Although more than 165 million Americans shopped Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday this year, there are still shoppers making last-minute purchases as the end of the holiday season creeps nearer. "With more shopping days before Christmas this year, consumers are taking their time to finalize their holiday gift purchases," according to the National Retail Federation.
Online is proving to play an especially important role for retailers this holiday season, as NRF reported that 41.4 million people shopped online only over Thanksgiving weekend, compared to 34.7 million people who shopped only in brick-and-mortar locations.
There were a plethora of shipping promotions this year, with several retailers recently extending offer deadlines, and buy-online-pickup-in-store options are further enticing last-minute shoppers to complete their lists online.
Most recently, Amazon last week extended its free shipping cutoff for non-Prime members to Dec. 18 to arrive in time for Christmas, which it again extended on Tuesday to Dec. 19.
Target on Monday plugged its wide range of delivery and pickup options as well, which include extended store hours, keeping the store open from 7 a.m. to midnight until Dec. 23, and until 10 p.m. on Christmas Eve; guaranteed free delivery by Christmas Eve for all orders placed by 12:55 p.m. ET on Dec. 20; and free same-day in-store pickup, among others.
Walmart also extended its holiday shipping cutoff date to Dec. 22 for select items and Dec. 20 for a broader array of items. The retailer also offers shoppers the ability to purchase items until Dec. 23 at 4 p.m. local time to be ready for in-store pickup on Christmas Eve.
As the holiday shopping season draws closer, the discussion forum on RetailWire asked its BrainTrust panel of retail experts the following questions:
- Which last-minute holiday options resonate most with holiday procrastinators?
- How will the intensified battle to make last-minute ordering more convenient affect shopper behavior this holiday season?
Here are eight of the most insightful comments from the discussion. Comments have been edited by Retail Dive for length and clarity.
Brick-and-mortar still wins
Georganne Bender, Partner, Kizer & Bender Speaking: Who will win the battle for holiday gift procrastinators? Easy! Brick-and-mortar stores.
This week the ease of ordering online will be overpowered by the uncertainty of whether or not the package will arrive on time and as ordered. BOPIS is an alternative, but if they really want something in time for Christmas, consumers will hit the sales floor.
Retailers that offer every method possible come out on top
Art Suriano, Chief Executive Officer, The TSi Company: All of these options are great and will have a response because consumers opt for different choices. Retailers who are using every method possible for last minute business are wise because we will always have those shoppers who for whatever reason wait until the absolute last minute. Moreover, even those who get their shopping done on time typically have the one forgotten about item or that one special gift the giver just thought of purchasing. In a world today full of conveniences, it is nice to see smart retailers taking advantage of the opportunities and no doubt customers will as well.
'If you are stuck, Target is there to help you out'
Charles Dimov, Vice President of Marketing, OrderDynamics: Which is the best is not as important as the fact that Target is giving consumers plenty of options. This is a great idea. That sends out a clear message to shoppers that if you are stuck, Target is there to help you out — with a variety of choices on how to receive/collect.
I'm not sure that I have seen this level of choices and "bend over backward" attitude from too many other retailers. Well done Target. This definitely makes your brand stand out. Now, make sure to market this on your front webpage. Otherwise the effort will get lost in the clutter.
Last-minute buyers are looking for longer store hours, not deals
Camille Schuster, President, Global Collaborations, Inc.: Are the people who have not shopped until the last minute the same people who are scanning all the ads to find the best deal? Some are. However, many put it off because they were busy and those are not the people doing a lot of research about who has the best deals. The efforts will entice cherry-pickers. Staying open later is probably most effective except 10 p.m. on Christmas Eve seems excessive and a huge burden for employees.
Buy online, pickup in store is the key to dads' hearts
Lee Peterson, EVP Brand, Strategy & Design, WD Partners: Every study we've done says BOPIS is key for consumers so I don't see that changing for Target. Dads and males in general are the classic last-minute shoppers so, to say to them, "you don't have to cruise the whole store, just pick up your online order up front and go back to the football game, um, I mean, your family" is huge.
Can shoppers trust UPS and FedEx to deliver?
Dick Seesel, Principal, Retailing In Focus LLC: Amazon is still guaranteeing that Prime members will get Christmas delivery of selected items ordered on 12/24, so they have to be considered the winner if they execute this promise. At this point, it's harder to trust whether UPS and FedEx will be able to deliver goods within the next week, especially with some rough weather about to hit coast-to-coast.
So, yes, brick-and-mortar stores are the procrastinator's solution of last resort — but those who have put effort into a robust omnichannel strategy and with the locations to support it will be the biggest winners of all.
'A procrastinator's paradise' that grows each year
Mohamed Amer, Vice President, Executive Communications, Office of the Co-Presidents, SAP Industries: This holiday season, retailers are giving consumers the most options ever for last-minute ordering and guaranteed delivery with free shipping on top! It's a procrastinator's paradise and for just about anyone else looking for outstanding values and speedy deliveries.
The upshot here is the consumer shopping experience in December will establish their expectations throughout the year: more shopping and delivery options, more creative e-gift ideas, greater integration of online and the physical store, and of course expansion of free shipping! The convenience hurdle simply gets higher each year and there's no turning back.
BOPIS gets personal
Doug Garnett, President, Protonik: I'm a bit careful on these last-minute shipping ideas because this is an unusual year — with Christmas Eve on a Monday. That makes the perception of "fast" a lot easier to hit when someone orders Friday and delivery is Monday.
But I don't think we can tell which will resonate most. Once we're mired in last-minute shopping the one which resonates most is the one I need.
About six years ago I ordered a last-minute Lowe's BOPIS for my father, who lived in Boulder, Colorado. My brother picked it up in Lafayette and delivered it when he went to see my dad. What I particularly liked about the process is the gift ended up given more personally than had I ordered online for shipment to my dad.