Thanksgiving Survey 2020: What Brands Can Learn from Turkey Day Shoppers During a Pandemic

Thanksgiving is almost here and to commemorate the holiday, we conducted a survey to learn how Americans across the country feel about the holiday’s 2020 iteration. 

In our 2020 Thanksgiving survey, we studied Americans of various employment backgrounds, ethnicities, income levels and careers to uncover how Covid-19 has affected the holiday for them.

While certain things have changed drastically, others have been reinforced by the major happenings that have complicated the year (including Covid-19).

Retailers, business owners and market researchers can stand to review the insights this blog presents, as it will inform marketing and market research efforts for holidays in the near future, along with the present day. 

Excitement for Thanksgiving: A Tale of 2 Opinions?

Our survey discloses something of a tale of two opinions when respondents were asked whether they were excited about the upcoming holiday. Over half of the respondents (54.32%) answered with the most enthusiastic choice: “yes I’ve always loved holiday.”

The second most popular answer, charting at almost 16% (15.89%), was a no, specifically because Covid-19 ruined the holiday for them. When taken into consideration with the other questions and their responses, this is a considerable chunk. This dampened mood can translate to fewer purchases, as 37% of unhappy customers churn

Despite these popular answers, a third answer provides an alternative narrative to this seeming tale of two opinions: 15.64% of customers reported being even more excited for this year’s Thanksgiving due to the overall darkness that Covid has forged. This amount nearly ties with those who said Covid ruined the holiday for them. 

As such, there is an abundantly positive feeling about Thanksgiving in 2020. The two favorable answers about the holiday total to almost 70%, at 69.96%. Excitement therefore still reigns around Thanksgiving, even in 2020. 

This is very much in line with the fact that holidays provide some relief in difficult times.

Thanksgiving Plans Vs Reality

To understand the shift (or lack thereof) in Thanksgiving 2020 plans, we asked our survey pool to explain how Covid-19 has affected their Thanksgiving plans. 

Cutting the amount of Thanksgiving dinner guests was the dominant answer, which seems evident, given the CDC guidelines calling for small gatherings during Thanksgiving.

However, there is an air of dread casting a strong shadow on any mobility this year. This is because almost 20% (19.9%) marked being too afraid to travel by plane or to faraway places. A whopping 22.4% (almost a quarter) answered that they were too scared to leave home at all. 

Together, these two dismal stats show that roughly 42.4% of customers are afraid of leaving their homes (whether it meant going far away or in leaving in general). This points to a rather gloomy atmosphere around the otherwise cheerful holiday.

Covid has produced another somber statistic, as 18.02% of respondents reported planning cuts to spending, a circumstance that retailers and businesses will certainly feel, especially when compared to last year’s Thanksgiving. 

Plans with a more positive angle were revealed in the “other” option, as it garnered a notable 13.39% of answers. This answer option was open-ended and has received responses such as dinner at a restaurant, cooking for others and traveling outside the state by car.

As such, there is a smaller, though a significant set of the sample pool who will not spend Thanksgiving as most in the USA. Some have made plans that are more creative, while others carry a more generally positive vibe. 

As for what the respondents will actually be doing this year, the answers have aligned relatively well with those on how Covid affected their plans. A hefty 56.32% will spend the holiday at home with those who live with them.

17.15% of the respondents will be attending a Thanksgiving dinner in someone else’s home. When this is coupled with the similar answer of celebrating at one’s home but with those who don’t live there (12.39%), the amount of people who will celebrate with those outside of their household comes to nearly 60%, beating out the 56% of people who will celebrate at home with only the people they live with.

This illustrates that the American public tends to spend major holidays around people aside from those who live with them. 

Only 2.38% of respondents marked the option that ignores CDC recommendations — traveling outside their state. 

Thanksgiving Methods of Grocery Shopping

When it comes to budgets and expenditures, we first quizzed our respondents on how they were going to get their Thanksgiving groceries in the first place. 

