather than radio which is one to many. Pandora has several ad products that can also ensure zero waste on ad spend.

While audio ads can be used for direct response, they are highly effective for brand awareness campaigns, too. Small businesses should aim to advertise now, not only to gain sales during the Holidays, but to establish brand affinity with a consumer base that is primed to accept their messages. Those that take advantage successfully can set up brand affinity and success for years to come, not just during this time.

Key Marketer Takeaways

  1. Shopping local to support small and medium sized businesses is top of mind among Pandora holiday gift givers this season, and shoppers want you to win.
  2. And while Amazon is the go-to-retailer for the 2020 holidays among Pandora shoppers, many are supporting small as an alternative or in addition to Amazon.
  3. Win the key audiences (millennials, Gen-Z women, $100K+ households) who are more likely to shop local than others.
  4. Don’t wait for the Holidays to advertise your local business; promote throughout the entire holiday planning/buying sales cycle.
  5. In harder times, empathy wins. Be understanding of current events and don’t ignore them, as consumers appreciate this.
  6. Digital audio is suitable for the small business as creative can be turned around quickly, there is zero ad waste, and there is a 1:1 connection to consumers.

We hope these insights are helpful to your small or local business. To learn more about the industry as a whole, feel free to read our other articles, including our Insider’s Guide to Digital Audio.

And if you are interested in advertising on Pandora, get in touch today!


  1. Pandora Soundboard, Holiday Study, A18+ (N=2,353), September 16-23, 2020. Base: A18+ Holiday Gift Purchasers.
  2. Tale of Two Streamers, Pandora + Omnicom Primary Research Group, fielded by Edison Research
  3. Pandora Soundboard, COVID-19 Verticals Study, (N=2,860), April 2020
  4. Edison Share of Ear, Q3 2020, Persons 13+, any consumption Audio (AM/FM, digital audio/streaming, satellite, owned)
  5. eMarketer, April 2020, Digital Audio: ages 18+ who use at least once per month
  6. Edison Research and Triton Digital; The Infinite Dial 2020
  7. Kantar Millward Brown Branding Impact Studies (170 Pandora campaigns)
  8. Epsilon: “The power of me: The impact of personalization on marketing performance.”, Jan 2018
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