Prepare for an unprecedented holiday shopping season

In the News Social & Digital

Since March, has there been anything in our lives that passes for “normal?” The onslaught of COVID-19 has upended everything – the way we comport ourselves in public, family gatherings, our work lives, the way we educate our kids, and even the way we shop at the grocery store. While Americans have adapted and adjusted, any objective view of life in October bears very little resemblance to life way back in February.

Not surprisingly, the radio and television businesses have been significantly affected. We have mastered the art of broadcasting from our kitchens or bedrooms, but concurrently, the lifeblood of our business – our local advertisers – have been significantly affected. Revenue has taken a major hit, as our clients are simply trying to survive while learning how to conduct business in new and different ways.

So, no objective observer can conclude that the all-important holiday season will be like years past, so broadcasters cannot sell the same ways as before. In response to what we’ve been hearing from our clients, we fielded our third COVID-19 study at the end of September. Using the email databases of 355 radio stations in the U.S. and Canada, we wanted to know how consumer behavior was going to change this year in an attempt to provide broadcasters with information to help them generate fourth quarter revenue.

You can download the entire study at We believe this information should be shared with sales teams now, but also with local businesses, because it just might help them have a more successful holiday season. But before you go there, here are a couple of findings of note:

What’s Black Friday in 2020? It’s not nearly as important as in years past. The chart below shows that shopping this year has begun in earnest, the Black Friday bulge is muted, and there will be a lot of spending in early December.

This is good news for broadcasters is we suggest you encourage advertisers to elongate their holiday spend, beginning now, and running all the way through the end of December.

It’s also noteworthy that a week after we published this report, Wal-Mart announced it was going to spread out their Black Friday deals across three weeks.

What should retailers be promoting? Historically, retailers would be talking all about their low prices, gift wrapping, huge selection, and other “price and item” features. While this is always important, in 2020 there’s another element that’s critical – safety.  Consumers (especially women) are very concerned about being safe while in stores. Is the business taking necessary precautions like requiring employees and shoppers to wear masks? What other safety measures are they taking? 

We recommend sharing this information with your clients and encourage them to incorporate language like this in their copy.

What does holiday travel look like in 2020? It doesn’t appear your audience is headed to Cancun or Miami this holiday season. Instead, the overwhelming majority of our respondents will be driving to their destination or vacations this year. We are encouraging our clients to reach out to hotels and resorts, entertainment and shopping destinations (think Mall of America) within 200-300 miles of your market and get them to advertise on your station.

The study is clear in all aspects: The 2020 holiday season will be like no other, and radio and television sales teams cannot treat it like “business as usual.” We encourage you to download the study and move quickly to pivot so you can take advantage of the business that is out there.

And of course, if you have any questions or would like to discuss, reach out to me at

Wishing you a happy, healthy, and prosperous holiday season and a happy new year.

The WBA Digital Hotline is a free service of the WBA.  Contact Jacobs Media with any question about digital, mobile, or social media at