Despite the massive hike in online grocery shopping in 2020 — coming in at a 40% increase — most shoppers still prefer to buy Thanksgiving groceries from brick and mortar stores. A substantial 38.05% of respondents said this is the only way they’re going to purchase their Thanksgiving goods.

The second most popular answer adhered to the growing trend of online grocery shopping, as 18.65% said they were going to buy more groceries online this year for the holiday, just not all of them

There is also a third most popular answer that gives credence to the rise in online grocery shopping, as 17.65% of respondents said they were going to get their groceries from online grocers only

When you combine all the responses that replied with buying groceries online-only, including the response that reported shopping online as always (5.63%), the total comes out higher than those who are going to buy from physical stores only, at 41.93%.

This is a marker of a rising sector in the digital space. Brands should take note and boost their UX efforts to ensure customers stay on their websites rather than switching to competitors possibly forever.

These statistics also show that Covid-19 has significantly affected Americans’ shopping habits, even during Thanksgiving. Although buying only from physical stores beat out every single response, the large percentages of those who will buy online only show the reinforcement of a trend that dates back to March 2020 (7 months ago).

Buying groceries online is evolving into a habit that transcends a mere trend, as this behavior has proved its continuity. As such, brands ought to conduct grocery market research.

2020 Thanksgiving Budget

As far as Thanksgiving 2020 spending habits go, the dominant answer is that customers will spend approximately the same this year as they have in years past (44.93% of responses).

The next most answered response, at 27.78%, comes from shoppers who said they would spend less money this year on Thanksgiving.

Comparing these two alone will point to a scenario where the respondents who will spend the same amount of money significantly outweighs those who will spend less. 

When combined with the 15.02% of responders who said they would spend more on Thanksgiving (the third-highest response), this ratchets the number of responders who will at least spend the same amount this year if not more, to 59.95%.

This forms an exceedingly positive outlook for both digital and traditional grocery stores.

However, there is also a large chunk who said they are going to spend much less money this year on Thanksgiving. Only a few percentage points behind those who said they’d spend much more, this group represents 12.27% of respondents. 

When combined with those who said they’d spend less, this brings the total to those who are definitely going to spend less to 40.05%. This shows a far grimmer reality, in that this total represents people who are sure to spend less, while the 59.95% total combines those who will spend the same or more. 

As such, brands should take the 9.95% victory with a grain of salt. It proves that American shoppers still take Thanksgiving expenditures seriously and are willing to pay like they always have. However, there has been a budgetary blow to a sizable chunk of the respondents as well.

Businesses selling Thanksgiving food, drink and decorations should thus provide discounts to less popular products and create a customer experience that wows. 

What are Customers Thankful for in 2020?

With Covid-19 and racial unrest taking precedence for much of the year, 2020 has proven to be difficult. So we finally asked our responders to choose what they are most thankful for. 

Despite the pandemic et al., friends and family withstood the test of time and these 2020-specific tribulations, as a substantial 39.55% of responders chose this answer.  

But 2020 has proven itself to be a true damper as well, as the second most popular answer  (27.91%) of responders marked 2020 being almost over as their highest source of gratitude. 

Coming in at third place is health, at 16.77%. Like the friends and family option, this one too tends to withstand time. But in this particular year, given that over 12 million Americans had Covid-19, this response may in large part be due to survivors’ gratitude for having recovered it (or having their loved ones convalesce). 

The fourth most popular response, at 13.27%, is that of an incoming Covid-19 vaccine. This answer is one of hope for the near future, also signifying the degree of the coronavirus on Americans’ lives. 

The bottom two responses, which received a significantly less amount of responses were that of “my career” (1.88%) and “the government” (0.63%). The former response confirms the high levels of unemployment still present in this day. It also points to the fact that even employed respondents prioritize other aspects of life over their job.

As for the latter, although the government did step in by way of the stimulus check and the short stint of pandemic unemployment benefits, most Americans feel that it has not done enough for and during this pandemic. 

In any case, businesses should take heed of their target market needs by way of market research. This is a surefire way to understand, serve and retain your customers, so that if they’re ever asked which brands they’re most thankful for, they’ll state yours.