The idea of “home for the holidays” has never been more prescient than in 2020. While Canadian employment numbers have recovered since their low in April, sectors like entertainment, travel and restaurants remain hard hit. What’s the bright spot? The movement towards e-commerce has grown by leaps and bounds since March and poses unforeseen opportunities for marketers this holiday season. Here are some insights to help you navigate the season, pulled from Quantcast’s data:

Canadians Will Start Earlier — and Stick Around Longer to Bargain Shop

Each year, Quantcast sees the searches for terms like “Christmas” and “Boxing Day” rise earlier and earlier. Consumers tend to begin researching their purchases by the end of September and there is a steep rise from October through to Christmas. Last year, Boxing Day shopping interest started much later coinciding with when Boxing Day flyers and promotions were announced.

Search interest peaked during the week of Christmas before quickly tapering off once the new year began. This year, with so many shoppers working from home, and concerns about economics, we expect people to be more thoughtful in their purchasing with longer than usual purchase cycles. They will also likely be motivated to start earlier due to fear of in store crowds, region specific lockdowns and limits on stock availability that they experienced early in the pandemic.

Holiday shopping online search trends

There are Different Audiences for Each Shopping Period

Shoppers tend to fall into three distinct buckets that each have varying demographic characteristics.  Early shoppers are more likely to be women over the age of 55. Mid-season shoppers also skew female but fall within the 18-44 age bucket: think moms with kids and big lists for their family. Last-minute shoppers are more likely to be men 18-44.  

Those early shoppers are more likely than the average to be looking for books, gift wrap, DIY holiday projects, cardigans and toys. Mid-season shoppers are into holiday baking and gifts for significant others, as well as work colleagues. PJs and dresses rank highly on their lists. Last-minute shoppers are more likely to be looking for gift cards, gift sets, baskets, wine, cosmetics — and even gifts for pets. There is a well-documented COVID-19 puppy explosion, which means Fido may be getting his first stylish coat for the winter.

The varying demographics and purchase behaviors call for marketing strategies that include tailored messaging and carefully timed and curated content selections.

Food Will be Especially Important: For Gifting and Just Enjoying

With COVID-19 turning baking into a national pastime, and many avoiding or unable to enjoy restaurant meals, shoppers will be increasingly giving presents related to food this holiday. Quantcast witnessed two somewhat oppositional foods trends during COVID-19 that we expect to see fulfilled this holiday season: baked goods vs healthy eating. Site traffic to dessert and baking sites more than tripled (+221%) at the height of the pandemic and healthy cooking had more than doubled (+118%). Perhaps the cinnamon buns were made with gluten free flour and coconut oil?

Quantcast expects Christmas 2020 to be all about dining in with smaller, immediate family to be the norm this year – this is especially so for regions under a temporary lockdown.  Dinner will be served with the aid of new small appliances like Instant Pots and stand mixers. Based on what we are seeing in food product searches, turmeric, sunflower seeds and some sort of plant based protein may make it into the holiday spread.

Technology May Be Under Every Tree

With both working from home and homeschooling, everyone in the family could use a bit of a tech upgrade. We expect both high-end laptops along with a resurgent tablet to be especially gift worthy this year. And with people stuck at home, new releases like the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X may be the big family gift this year. 

Search interest for computer tech terms spike right after Halloween when the Christmas shopping season officially begins. Site traffic to computer tech websites spike two times during the holiday season: once during Black Friday and again during Boxing Day. It’s also interesting to note that the Black Friday shopper tends to be male with an income about $100K and looking for the newest and highest end products while the Boxing Day deal hunter is slightly older and looking for model closeouts.

Charity Is On the Rise 

As Quantcast data has shown, the pandemic has given rise to new heights of charitable giving. In a typical year, both conversion volume and site traffic coincides throughout the year and rises in parallel in December as people make holiday donations in time for the year end tax cutoff. There is little “shopping around” among charities indicating that offline marketing may be the key driver of activity. COVID-19 charity donors look very similar to general givers, with one key exception: Gen Y has become much more likely to donate. This is interesting in light of their relatively high unemployment rates. Perhaps those with jobs have developed more sympathy to those in need? This is the generation that grew up online so donating this way just makes sense to them.

Want More?

Throughout this unprecedented holiday period, Quantcast will be sharing insights into internet activity, including searches and conversions to help marketers and publishers make the smartest decisions. You can find the complete 2020 Canadian Holiday Report here.