Most people are beyond ready to celebrate the 2021 holiday season with family and friends, and the pandemic is shaping the way most people plan to celebrate, shop and travel this year.

People Are Feeling More Sentimental and Nostalgic

After missing out on so many special occasions with family and friends in 2020, most people are feeling even more nostalgic about the holidays this year, and most consumers are starting their holiday shopping early to catch sales and avoid shortages.

Online searches can provide good insights about consumer sentiment, and many consumers started searching in April for ‘extra special’ holiday decorations, ’meaningful gift ideas’ and ‘old fashioned holiday recipes’ according to Etsy and Pinterest marketing insights reports.

People Care More About Global Holiday Traditions

 the pandemic experience created deeper personal connections between many friends, neighbors and co-workers. In fact, four out of five consumers said they have a greater appreciation for the holiday traditions of different cultures than before the pandemic according to a survey by Sitecore.

According to marketing insights from Etsy, online searches started surging in April for decorating inspiration, recipes and sentimental gift ideas for more global holiday celebrations, including:

  • October 11: Canadian Thanksgiving
  • October 31: Halloween
  • November 4: Diwali
  • November 5: Bonfire Night in the UK
  • November 11: Singles Day in Canada and the UK
  • November 24: American Thanksgiving
  • November 28-December 6: Hanukkah
  • November 28-December 24: Advent
  • December 24: Christmas Eve
  • December 26-January 1: Kwanzaa
  • December 26: Boxing Day in the UK, Canada and Australia
  • December 31: New Year’s Eve

Vaccination Status May be a Prickly Issue at Holiday Table

Two out of three people are planning small holiday gatherings and are taking precautions due to concerns about the emergence of new COVID-19 variants. And some consumers are planning a series of smaller gatherings between Halloween and New Years to be able to spend time with the friends and family members they would normally invite to a larger holiday party.

Millennials are planning to host the most holiday celebrations, and younger generations feel more comfortable about larger gatherings according to a recent report by Escalent:
● 64% of Millennials plan to host small holiday gatherings
● 51% of Boomers plan to host small holiday gatherings
● 38% of Gen Zs and Millennials plan to attend large holiday gatherings

However, vaccination status could be a prickly issue at some holiday tables this year. About 40% of consumers say they will only celebrate the holidays with fully vaccinated friends and family according to INMAR Intelligence.

Most People Plan to Cook at Home for Holiday Gatherings

Only 13% of consumers say they don’t plan to cook or make something for a holiday gathering this year, and a whopping 92% of people say they enjoy cooking the same or more than they did before the pandemic according to a survey by 84.51 .

According to a report by Progressive Grocer, most grocery shoppers say they will be buying ingredients in stores to make food and beverages for holiday meals:
● Side dishes – 76%
● Main dish or entrée – 71%
● Dessert – 68%
● Appetizers/hors d’oeuvres – 51%
● Cocktails /alcoholic mixed drinks – 33%

Most consumers plan to spend the same or more on holiday meals as they did last year, and prefer to pick out their own ingredients in stores for holiday meals. Many consumers believe it’s more convenient to shop in person, and that it can be easier to find better prices in stores according to a recent consumer survey.

Most People are Keeping Their Travel Plans Flexible

Most people plan to celebrate closer to home this year, and one-third of consumers plan to travel during the 2021 holiday season according to INMAR Intelligence . Trips to visit family and friends are a priority for most travelers, and beach getaways and ski trips are trending according to TravelPulse.

Most consumers want flexible cancellation policies, and some people are booking double trips in case plans need to be adjusted at the last minute according to a recent Ipsos global travel report. The tipping points for travelers’ to book a trip have changed, and 78% of global travelers are in favor of COVID-19 vaccine requirements, and say health and safety protocols and flexibility matter more than price, deals or discounts.

According to a recent New York Times report, vaccinated travelers tend to be more concerned about the emergence of new COVID-19 variants than unvaccinated travelers.
Younger people tend to be more comfortable traveling during the pandemic, and older generations are more reluctant to travel, and are also hesitant to host out of town guests.

According to a study by Escalent:
● 43% of Millennials and Gen Z plan to celebrate holidays locally
● 38% of Millennials and Gen Z plan to travel during the holidays
● 23% of Boomers and Gen X plan to host out-of-town guests

Consumers Are Seeking More Meaningful Gifts

Three out of four consumers are optimistic the economy will be stronger in 2022, and more than a third of consumers say they plan to increase spending on holiday gifts in 2021.Consumer research by multiple industry experts indicates there are gender and generational differences in consumer spending behavior this year:

  • Men plan to spend nearly twice as much as women on gifts for their significant other, and themselves
  • Millennials plan to spend more on holiday gifts than any other generation
  • Gen Z has set aside the more savings to buy holiday gifts than any other generation
  • Gen X and Boomers plan to spend about the same amount on gifts as last year

Several consumer surveys also indicate three out of four consumers will start shopping earlier to take advantage of holiday sales and pandemic-related concerns:

  • 50% of consumers are shopping earlier to ensure product availability
  • 45% of consumers are shopping early to avoid shipping delays
  • 39% of consumers are shopping early to avoid last minute stress

Holiday shoppers are feeling sentimental and looking for more meaningful gifts, and searches have spiked for personalized and custom gifts according to Etsy and Pinterest:

  • Handmade gifts
  • Homemade food and gifts
  • Jewelry
  • Engraved gifts
  • Retailers offering personalized gift cards and gift wrapping

However, electronics are at the top of most holiday wish lists this year, and most gift recipients are hoping for:

  • iPhones
  • Gaming Systems
  • Computers
  • Headphones

Strategic Insights: Consumer Research Can Optimize Sales and Marketing Strategies

Consumer research can help you understand your customers’ unique holiday  shopping journey, and how the pandemic is changing consumer behavior. Qualitativequantitative and quick turn research solutions deliver actionable and strategic consumer insights to refine and optimize business strategies in real time.

How Can We Help You?

As a top ranked consumer research firm, our team at Insights In Marketing empowers our clients to make decisions inspired by the consumer voice. We have decades of client and supplier side research experience, and proven online methodologies to gather actionable insights from consumers either virtually, or from a safe location meeting CDC health and safety standards.

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