What to Expect for Holiday Season 2020: 5 Key Consumer Trends

Looking back at 2019 won’t be enough to prepare for Holiday Season 2020. So for our first mini-guide, we went right to the source: shoppers.
Updated on September 21, 2020

Marketers often look at last year’s holiday trends to understand how to plan this year’s advertising campaigns. But looking to the past—like what happened during Black Friday 2019—won’t be enough to prepare for Holiday Season 2020. So this time around, we decided to go right to the source of holiday trends 2020: shoppers themselves.

In our “Peak to Recovery” research, fielded in May 2020, we surveyed 1,300+ US consumers to ask how they were planning to discover, buy, and give over the coming months. In our first of four holiday mini-guides, “What to Expect for Holiday 2020: 5 Key Consumer Trends”, we dive into the findings.

Here’s a preview of five holiday trends every business should be prepared for in 2020: 

Holiday Trend #1:  Ecommerce

All gift-givers and holiday shoppers will lean on ecommerce, and many will also want to visit stores.

According to data from 14,000 retailers globally, Criteo found that online retail sales were 30% higher in the Americas—and 17% higher worldwide—during the two weeks from June 15 – June 28, compared to a pre-pandemic average from February 2 – February 14.1 In the meantime, research from Signifyed shows that BOPIS (buy online pick up in-store) orders more than doubled globally.2

Download our free guide here to see more data on the five key consumer trends shaping holiday season 2020.

In our “Peak to Recovery” study, conducted in May across 12 countries, we asked how comfortable US consumers felt across the next few months doing certain activities3:  

  • 64% miss going to physical stores.
  • 65% are already or will be comfortable going to shopping malls by mid-October.
  • 88% plan to continue purchasing gifts online and sending them to recipients.

holiday trends 2020 ecommerce

Holiday Marketing Insight

These are great signs for the end-of-year peak shopping season. Heightened safety measures like requiring facemasks and reducing the number of people inside might make the store experience feel a bit different, but as our research shows, by the time Black Friday 2020 rolls around, most US consumers will be ready to shop in stores.

Increased ecommerce sales during the coronavirus outbreak also indicate that more consumers than ever are familiar with new ecommerce websites and will likely visit them again for the holidays.

Holiday Marketing Tip

If you’re a brand, think about how to get in front of Black Friday shoppers where they are already searching for deals (like on retailer websites). If you have physical locations, consider offering online discounts for buying in-store to drive holiday foot traffic.

Holiday Trend #2: Loyalty

Driving loyalty from new online shoppers will be a big holiday opportunity.

In our survey, we asked US consumers about product discovery and purchases3:

  • 39% purchased from some online stores for the first time during the peak of COVID-19.
  • 37% discovered brands selling their products directly to consumers.
  • 33% discovered small merchants that they didn’t previously know about.
  • 83% said they’re likely to keep purchasing from the new stores they discovered.

holiday trends 2020 loyalty

Holiday Marketing Insight

Consumers discovered new favorites during lockdown across online grocers, brand websites, and direct-to-consumer (DTC) businesses. Better yet, they’ll keep going back if they were happy with the product and the experience.

Holiday Marketing Tip

Evolve your brand creatives and messaging to reflect your target audience’s current situation and context. Most importantly, create additional touchpoints with shoppers who visited you over the past few months by serving up relevant offers appropriate for the holiday season.

Holiday Trend #3: Apps

Apps will influence holiday shoppers across every stage of the funnel.

Data from AppsFlyer shows that as of June 25, shopping app revenue in the US has more than doubled since lockdowns began in mid-March. Other non-gaming apps, including those in the Food Delivery, Finance, and Lifestyle categories, have also seen significant revenue spikes.4

Criteo’s Global App Survey, conducted in April, found that among US consumers:

  • 33% said they use one or more of their newly downloaded shopping apps multiple times per week.
  • 45% heard about an app from family, friends, or co-workers.
  • 51% downloaded at least one shopping app during the coronavirus outbreak.

holiday trends 2020 apps

Holiday Marketing Insight

Our survey also found that respondents’ most downloaded apps in the prior six months were retail shopping apps (60%), gaming apps (59%), and streaming apps (56%). Additionally, 50% said they don’t mind watching or seeing in-app ads if they get free content in exchange.

App marketers should focus on attracting new audiences and targeting the best potential app users in the long run. This new market will likely become more comfortable with apps and be on the lookout for others.

Holiday Marketing Tip

The holiday season is a great time to think about building a new user base for your app, especially ahead of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. It’s also a good time to bring users back. App retargeting re-engages users who may have abandoned the app, targeting the best possible audiences.

