Shopper Journeys Adjust to 2020's Unique Thanksgiving Realities
As part of our ongoing seasonal shopping series examining how 2020 has affected shopper behavior, this next installment looks at Thanksgiving: What is changing and what can we expect in a COVID impacted, omnichannel world?
Thanksgiving in normal years meant stocking up on groceries for baking, preparing traditional side dishes, and the bird itself (not to mention the snacks to accompany the long weekend full of watching football and other activities with family and friends).
With cases of COVID spiking nationwide and some states even imposing new restrictions, throughout the fall, consumers have been trying to make informed decisions about whether or not to travel to visit loved ones. Spikes in Google Search terms relating to guidelines and state by state restrictions indicate safety and compliance are on many people’s minds, even as we hunger for the opportunity to be together.
Some families are adjusting to the probability of Zoom Thanksgivings where scaled down versions of the holiday feast are consumed virtually. With gatherings likely to be smaller this year, evidence is mounting that this year’s Thanksgiving shopping list may change. Online grocery delivery services like Fresh Direct are already adjusting with offerings of smaller Thanksgiving meal bundles.
While there may be smaller guest lists, the traditional meals are likely to include all the stalwarts of traditional sides like cranberry sauce, stuffing, and gravy (Walmart DOES anticipate a demand for smaller turkeys, or other items like bone-in/boneless turkey breasts which they have increased by 20-30% as a result in stores across the country).
So, how will this affect that grocery spend in 2020 (and where we spend it)?
In 2019, according to the 34th annual Thanksgiving prices survey from the American Farm Bureau Federation, a holiday dinner for 10 cost the average family $48.91 or less than $5 per person. Of course, that figure went up astronomically when the turkey was organic or if you factored in the alcohol consumed to toast what we all had to be thankful for (or when we needed to tune out a crazy uncle or two!).
In a recent Supermarket News story, among 2,024 U.S. adults polled Oct. 17 to 19 in a study by advertising efficacy researcher NCSolutions, almost 75% of Americans plan to spend the same or more this year with 80% shopping in physical stores. That’s fair ... despite smaller festivities, who doesn’t crave the comfort of leftovers?
But it is noteworthy that a significant number of respondents are leveraging click-and-deliver/click-and-collect options for putting the feast together.
This year’s Thanksgiving will be omnichannel for sure. Shoppers are likely to research digitally, even if their purchase behavior includes a masked and socially-distanced visit to their favorite brick-and-mortar physical retailer in addition to e-commerce.
The other factor impacting this year’s spend is that everywhere the calls-to-action are to get your Thanksgiving shopping done early to avoid overcrowding in stores in response to the surge in cases across the country.
What does this mean for brands if they want to influence consumers who are prepping earlier for a different kind of holiday?
It may be too late to set the shopper marketing wheels in motion for this Thanksgiving shopping cycle. But brands who have already taken opportunities to understand the dynamics, intercept the shopper journey, and influence this year’s purchase behavior accordingly are likely to prosper. Things that are driving shopper choice including online recipes, couponing and in-store POSM, all of which facilitate finding products that make us nostalgic for our childhoods, or for brands used most often.
Why? Possibly because this year, more than most, consumers are finding comfort in tradition and those cues that remind us of better times. We need to celebrate and try to acknowledge what we have to be grateful, if only to remember the things that are important in our lives.
And what about Christmas?
In addition to Thanksgiving grocery shopper journey being different this year, we are beginning to see the impact of the pandemic on the Christmas Shopping rituals as well. Anticipating an unusual shopping season, retailers and brands are rushing to take advantage of as much shopper time as they can with seasonal packaging and displays already appearing in stores and online.
In a break from recent years, we are seeing a varied response to the next milestone in the Holiday Retail Agenda: Black Friday, leading to Cyber Monday, in the rush to Christmas. Some stores have announced closing on Thanksgiving Day itself, leaving us to question whether there will be a physical Black Friday rush to in-store bargains. Many retailers are distancing themselves from the traditional instore frenzy of Black Friday for the sake of their employees’ (and customers’) health and safety. Walmart has actually turned Black Friday on its head, announcing a multi-day event offering savings that started November 4th.
How will shoppers navigate a COVID Christmas across all consumer categories?
Our next installment of this Holiday series will reveal what we see and what we predict in a Christmas like no other.
Nicole Alfano is the Senior Product Manager of PRS IN VIVO’s OmniPath™ team, leading project execution and providing client consultancy as well as thought leadership on omnichannel shopper journeys. She has been with PRS IN VIVO for over 10 years, originally with the Insights team, gaining experience across numerous clients and categories, and also the Operations team, given her passion for organization and efficiency. Nicole is based in New Jersey, where she lives with her husband, 2 daughters, and pup.