As retailers, the holiday shopping season can sneak up on us — just as it often does for your customers. It’s not like the end-of-year holidays jump around on our calendar from time to time, making it difficult to prepare and give ourselves enough time to complete our necessary shopping for the season.
And yet, every year sees a rush of holiday shoppers desperate to find a last-minute gift in the final days before the big celebrations.
There’s no judgment here. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been among the day-before-Christmas-Eve crowds, wondering what on earth to buy and where to buy it.
Holiday shoppers need to fit in time to purchase last-minute gifts and other items around the festivities themselves, along with any travel required to see friends and family. Others purposely wait until the final days in an effort to shop strategically.
(And some of us are just good old-fashioned procrastinators.)
But you don’t need to know why people show up near the very end of the holiday shopping season to pick up a gift or two. All you need to know is that the last-minute holiday shopping rush will happen.
Up to 40% of shoppers will wait until the last 10 days before Christmas to buy gifts. You can act now to make sure that group gets what they need from your store.
Anything you can do as a retailer to cater to customers who are stuck trying to make something work at the last possible moment goes a long way. If you’re not sure where to start, implement these suggestions to help and build a reputation as a reliable retailer for the last-minute shopper.
Extend Hours at Your Physical Location (and Other Simple Courtesies for Holiday Shoppers)
Do you routinely see a packed house during the holiday shopping season, even when you’re five minutes from closing? Consider extending your hours of operation.
This is the easiest step you can take to help customers who cut it close at the holidays. Simply giving them more time to browse, shop, and make purchases can help.
Here are some other simple ways to cater to last-minute holiday shoppers who come to your physical location:
- Equip employees on the sales floor with mobile point-of-sale (POS) systems. This allows you to ring up more customers without taking away floor space for additional checkout counters that you don’t need past the holiday shopping season.
- Give existing employees more hours, or hire part-time staff. You want to keep the shopping experience as efficient and enjoyable as possible for shoppers — and being short-staffed will only add to their stress and frustration. If you experience an increase in foot traffic and sales around the holidays, bring on seasonal staff.
- Set up a complimentary gift-wrapping station. When customers know they can get a last-minute gift at your store and have it ready to actually give, it may encourage them to buy with you thanks to the added convenience.
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And of course, keep an eye on your inventory and plan ahead. You want your shelves well stocked for last-minute shoppers, so they’re not forced to pick over what’s left over from customers who bought earlier.
Make It Easy to Buy Last-Minute Gifts Online
You can really cater to last-minute holiday shoppers by making it easy to buy online. It saves customers time and the hassle of having to elbow their way through crowded stores filled with other stressed procrastinators.
Curate products and items that you sell that make sense to give as gifts. Think about your target market: who is on their holiday shopping list? Do they need stocking stuffers or higher-end items?
You can curate potential last-minute gifts for targeted recipients, like moms, brothers, or girlfriends. You can also group items together by price or by taste and specific interest — or do both, like Modcloth does with their holiday gift guides:
Set up collections online that customers can click on a few suggested items. (Note: This is also something you can do in-store with specific displays and aisle endcaps.)
You can keep it simple and broad instead of setting up an highly-tailored gift guide. Photojojo makes it easy for shoppers to head straight to the gifts with an easy-to-spot tab that leads shoppers straight to a curated collection:
Or you can go a step beyond and get specific for last-minute holiday shoppers who have a specific need for browsing gifts. ThinkGeek breaks down their gift selection so shoppers can look through curated products for specific needs and people:
When updating your online storefront to cater to last-minute holiday shoppers, put gift items front and center. Make them easy to find — and easy to browse.
It’s also helpful to make shipping information and deadlines simple to find, read, and understand. Not only does Startup Vitamins make their deadlines clear, but they also included a link to this page in their main site navigation.
You can further cater to procrastinating holiday shoppers by looking internally. How can you improve your processes and systems with order fulfillment so you can extend your deadlines? Is there anything you can do, just for this season, to process orders faster to better serve holiday customers?
Don’t Forget Holiday Shoppers with Smartphones
And of course, think beyond the desktop when making it easy to shop online. Giving customers a great mobile experience is critical.
During the 2015 holiday shopping season, retail giant Amazon reported that 70% of shoppers placed an order on mobile. And 90% of shoppers use mobile when they’re in a physical store. That trend isn’t going anywhere, with Google reporting mobile searches in stores is up 30%.
Even if you see more foot traffic than online sales, maintaining a functional mobile site or app remains important.
At the very least, make your website and online storefront optimized for mobile users. This means your site needs to be responsive, and you need to use ecommerce software that includes mobile functionality.
Consider every step of the process and how it will work on mobile. Customers should be able to browse through items, add products to their cart, and checkout with the same ease they enjoy when using a desktop computer.
This means you need a site that’s well organized so it remains easy to browse on a small screen. You also need a payment processor that functions correctly even when customers shop from mobile devices.
You can accept not just credit cards, but also other methods of payment like PayPal so mobile shoppers can buy with one click.
If you want to go above and beyond, think about how your own app can help last-minute holiday shoppers quickly make purchases, find gift ideas, and redeem discounts and coupons. Brands like Sephora and Starbucks provide customers with apps to use on both Android and iOS systems.
Sephora allows customers to track rewards, browse products, and get notifications when they can pick up special offers or attend in-store events. Starbucks makes it simple for customers to redeem rewards when they make new purchases.
All these functions are useful any time of year, but you can cater to the holiday shopping crowd by sending out specialized alerts and discount codes for customers to use when they buy online or in your store.
You can also combine the online or mobile experience with your physical storefront by allowing customers to order online and pick up in-store. This allows last-minute shoppers to browse the way they want even if they miss shipping deadlines.
For more tips, read our guide to make your brick-and-mortar store more mobile friendly for those last-minute shoppers.
Provide Easily-Accessible Gift Cards
Last-minute holiday shoppers may not want to spend hours browsing around for the perfect gift for every last friend and coworker. Gift cards provide a fast, reliable solution for customers who want to purchase something but don’t require highly personalized, carefully selected items for their recipients.
Put gift cards right by cash registers in your store, where they are easy to find for those in a hurry. You can cater to harried shoppers by providing custom envelopes or gift card holders, like these from Best Buy:
Nicely made boxes or envelopes may encourage shoppers to make the purchase since it makes the card a little more tangible. It’s a small detail, but one that makes a bigger impact than the gift card alone.
Give last-minute shoppers more flexibility by allowing them to purchase gift cards online, too — with multiple delivery options. For example, Target allows shoppers to buy gift cards in different denominations and allows customers to choose how they want the card delivered.
Those with a little bit of time might choose to receive their gift card in the mail so they can give a physical item to someone else. But others can buy gifts right up to the last second, thanks for delivery options that include email and mobile.
Make Your Marketing Helpful for Last-Minute Holiday Shoppers
You can promote your business and help your customers by orienting your marketing materials around holiday needs and deadlines. Send customers emails that feature curated shops and wish lists for people they may shop for, like parents, significant others, and bosses.
You can also send reminders via email, apps, or direct mail with countdowns marking the days to major holidays. Pair these with special holiday email promotions, deals, or coupons to incentivize customers to buy last-minute gifts.
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Cater to shoppers by providing them useful information or a way to make their last-minute gift buying a little easier. There’s no better way to market your business than by being helpful during a time when most of us need all the help we can get.
Ultimately, anything you can do to ease some stress or frustration around holiday shopping will make a big impact. Do what you can to save time, money, and hassle, and you can quickly become the go-to retailer for last-minute holiday shoppers.