Digital Advertising Industry News


Thanksgiving Shopping, Dining And Travel In 2020

November 11, 2020 Sarah Cavill

Shutterstock_1829187983 Family congratulates friends on Thanksgiving online. Video chatting with friends new normal. Festive dinner remotely by phone on a smartphone. Social distance pandemic covid-19. Celebrating tradition

Around the country, many Americans are getting excited about the holidays, decorating and shopping earlier than in prior years, likely mustering up their holiday spirit after a tough 2020. As Thanksgiving approaches, consumers, brands and retailers contemplate the best way to celebrate. Ecommerce sales are already booming leading into the Thanksgiving holiday, and brands are using digital strategies to help people plan their Thanksgiving gatherings and getaways. 

Thanksgiving Sales This Year Will Rely Heavily On Ecommerce

More than 25% of shoppers have already bought their Christmas gifts this year. This isn’t surprising, considering that many insiders predicted shopping would begin early this year, allowing shoppers to secure the best deals and circumvent shipping and supply issues. The New York Times notes that Prime Day started the ball rolling, “You can thank the pandemic for Amazon Prime Day’s shift from mid-July to October 13 and 14 [in 2020]. And when Walmart, Best Buy, Target, and the like followed suit with their own sales, they kicked off an avalanche of holiday sales that will carry everyone right into December.”

Ecommerce is expected to continue dominating shopping through the holiday season, with Adobe Analytics predicting “online sales this November and December are forecast to surge 33% year over year to a record $189 billion.” Black Friday shopping this year will likely be done primarily online, with shoppers seeking to avoid crowds and many consumers preferring to shop from the comfort of their homes. Americans are expected to spend $10.3 billion on Black Friday, and a whopping $12.7 billion on Cyber Monday, which is “up 35% from 2019 levels.”

Zoom And Virtual Thanksgiving Celebrations Are On The Menu This Year

Although some people are still planning to travel for Thanksgiving this year, many will likely heed expert advice to stay home and keep Thanksgiving gatherings small. In response, some brands are hosting virtual Thanksgiving events to create a fun atmosphere despite the changes this year. On November 19, renowned chef Wolfgang Puck and Provence Rosé Group (PRG) will be hosting a virtual Thanksgiving wine tasting. The wine tasting event will include Puck cooking up his favorite Thanksgiving dishes and a sommelier from PRG vineyard Château de Berne suggesting the top rosé pairings, with the event airing across social media channels including Puck’s Facebook page and the Château de Berne website and Facebook event listing. Château de Berne, in addition to being a vineyard, is also a five star hotel and tourist destination. Virtual events like these offer promotional opportunities for hospitality brands, at a time when consumers are looking for comforting Thanksgiving-related content and longing to travel.

Zoom and outdoor Thanksgivings are also being touted as fun and alternative options in this unusual year. Friendsgivings in particular are getting a lot of attention, as people may be more likely to be around friends this year than far-off family. Kitchen furnishings brand Williams Sonoma has leveraged their popular content marketing to create a “A Week-By-Week Countdown To The Perfect Virtual Thanksgiving,” which, just as Williams Sonoma has in the past, offers a step-by-step guide to preparing a Thanksgiving celebration, including Thanksgiving crafts, recipes, invites and the proper timing of special deliveries. The list allows Williams Sonoma to engage with consumers, while highlighting their products and helpful content even though Thanksgiving may be virtual.

Other brands facilitating virtual Thanksgivings are invitation companies like Paperless Post, with language on their invite templates considerate of online celebrations. Retailers that sell outdoor heaters and pop-up tents, like Amazon and Lowes, are likely seeing increased sales as demand rises with many shoppers planning not just outdoor Thanksgivings, but outdoor events throughout the colder months.


Feast mode. Make even the smallest feast feel special with Thanksgiving new invites.

A post shared by Paperless Post (@paperlesspost) on

Travel For Thanksgiving This Year To Be A Mix Of People Choosing Small Family Gatherings Or Tropical Vacations

According to The Wall Street Journal, “Only 27% of people say they are celebrating Thanksgiving as they normally would.” Adding “Of those who are meeting in person but taking precautions, 20% plan to be with a smaller group, 14% plan to wear masks and 14% plan to social distance.” Similarly, two-thirds of people surveyed in an Axios/Ipsos poll, said they believe traveling for the upcoming holidays poses a moderate health risk.

However, although the CDC warns against traveling for Thanksgiving, some destinations are seeing upticks in travel business from those who feel as safe abroad as they do in their hometowns. Costa Rica, which recently opened up again to global tourism is a popular destination this Thanksgiving, offering detailed information on their tourism website about the guidelines for safely visiting. According to search results, The Maldives and Bora Bora are also experiencing increased interest. Some brands are jumping at the chance to attract travelers looking for a tropical getaway, like, which offered a massive discount on a trip to Friendsgiving Island. The popular travel brand gave interested travelers one night to score the first come, first served deal, which includes a private island getaway with friends and the added perk of a private chef on hand to cook Thanksgiving dinner. 

Despite those people looking to get away, flying is likely to be less popular than in past years, and it’s expected that many people will drive to smaller family gatherings, particularly since road trips have become increasingly popular during the pandemic. 

As with so many things this year, the holidays are going to hit a little differently. However, the resilience of people around the world has shown that adopting new behaviors, like ecommerce, virtual celebrations and safe travel, is becoming more commonplace and a more expected part of life in 2020. This Thanksgiving will still be a memory-maker for many, and the unique nature of the celebrations, helped along by digital innovations, may offer their own kind of special significance for years to come.

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About the Author

Sarah Cavill

With more than 20 years of writing, editing and reporting experience, Sarah Cavill brings to Digital Media Solutions (DMS) a fine-tuned and diverse set of skills. Her work has been featured in notable publications including The Daily Muse, CBS Local, Techlicious and Glamour magazine. Sarah has a passion for current events and the deep-dive research that goes into the content development and brand identity of DMS Insights. In her role as Senior Marketing Communications Writer, Sarah contributes to the pitching, researching and writing of multiple stories published each week surrounding digital and performance marketing innovations in pop culture, news, social media, branding and advertising.

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