Digital content trends and strategies: Summer 2020

It’s safe to say that the summer of 2020 is going to be different from every other summer in online history. With that in mind, CafeMedia’s Insights team took a look into what online audiences want - and need -...

By Marie King

It’s safe to say that the summer of 2020 is going to be different from every other summer in online history. With that in mind, CafeMedia’s Insights team took a look into what online audiences want – and need – right now.

It’s all about escaping the cloud of COVID-19

Quarantine fatigue is setting in — boredom and loneliness are hitting people hard, and they’re seeking a way out of their current reality. Whether a mental escape from their present situation, a physical escape from their homes, or a more symbolic escape through self and home improvement, this summer will be marked by people trying to leave COVID-19 behind and pushing forward to rebuild their lives in a new normal.

Summer content trends and strategies

  1. Escaping the present: hope for the future, nostalgia for the past, and reasons to celebrate
  2. Escaping the house: local travel, outdoor activities, and returning to work
  3. Elevating the current reality: self (and societal) improvement, health and fitness, home and fashion, and summer activities to occupy the family


As we all seek relief from the mental and emotional burden of COVID-19, many are escaping the present and turning their attention to the past and future. 

Looking ahead

As restrictions begin to let up, people are anticipating and planning for the summer ahead. 20% of people plan to stay home for the next few months as states reopen, but for those looking to get out of the house,16% of people plan to immediately visit friends and family, 15% plan to head to a restaurant, and 11% plan to get a hair cut.1

Reminiscing the past

From fashion to sports to entertainment and technology, people are reminiscing about old times. They’re feeling nostalgic about life pre-COVID right now, and with uncertainty looming in the future, they are taking comfort in the past. 

Some topics and trends we’re seeing2:  

  • Fashion: 80s energy, 90s revival, thrifting, vintage, tie-dye, trench coats
  • Tech: old-school video games, vintage photography, older appliances and tools 
  • Entertainment: binge-watching old TV shows, movie marathons for iconic film series (Star Wars, Harry Potter, Marvel), listening to recap podcasts and Zoom chats for past TV shows and movies (The Office, Community, Scrubs, The Lord Of The Rings, etc).
  • Cooking: making food from scratch, generational summertime recipes, traditional dishes 
  • Sports: reliving old sports highlights, watching documentaries from the past greats

The resurgence of DIY: People are now more interested in getting their hands dirty and doing things themselves. In a way, this is a nod back to older generational mindsets. Some expect a fundamental shift in society’s embrace of DIY as a result of the virus, especially among the younger generations. People are seeking out “how to do it yourself” tutorials, and to save money, they’re eager to figure out how to fix things that are broken instead of buying new.

Finding reasons to celebrate

In the midst of cutting back on major purchases like cars and houses, people are opting into smaller indulgences like gift-giving for holidays, graduations, and birthdays. 

Father’s Day

This year’s record interest in Mother’s Day indicated that people are eager and looking for a reason to celebrate right now. Mother’s Day 2020 reached an all-time high in Google search history (since 2004).2 People reported plans to spend an average of $40 more this year than in years past.

It’s likely Father’s Day will follow suit.  75% of consumers say they plan to celebrate Father’s Day, and 77% of consumers say Father’s Day is especially important this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.4

People are still cautious, but our data shows an ever-so-slight shift from virtual to in-person events. 58% will celebrate Father’s Day virtually, compared to 66% of people who planned virtual celebrations for Mother’s Day.4 

Gift-giving trends appear similar to Mother’s Day, with people planning to spend more this year than in the past. On average consumers anticipate spending $149 on gifts for the dads in their lives, which is almost $10 more than they spent in 2019. 

Many people, especially younger consumers under the age of 35, are placing a priority on giving gifts that are unique (41%) or that create a special memory (35%).4

What people plan on giving/buying their dads this year4:

Fourth of July

Independence Day is likely to look a bit different this year. As Independence Day fireworks and parades have already been canceled in many areas, online and virtual fireworks shows may be more popular. People may also be willing to drive farther to those places that are still planning on doing live fireworks shows. 

At-home celebrations will be more popular this year with backyard barbecues and smaller gatherings. Expect increased interest in smaller firecrackers and sparklers this year. People will be looking for fun ideas for festive recipes and decorations. 

They’re also looking for festive fashion – Fourth of July shirt searches are up 250% in the past 30 days as are outfits, hats, and more accessories.2 

As we get closer to the date and things continue to reopen (or not), consumer plans are likely to shift. 


Many people have been stuck at home for the past few months so summer is understandably a symbol of a physical escape for those eager to get out of the house and back into the world.  

Destination local

As things stay very much up in the air, people are wary of venturing too far away from home. As a result, local and domestic destinations are going to be the most popular travel getaways. 

48% of all planned 2020 summer trips will be to domestic destinations, up from just 15% in 2019.5

And those travelers who are planning international trips are still staying close to home, with Mexico, the Caribbean, and Canada as the top international destinations for summer travel this year.5

When it comes to travel plans, people are craving beaches, nature, and small-town comfort.  They are being tourists in their own neighborhoods, seeking out camping spots, planning quick road trips, and looking for good hikes in nearby regions. 

Some other popular destination searches6

  • National parks (especially Yellowstone, Glacier National Park, and Rocky Mountain National Park)
  • Exotic domestic locations: Hawaii and Alaska
  • Coastal destinations in the east (especially in the Carolinas, Massachusetts, and Florida)
  • Northwest America (especially South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, and Utah)
  • Disney resorts 

People are still extremely cautious, so searches for “safe vacations” are up, and people will be eager to get tips and suggestions for ways to stay healthy as they venture away from their homes. Additionally, people may still be wary of going to restaurants, so they’re more interested in ways to cook while exploring and traveling on the road. 

