How Digital Has Changed Thanksgiving

Most areas of the holiday are affected


As the temperature plummets and the days shorten, the US gears up for Thanksgiving to welcome in the colder months. Steeped in tradition, Thanksgiving will see families gather around the dinner table to laugh, cry, argue and eat until they vomit.

Examining how traditional holidays like Thanksgiving have changed can be a good way of highlighting the impact of new technology and its effect on our lives at large, and there are just about zero facets of Thanksgiving that haven't been impacted in some way by the digital revolution. From the football we watch to the turkey we eat, digital has transformed one of America's most historic holidays. We took a look at just a few areas in which digital has made an impact:

Holiday shopping 

In some ways, it's a shame that traditional national holidays are so closely associated with opportunities for mass sales, but Thanksgiving is part of a holiday season that has become invaluable to brands large and small. Compared to Christmas, Thanksgiving is a far less commercially lucrative holiday, seeing 13.4% of seasonal spending compared to an overwhelming 59.2%. Even so, it dwarfs the likes of Halloween (2.6%) and Valentine's Day (7.7%), and is a huge opportunity for brands and stores to cash in.

Throughout the entire holiday period, conversion rates online see a boom, going up by 50%. Ensuring that this period is a busy one for digital sales can be the make or break of a company's year. It goes without saying in 2017 that without a strong digital presence - complete with digital-only promotions - brands have very little hope of competing with the intense competition, so expect to see a heightened digital presence from almost all brands as the holiday season sparks into life.

Thanksgiving Football

Put the festivities to one side for a moment and Thanksgiving is a huge day for football. This year's triple header of games will mean as much if not more to some people on the day as the pumpkin pie, and the NFL makes a clear point of hyping the day as much as possible in the lead up to it.

Of course, sports as an industry has been heavily impacted by the digital revolution, from the way the teams operate to the way fans watch the games. Behind the scenes, the digital revolution has revolutionized the way coaching staff interact with their athletes, from data collection and visualization through to in-depth video analysis of past performances. For spectators, there is, to put it simply, a wealth of digital content out there for each and every major sport. Live online broadcasts, seemingly unlimited articles, video content, social media output... the amount of content for fans to consume is dizzying, and Thanksgiving football will doubtless see all publishers putting out themed content, as well as broadcasting the games across as many channels as possible.

Turkey dinner

Not even the traditional turkey dinner has been left unaffected by digital transformation. Though not as complex a shift as in sports science, the simple logistics of sourcing and cooking Thanksgiving's staple dish have changed wildly in the past 20 years. 21% of Millennials, for example, plan on buying their groceries for the holiday meal from a food delivery app, while 31% plan to use recipe apps or food blogs for meal inspiration. Even among the less tech-reliant, many Americans will research recipes and order their groceries online. No one would consider the traditional Thanksgiving dinner part of the 'digital revolution', but it's telling that no part of the day is free from its influence.

Seasonal marketing

It is likely that most brands will employ seasonal marketing techniques, regardless of whether or not their products have any direct link with Thanksgiving. 'During the busiest and most important time of the year, it is essential that marketers make the most of the opportunity in front of them,' said Kevin Bobowski, SVP, Marketing of BrightEdge. Watch out for seasonal promotions, advertisements based on Thanksgiving traditions, and other such techniques.

It's imperative that brands capture the attention and imagination of their audiences throughout the holiday period, and gearing marketing output towards the next major holiday (of which there are many in the later months of the year) is an important way of staying relevant. As Kevin notes, consumers are in the 'buying mood' in the holiday season; to not acknowledge this period in your digital marketing campaigns would be foolish. 


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