Thoughts — 21 Sep 2020
By Cara van Rhyn

Twas the pandemic before Christmas

by Cara van Rhyn

How coronavirus will impact consumer shopping behaviours this holiday period

The unseasonably hot weather means most people are out soaking up the last of the summer sunshine, getting in one more big BBQ bash (six people or less, of course) and drinking that final fruit-filled glass of Pimms, so naturally it’s hard to think about what the next few, colder months will have in store.

While it seems far away for some, Christmas has been looming over marketeers for months. The global health crisis has cast a shadow of uncertainty over the upcoming festive period. With ad budgets hitting an all-time low, empty high streets and the prospect of a second wave, brands are having to change tack and adapt to the new needs of consumers.

Facebook IQ published a global marketing guide highlighting some of the ways Covid-19 is already impacting our spending habits. Here are just a few ways:

Increased mobile spending

With everyone at home, mobile spending has shot up drastically. Gen X and Boomers are leading the way with an average of 72% and 50% of the respective groups saying they’re spending more time on their mobile during the pandemic. Smooth online and mobile journeys will be vital for brands during this shopping period.

The “treat” yourself mentality

During difficult times, buying yourself a little treat here or there seems vital in order to keep spirits high. The self-gifting trend took off during the 2008 recession and we’re starting to see it happen again. In China, Alibaba reported sales of eye cosmetics increasing 150% month on month from mid-February 2020. In France, sales of luxury hand soap were up 800% during the week of 16 March 2020. It seems we were all indulging in small pick-me-ups to help us feel better during lockdown.

As Christmas is normally a time when buying gifts for loved ones can result in researching your own wish list (74% of global shoppers surveyed researching gifts for themselves during the holiday season), this year the “treat yourself” mentality is forecasted to be even stronger.

Open to new experiences

As more and more people have been adapting to a new way of life, they are becoming increasingly open to trying new products and brands. Whether it’s the ease of home delivery through Amazon Prime or experimenting with new ways of cooking such as Hello Fresh. In China, 84% of people surveyed said that they tried a new product for the first-time during lockdown. On top of this, the Christmas period also provides people the chance to try new things, with 64% of global seasonal shoppers trying something new. This year’s festive period could be the perfect time to connect with a new audience.

Affordability, action & authenticity 

Even before the pandemic, consumers wanted brands to speak to them in an authentic and transparent way, but this has become all the more important over the past several months. Social responsibility during the height of the pandemic was a focus point for shoppers with 68% saying they wanted to see brands suspend normal factory production to help manufacture essential goods. A lot of brands lived up to this expectation; perfumeries started producing hand sanitiser and vacuum manufactures began work on ventilators. Continuing to show that they care, brands can connect with audiences on a more genuine level this holiday season.

Naturally, this Christmas period is going to feel different for both consumers and brands alike, but it will still be a time for gifting, shopping and celebrating with those near and dear. Therefore, brands must keep the ever-changing needs of consumers at the forefront while crafting their seasonal messaging this year.


Cara van Rhyn is a Junior Planner at Leagas Delaney