Getting outside

One positive coming out of all of this is that more people are getting outside and walking. Rails-to-Trails Conservancy estimated that there’s been a 200% increase in people using the nation’s trail system since cities went under lockdown.13 New York’s bridges alone have seen a 52% increase in cycling and walking traffic!14 

Outdoor activities: For some people, the first thing they’re doing as restrictions are lifted is going outside (hiking, camping, visiting the beach, etc).1 Cycling searches are way up and bike sales have increased by 31% this quarter.7 There’s also been a 100% increase in searches for roller skates, paddleboards, swimming pools, and boat racks, and a 200% increase in searches for rafts and tubes.2 

Outdoor living spaces: Sprucing up outdoor spaces has surged during COVID-19 and will likely continue to remain a focus this summer. Outdoor furniture, decks and patios, gardening, pools, and other outdoor projects are all up in search right now.2 

Returning to work

As businesses reopen and restrictions are lifted, people are figuring out what returning to work looks like in all of this.  

Some are transitioning back to the office: After the initial adaptation to working from home, now both employers and employees are navigating the return to work. But with many childcare options and summer camps still closed this summer, parents may continue to need to stay at home and balance work and kids. Others are eager to get out of the house and see coworkers again but need to navigate new systems to maintain distance, health, and safety in the office.  

Seeking job opportunities: With massive spikes in unemployment, many people are on the hunt for a new job. Online audiences will be seeking out resources like job listings, ways to improve their resumes, andtips for a successful interview. 

Shameless plug: we’re almost always hiring for remote positions.

Looking for internship experience: For many graduates and students, internships are a critical stepping stone to long-term employment, but the coronavirus pandemic has turned typical programs on their head. Searches for virtual internships are up right now as people try to find ways to get the experience they need in the current climate.2 


Some people are looking to simply escape their current reality by making it better. They’re taking their mindset, health, home, and general life circumstances under control by finding ways to improve their reality. 

Educating themselves

With everything going on in the world right now, people are taking the time to reflect on the injustices of the world, how they can take action, and how they can listen and better educate themselves on important issues of race and human rights. Coming out of the isolation of COVID-19, they’re embracing community and a shared vision — which we hope is a unique recipe for a systemic change!

We all have room to grow as individuals and as a society and encourage publishers to share resources, elevate and collaborate with BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) content creators, and promote action to help make this world a better place for every human. 

P.S. Through the end of June, publishers can participate in the CafeMedia Community Matching Fund, where we’ll match up to $100,000 worth of donations to organizations that fight for racial justice.

Improving their health

Fitness at home: “Exercise” hit an all-time high in Google searches since 2004, with people looking for stay-at-home fitness ideas and challenges.2 Between March 15 and May 2, 2020, US home fitness equipment sales grew by 175% in dollars compared to the same period last year (especially for cardio machines, yoga equipment, strength training products, and mobility equipment).7

Refreshing their look

People are excited for summer! 25% of people say they plan to buy summer clothes over the next few weeks — especially swimsuits, shorts, t-shirts, sandals, and summer dresses.1

In terms of fashion trends, nostalgia is in with 80s throwbacks (puff sleeves, bright colors, shoulder pads, chain belts) and 90s resurgences (grunge, combat boots, flannels, off-the-shoulder necklines).2,9.10 

Thrifted and upcycled fashion are all the rage. We’re seeing more tie-dye, trench coats, polos, Bermuda shorts, floral and jungle prints, chain belts, and more! Additionally, in terms of a summer palette, some popular colors will include chartreuse, neon, sherbet/sunset hues, pastels, mustard, yellow, and cream hues.9,10

Updating their home

If you’re spending a lot of time at home, you might as well improve it! A lot of people are jumping into DIY projects around the house (and apartment), and home improvement projects should continue to be popular this summer. 

People have been flocking to Home Depot and Lowe’s to tackle their renovations. They’re fixing leaky faucets, changing out light fixtures, adding shelves and storage, and more!11 Summer floral sales are also expected to be strong as people are looking to brighten up their spaces.12 

Looking for ways to make summer magical for their children

With childcare, events, and camps closed in some regions this upcoming summer, parents are looking for ways to keep their children occupied and bring in a little of the magic of summers past. This summer may be harder than ever before for working parents, who struggle to balance work priorities and children with lots of extra time on their hands. 

Trending content may include: 

  • Virtual summer camps 
  • Summer library and reading programs
  • Online summer school options
  • Purchasing outdoor play equipment
  • Ideas for summer activities and crafts
  • Social distancing playdates and virtual sleepovers



  1. Klaviyo, COVID-19 poll daily insights, May 2020
  2. Google Trends
  3. NRF, Mother’s Day Insights, April 2020
  4. NRF, Father’s Day Insights, May 2020
  5. Squaremouth, How COVID-19 Changed Travel This Summer, May 2020
  6. Forbes, Ranked: The 20 Top Places Americans Are Dreaming About Right Now, May 2020
  7. The NPD Group, Maintaining Momentum for Fitness at Home, May 2020
  8. The NPD Group, A New Cycling Culture, May 2020
  9. Huffington Post, Spring And Summer 2020 Fashion Trends To Watch, According To Style Experts, April 2020
  10. Glamour Magazine, 2020 Summer Fashion Trends, May 2020 
  11. Business Insider, Inside the home improvement sector, May 2020
  12. Produce Marketing Association, Consumers Want to Celebrate Big and Small Occasions With Floral, May 2020
  13. Rails and Trails Conservancy, Demand for Trails, April 2020

14. New York Times, A Surge in Biking to Avoid Crowded Trains in N.Y.C., June 2020