Holiday Trend #4: Lifestyle

Consumers’ new lifestyles will guide holiday gift choices.

In our “Peak to Recovery” Survey, US consumers told us about the habits and behaviors of theirs that have changed. Over half (55%) said the crisis was a good opportunity to make lifestyle changes.​3

Many Americans discovered or rediscovered activities that they plan to continue:

  • 52% cooking at home
  • 50% spending time at home
  • 36% exercising at home
  • 26% working from home
  • 25% gardening

holiday trends 2020 lifestyle

Holiday Marketing Insight

As new personas like home exerciser, home schooler, home office worker, and home cook have emerged, relevant products have been flying off shelves. Criteo’s interactive Product Insights Finder, which includes data from 20,000 retailers globally, shows that sales have been spiking across categories like Consumer Electronics and Sporting Goods to Toys & Games, Furniture, and more.

Holiday Marketing Tip

With Criteo, you can target 1000+ audiences based on what they’ve been buying. Consider audience targeting to connect with your next best shoppers, and be sure to use data-driven product insights to drive your holiday deals and campaigns.

Holiday Trend #5: Travel

Holiday season travelers will keep their visits local – or virtual.

In our “Peak to Recovery” survey, we asked US consumers about travel:​3

  • 62% are looking forward to traveling again.
  • 64% will be wary of planes and trains for some time.

By the beginning of holiday season in mid-October:

  • 68% will be comfortable going on weekend trips.
  • 50% will be comfortable taking a train.
  • 47% will be comfortable travelling by plane.

holiday trends 2020 travel

Holiday Marketing Insight

We expect comfort levels to rise as time goes by, but this holiday, people are more likely to take short trips, and long-haul flights will tick up more in 2021. This could have an impact on how people visit family members during the holiday season, too, and result in more virtual dinners and celebrations.

Criteo data shows that travel is beginning to show signs of recovery. In the first week of July in the US:

  • Searches for summer travel were up 99% for hotels and 45% for airlines.6
  • Travels in September and October took up a larger share of searches this year compared to 2019.7 

Holiday Marketing Tip

Stay top-of-mind with travelers through ads that inspire and remind them to look forward to their next getaways. As the global travel climate continues to evolve, be sure to bookmark Criteo’s interactive Travel Insights Finder for the latest trends. 

Preparing for Holiday 2020: How Criteo Helps Advertisers

Whether you’re trying to reach new holiday shoppers or re-engage ones who visited you earlier in the year, Criteo has the best-in-class teams, tools, and technology to help businesses of all sizes navigate the changing retail landscape in anticipation of an exceptional holiday season.​

The Criteo Ad Platform

Offers powerful dynamic retargeting and audience creation tools across a pool of two billion active monthly shoppers around the world and 1000+ targeting options for audiences – all based on actual purchase data.

Criteo Retail Media

Allows brands to build ads across premium retailer websites and personalize those ads to each shopper’s preferences, ensuring that ads are relevant across retail partners.

Criteo Omnichannel

Syncs customer data from email lists and point-of-sale systems to online ads, building a seamless customer journey across offline and online touchpoints.

Criteo Mobile App Solutions

Generates more app installs, app engagement, and app conversions with powerful, in-app advertising technology.

For more holiday 2020 insights, download our first holiday mini-guide, and be sure to keep an eye out for future releases of new guides with the latest holiday trends and strategies:

1Retail Data from 14,000 retailers in 38 countries across all continents, Criteo 2020.


3Criteo “Peak to Recovery” Survey. Criteo surveyed 13,532 respondents having experienced partial or complete lockdown at any point within the past few months across 12 countries between May 13 and May 29, 2020 (1,366 in the US). Respondents were asked to evaluate how forced social distancing had affected their daily habits and how they envisaged returning to normal. The sample is representative of the populations of the respective countries by age and gender (ethnicity in the US).


5Criteo Global App Survey, US, April 2020 n=981.

6Air & Hotel Travel Categories, Indexed Weekly Searches, compared to Average between March 9 and April 5, 2020, for Check-in Dates in July and August 2020. Same set of Travel Players with stable weekly searches during the period in 2020.

7Air & Hotel Travel Categories Combined, 2019 & 2020 for Travel Searches between May 4th & May 31st. Same set of Travel Players with stable weekly searches during the period in 2019 & 2020.

Michelle Pruett

As Global Head of Content at Criteo, Michelle leads a high-performing, multi-disciplinary team of marketers packaging insights, copy, design, and video into integrated campaigns. Her own writing has been featured in Entrepreneur, Business Insider, AdWeek, eMarketer, and more. Before joining the ...

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