What Can We Expect in the 2020 Holiday Season?

Oct 14, 2020

This year’s holiday season will be fundamentally different from previous years due to COVID-19. To help marketers better understand how to effectively strategize their holiday plans, we ran two studies to gather robust insights into what the holidays might look like in 2020:

  1. A survey with 2,353 respondents age 18+ through Soundboard – Pandora’s proprietary panel of listeners
  2. An emotional resonance test on creative with different levels of holiday cheer through Veritonic, our third party measurement partner

The learnings from these tests will help marketers understand what’s top-of-mind for consumers, how to best drive engagement, and how to optimize creative. Let’s dive in!

Insight # 1: There’s still time to reach consumers, but marketers need to move fast

There’s been a lot of talk lately that holiday shopping has started earlier than usual this year. We found that 1 in 3 either have started shopping or will start “ASAP”. Moreover, key shopping dates like Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Amazon Prime Day, and Small Business Saturday are going to be big this year with 75% of consumers planning to shop on these days. And interestingly, more people are planning to shop on Amazon Prime Day than Black Friday.

The way people are shopping is changing too:

  • 39% of consumers are planning to shop more online
  • 34% are planning to buy online and pick up in store more

To help advertisers effectively reach consumers based on these new shopping needs, Pandora has turnkey audience segments like Buy Online, Pick Up In Store Intenders, Online Shopping Enthusiasts, Heavy Spender Online Shoppers, and Heavy Frequency Online Shoppers for brands to take advantage of.

Key takeaway: It’s time to start your holiday campaigns if you haven’t already. Because audio requires less production time and can be put in-market shortly after the spot is produced, it’s possible to get a new message in-market within a few days. Consider leveraging audio to quickly launch your holiday campaign.

Insight #2: COVID-19 is still a concern for many people

When asked how they feel about the pandemic, more than half said they are still nervous, about 1/3 said they are somewhat worried, and 1/4 are overwhelmed. Thus, it’s no surprise that 40% of consumers want brands to share how they are helping consumers shop the way they want – either online or in-person – and 39% want to hear about safety measures being taken in stores.

Furthermore, because of the pandemic, only 30% of people are planning travel, almost entirely by car. That’s good news for marketers because 84% of consumers plan to listen to music in their cars this season and 40% through connected cars specifically. The audience has nearly doubled the past 3 years and keeps growing, meaning that brands have the opportunity for massive reach in a premium listening environment.

Key takeaway: Consumers are looking to brands for information about how to navigate these times. Keep your creative informative and relevant to consumers’ current situation and with most traveling by car, consider leveraging the connected car platform and sponsorship opportunities.

Insight #3: Consumers want happy, warm, and considerate messaging

A key question for marketers this holiday season was what tone to strike this year. It turns out that consumers are looking for comfort this year. 61% would like to hear ads that show gratitude and appreciation, 55% want ads that acknowledge the challenges we all faced this year, and 53% want something that makes them laugh.

In addition to our Soundboard study, we also ran two creative preference tests with Veritonic. Ads with blatant holiday references – think jingle bells and Santa VOs – were seen as more energetic and festive while ads that referenced big family gatherings – something we won’t have this year – were seen as less relevant.

Key takeaway: This has been a unique year and consumers will appreciate it when brands authentically acknowledge this, while also keeping things light – even better, bring them a moment of joy with a laugh or heartwarming emotion. Consider how people will be spending the holidays this year (i.e. small, cozy moments at home vs. big parties) and let that guide your ideas for the creative.

Insight #4: Holiday music will keep the festive spirit alive this season

In a season with many unknown variables, one thing that we can count on is holiday music. Our study found that 92% of consumers listen to any holiday music. And of course, listening will be done in tandem with other holiday activities – the most popular ones are cooking/baking treats, putting up holiday decorations, and wrapping gifts.

We also asked listeners why they seek out holiday music at all. 70% said that it gets them in the holiday mood and 62% said that it relaxes them – which makes sense as holiday music scores high in “soothing” and “cheerful” according to our proprietary Mood Score. Essentially, in a time of uncertainty, music brings a sense of calm and normalcy, which is something we all could use more of this year.

Key takeaway: Relevant messaging drives receptivity – reach consumers when they’re in the right mood and moment. Marketers can align messaging with key holiday moments likely to reach listeners when they are in the holiday spirit – opportunities include holiday genre targeting, contextual targeting, and sponsorable holiday stations.

Insight #5: Budget is the top priority for most listeners this year

This has been a difficult year for many. Staying on budget with gifts is a key consideration for 73% of consumers this year and 1 in 4 said they will be spending less on gifts than in previous years. Additionally, the most requested brand messaging was for information about savings and offers, by 3 in 4 people.

The main exception to this trend is with millennials – 2020 will be a year to “treat yourself” for them. In fact, 1 in 3 millennials are planning to buy a gift for themselves this holiday season and interestingly, they are 47% more likely to spend more on holiday gifts this year compared to other demos.

Key takeaway: Holiday specials are always a key part of the season, but consumers will likely be even more focused on finding a good deal or investing in self-care. Utilize messaging that clearly articulates how your brand can help consumers achieve these goals.

Insight #6: Supporting local communities is a key consideration for consumers

Over half of consumers said they will be spending more time at home compared to previous years. And with that, they are also more interested in their local communities. 80% of respondents said that they plan to donate time or money to charities this year and 40% of consumers want to hear about how brands are supporting their own local communities.

Additionally, 1 in 2 listeners plan to shop at local, small businesses this year. And 26% said that having a brand support causes they care about would help them decide where to shop. Supporting Black-owned businesses was important for millennials as well, with 1 in 4 saying that was an important consideration for where to purchase gifts this year.

Key takeaway: The season of giving is in full swing this year. Support for local communities will be a big deciding factor for many consumers about where to shop this year. Consider messaging that authentically speaks to how your brand is giving back.

Marketer Takeaway:

This holiday season will be a new experience for everyone, but marketers can leverage these insights to help make sure that it is still a successful year. Reach out to your Pandora sales rep for more information on how to turn this data into a robust creative strategy for your brand.

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