UPDATE: December 18, 2018: Amazon on Tuesday extended its deadline for non-Prime members to receive free shipping with no minimum purchase in time for Christmas from Dec. 18 to Dec. 19.
Target is guaranteeing free delivery by Christmas Eve for eligible orders placed on Target.com by 11:55 p.m. Central Time on Dec. 20, according to a company press release. Shoppers using Shipt must place same-day orders for groceries, gifts, decorations and other items at least two hours prior to store closing on Christmas Eve to receive the items that day.
For the first year, shoppers can also make same-day purchases nationwide until 6 p.m. local time on Christmas Eve and pick up those orders by closing time. Those opting to ship from urban city stores have until 6:30 p.m. to place orders, which will arrive during the latest delivery shift, a Target spokeswoman told Retail Dive.
For the second year, the company is allowing shoppers to send Target GiftCards via email or text, or chose an instant gift through a service called GiftNow. The recipient can accept the gift, change the size and color, or swap it out for something else, according to the release.
For Target, it's been the year of delivery — a key battleground in the fight for convenience. The offer of free delivery guaranteed to arrive by Christmas Eve is a clear competitive challenge to Walmart and Amazon.
Fueled by the acquisition of same-day delivery startup Shipt last December, Target has made good on its promise to scale delivery of groceries and home essentials nationwide by the holidays. Same-day delivery powered through Shipt is now available in 46 states and in hundreds of markets. Order Pickup, where shoppers can park, stay in their cars and have orders delivered to their trunks, also scaled dramatically this year. But as much progress as Target has made in this space, it's still no match for the well oiled Amazon logistics machine.
While Target undercuts Amazon on its last day for free standard shipping for non-loyalty members (Amazon's deadline is Dec. 19), Prime members do get free two-day shipping until Dec. 22. Amazon is also offering one-day shipping for Prime customers until Dec. 23 as well as same-day delivery and one-hour Prime Now delivery in certain cities on Dec. 24, according to the company's website. Free and fast delivery is one of the major selling points of the Prime ecosystem, which costs members $119 each year. Investment research firm CIRP pegs U.S. Prime membership at 97 million, which is the bulk of what CEO Jeff Bezos last year revealed is 100 million members worldwide.
But it's not just a battle between Target and Amazon; Walmart has also extended its deadlines. Shoppers have until Dec. 22 to receive select items by Christmas, although the deadline for a much broader assortment is 2 p.m. on Dec. 20, according to Walmart's site. Where Walmart and Target can't compete with Amazon online, they're trying to make up for with in-store advantages. Within the last week, both big-box retailers have touted store pickup options.
Correction: An earlier version of this story included confusing language about the role GiftNow plays in this program.