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Published December 8th 2020

Covid-19 2020: How The Pandemic is Shaping The Holidays

How are people decorating? What are they asking for for Christmas? And what activities are on the cards? We found out using Brandwatch Consumer Research.

This year’s holiday season is obviously dramatically different to others in recent memory. But how will consumer behavior be affected over the festive period?

We used Brandwatch Consumer Research to explore mentions of the holidays and associated festivities on social media to find out.

‘Tis the season of online shopping

Conversation about Christmas was dominated by one word: Delivery.

Our Consumer Research platform found 25m mentions relating to Christmas delivery in social conversations between November 1 and November 30 2020.

In fact, delivery has been a huge topic of conversation throughout the year. We found that mentions of delivery in 2020 were 89% higher than the average mentions in 2017, 2018, and 2019 from January 1 to November 30.

Mentions of online shopping have also been higher in 2020 so far – 35% up on the average number for the same periods in 2017, 2018, and 2019.

Consumers want safety

In our recent Black Friday blog, we found 235k mentions from people who had taken to online sales because they either didn’t feel comfortable shopping in-store or were subject to stay at home orders.

This preference for staying home was further emphasized in November conversation about shopping. We found 525k mentions from people on social media discussing how they didn’t feel comfortable shopping and mingling with strangers over the festive period.

Christmas preparation has been happening for months

When we looked at mentions of the holiday season since the outbreak of Covid-19, we found that consumers have been very busy planning their festivities. In fact, some have been preparing for months.

The hype for the holiday is palpable.

People want to prepare gifts in advance, kick their feet up, and relax after a stressful year.

Fresh or artificial?

Speaking of preparing early, we found that mentions of decorating for the holidays were 14% higher in November 2020 compared to the average number of mentions in November 2017, 2018, and 2019.

Freshly-cut trees were a huge topic within festive decoration conversation on social media. We found 292k mentions in November 2020, an increase of 10% in comparison to the same month in 2019. It’s also worth noting that tree sellers in the US and the UK are already reporting bumper sales.

This is an indication that, while in-person festivities could be smaller this year, people are spending the extra time to make it feel special and are more likely to splurge on higher-end decorations as a treat. And it’s not just about how things look, either.

Scent the halls

Speaking of freshly cut Christmas trees, consumers’ attention to scent over the holidays is really important. Our research shows that people talk more about smell in November and December than in any other month of the year.

But what smells are people talking about in relation to the holidays? Is it roast turkey? Pigs in blankets? Or treats left out for Santa?

The scent of fresh trees was the most popular Christmas scent over the last three years,  with 59k mentions on social media.

This was followed by the smell of baked goods (26k mentions) and cinnamon (15k mentions).

The smell of candy canes was also very popular. We found 9k mentions of the sweet festive treat on social media, and another 8k mentions of gingerbread. Perhaps surprisingly, both of these were considered to be candle scents, as opposed to people talking about how the real items smell.

What’s on the gift list?

The console wars are heating up already. This year we found 292k mentions (161k of which were next generation) from people discussing buying a console as a gift for themselves or others.

Consumers were also discussing handmade gifts on social media between November 1 and November 30. We found 153k mentions of handmade gifts, and another 52k mentions of Etsy, the handmade marketplace.

Phones were also a popular choice of gift with 308k mentions, as were electronics like laptops and tablets (248k mentions), and tech accessories, like headphones and smart watches (189k mentions.)

Interestingly, we also found that mentions of gift cards between March 1 and November 30 had fallen 46% in 2020 compared to the average number for the same period in 2017, 2018, and 2019. While this might be an easy gift to give at a social distance, confidence in businesses remaining open long enough for people to spend gift vouchers is an issue.

For children, people on social media have been discussing clothing (96k mentions, 56k of which were relating to particular brands), books (43k mentions), and games (18k mentions.)

We also found 461k mentions of Christmas Eve boxes. The boxes — typically for children — usually have some treats and pyjamas in them for the night before Christmas. Over 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020, mentions have increased 15% year-on-year as the trend has become more popular.

What’s on?

But the big question is still on everyone’s mind – will people spend the festive period with family and friends this year?

Between March and November 2020, we found 3m mentions from people online considering if they will spend time with friends and family over the holiday period.

Festive activities, like holiday markets and movie screenings, are still on, but we’re going outdoors (1m mentions) or taking them online (175k mentions).

And, thankfully, it looks like children who want to visit santa won’t have to miss out this year. We found 158k mentions of virtual as well as in-person but socially-distanced visits.

While this year is dramatically different to last year’s holiday season, people won’t let the virus get them down – and neither, it seems, will Santa.

Instead, people are hoping to prepare early, put their feet up, and enjoy whatever comforts Covid-19 restrictions will allow.

If you’d like to know more about this data send us a line at [email protected], or drop us a direct message on Twitter, @BW_React.

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