Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade: A Story of Digital Transformation

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade


This Thursday, families across the United States will gather to watch the 93rd annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. While broadcasts of the event have attracted viewers for years, Macy’s has reimagined the Thanksgiving tradition with streaming technology.

The Parade first took place in 1924, but it wasn’t until 1932 that the popular event reached those unable to physically attend via a radio broadcast. Starting in 1946, the Parade went mainstream thanks to local television coverage, followed by national coverage in 1947.

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has maintained relevance for almost a century due to technological innovation. Starting in 2016, Macy’s partnered with NBCUniversal and Verizon to reach additional viewers tuning in on mobile devices by streaming the event. Today, cord-cutters can view the Parade via several different avenues — including streaming services like Sling, live coverage on NBC’s website or mobile apps, and Verizon’s 360-degree view on YouTube.

Viewers of the stream can pan the cameras in any direction, curating their viewing experience from the comfort of their living room. 5G-enabled streaming also promises to make the event more engaging for those in attendance.

The Thanksgiving Day Parade is only one example of Macy’s investment into streaming technology. Through a variety of digital touchpoints, Macy’s has revolutionized how they engage with shoppers to create a seamless experience.


Streaming Elevates the In-Person Experience

Macy’s leads the industry in omnichannel selling by integrating online, mobile, and in-store shopping. For this reason, the retail giant also leverages streaming to improve in-store experiences. Macy’s creates stickier relationships with customers by elevating both its online presence and physical locations.

Immersive 3D experiences using virtual reality (VR)  allow buyers to try out the furniture they’re considering in their own homes. Shoppers can wear a headset to view the products virtually displayed in their house, and then adjust the products and layout until settling on an option. Not only does this improve engagement, it also saves floor space in brick-and-mortar locations.

Additionally, the iconic department store encourages customers to try on clothing virtually by offering the Magic Fitting Room. The large-scale, interactive mirror lets shoppers use augmented (AR) reality to see how clothing items look on their bodies — without having to physically change. When it comes to cosmetics, Macy’s has partnered with ModiFace to bring 3D video makeup rendering technology.


Interactive Mobile Shopping

While retail organizations like Sears continue to struggle, Macy’s has been digitally transforming to drive growth. The department store became a trailblazer in live commerce by boosting its e-commerce strategy with live video.

Macy’s ‘hacked’ Instagram’s Go Live With a Friend feature to create a fashion hotline called Live Looks. Guests were invited to stream an article of clothing that they had trouble matching, and Macy’s experts streamed back an item to complete the look. From there, shoppers were directed to a curated e-commerce portal.

The results? Macy’s Live Looks drew in more than 300 new viewers every minute, 36,000 plus unique viewers, and 95% positive conversation during the live stream.


Macy’s – Live Looks E-Commerce from Joao Unzer on Vimeo.


Leveraging Technology for Brand Awareness

The Thanksgiving Day Parade started out as an experimental way for Macy’s to reach customers. This willingness to try new ideas is alive and well, with digital innovation wired into the company’s core.

The fact that we see the Parade as a hallmark of the holiday season — and not an elaborate commercial — reveals just how successful the big-box retailer has been at creating an omnichannel user experience. The Parade ensures Macy’s status as a household name. Beyond that, it provides the department store with an opportunity to sell collectible parade-themed merchandise.

Streaming also benefits more than just the at-home viewers. Parade attendees can access the broadcast for second-screen experiences. Because mobile apps, websites, and television screens all compete for our attention, Macy’s engages viewers across all three — letting them choose how they want to interact with the content. Macy’s explains:

“With exclusive access to cameras along the entire Parade route, online spectators will get a glimpse of the magic behind the scenes, as well as a preview of what’s to come as the Parade marches down the streets of Manhattan. For an insider’s look at the holiday procession, fans nationwide should visit for regular updates including behind-the-scenes previews, special tours, interactive historical information, and more.”

Verizon is also bringing a “5G portal” to this year’s event, intending to transform the Parade into an “augmented reality and hologram experience.” Virtual balloons will display fun facts during the live stream, and holographic celebrities will make appearances.


Creating Communities With Live Streaming

I’m not actually a fan of parades. The idea of watching people walk down a street has never appealed to me. But I can promise that the Radio City Rockettes, the Charlie Brown balloon, and the litany of marching bands will grace my Thanksgiving Day — this year and for many more to come.

Back in 2013, I celebrated one of my few Thanksgivings away from home. My now-husband and I had moved to Buffalo, New York that year, which was several states east of our friends and families. We invited my father-in-law to join us for the holiday, and he described every giant float that appeared during the Parade, from the living room, as I prepared our meal.

While Buffalo never felt like home, hearing the broadcast from the next room made for a decidedly homey Thanksgiving. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade serves as an American tradition by creating a community out of its 3.5 million spectators in New York City and 50 million television viewers nationwide.

Beyond the Parade’s ability to trigger nostalgia, Macy’s has ensured its prominence in Turkey Day festivities by leveraging streaming technology to grow and evolve. This helps explain the department store’s ability to survive the retail apocalypse by reaching shoppers on their own terms.


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About Traci Ruether

Traci Ruether is a Colorado-based B2B tech writer with a background in streaming and network infrastructure. Aside from writing, Traci enjoys cooking, gardening, and spending quality time with her kith and kin. Follow her on LinkedIn at or learn more at