6 Ways To Capture This Holiday Season’s Last-Minute Shoppers


In 2018, U.S. shoppers are projected to spend over $119B at online retailers, a 15.5% increase from last year. Last-minute shoppers are one of the key demographics to hit this year, ensuring you maximize your sales all the way through the holiday (and beyond, as we'll discuss). Here's what we know about those last-minute shoppers and how to capture their sales.

Who are your last-minute shoppers?

Over 32% of people do their shopping in December. And, nine out of ten of the busiest shopping days of the season land in December.

When we say last-minute shopper, though, we're referring to those shopping in the last week or two before Christmas. This demographic is shifting, with many shopping earlier and throughout the season. However, last-minute shoppers still represent 16.9% of all shoppers.

Who are they? According to a CivicScience report, compared to other groups last-minute shoppers are more likely to be:

  • Men
  • Between the ages of 25-34 years old and 45-54 years old
  • Without children or grandchildren
  • Employed

This group is not generally made up of Baby Boomers. They're also not entirely certain about where they want to buy. Up to 51% of last-minute shoppers, according to a Google study, set out not certain where they're buying or have multiple retailers in mind.

How do they shop?

You can better target these last-minute shoppers by figuring out how they shop. We know that:

  • Gift cards are likely to be the top purchased gifts this year, with 54% of people planning on buying them
  • Experiences make up 40% of all holiday spending
  • Last-minute shoppers tend to spend less, up to 28% less than early shoppers (those who shop before Thanksgiving)
  • In 2017, more than 40% of all retail sales were made on mobile, but December 23 was the biggest day ever in mobile commerce with 48% of all purchases made on smartphones (followed by Christmas Eve and Christmas Day)
  • Hitwise reports that 12% of in-store visits and 14% of transactions occur in the last week before Christmas and, of the top ten online buying days, two take place in the last seven days before the holiday
  • For all shoppers, site-wide discounts are among the most effective holiday offer strategies (according to 5% of polled businesses)

How to capture last-minute shoppers

How can you use these insights? Here's how to capture those last-minute shoppers.

1. Offer free shipping, fast

With the industry presence of Amazon Prime, many shoppers expect fast, easy, and free shipping.

More than half of holiday orders online will likely include free shipping for the 2018 season. A survey of e-commerce brands with $10M+ in annual revenue found that free shipping on all orders or by order value were two of the top five most effective holiday offers they ran.

Around December 17-18th, there's a marked decrease in conversions. So, while traffic is still steady to your website, many shoppers may be worrying about their purchase arriving before the holiday. Avoid this by sharing your shipping information frequently and prominently across the website, especially if you offer last-minute shipping.

2. Highlight non-shipped items and same-day pickup

For those who arrive at your site after your shipping period ends, make sure to highlight non-shipping options like gift cards or experiences.

As noted, gift cards and experiences make up large chunks of all holiday spending. Ensure you capture these last-minute shoppers by making it easy for them to find and get these gifts.

You can also offer same-day in-store pickup when available.

3. Encourage up-selling

Last-minute shoppers tend to spend less than the early-birds, so use enticements like free shipping over a certain value or discounts when customers spend a certain amount.

You can also create expertly-created bundles, like "home goods for the mom who has it all" or themed friends gifts to make it easier for them to buy just a bit more.

4. Keep in touch about deals

Site-wide discounts are one of the top drivers of conversions. Keep in touch with your last-minute shoppers to make sure they know about these sales and other promotions.

Email is one of your best options. Over the 2018 Black Friday season, 24% of all sales were generated by email. It also had the highest conversion rate, edging out direct traffic.

The two biggest groups who prefer last-minute shopping also prefer online options over physical stores (at 55% for Millennials and 56% for Gen X-ers). Ensure your website is ready for these last-minute shoppers, with promotions and shipping information prominent.

5. Refine your mobile strategy

As always, mobile is a foundational part of today's holiday shopping experience. Customers crave omni-channel shopping. For example, 66% of shoppers research online and make the purchase in-store. Another 45% buy online and pick-up in store.

Of mobile shoppers, 67% make a purchase on their phone, up to two-thirds use it to browse and price-check and a full 72% use it to track their orders. Note also that conversions fall by 20% for every second delay of mobile page load time.

Make sure your mobile-first site is ready for all of these uses and types of shoppers.

6. Make shopping easy

Expertly-curated lists (think "# perfect gifts for dads" or "gifts for college students") make shopping easier for last-minute shoppers.

Other ways to make shopping easier include:

  • Extending your holiday shipping cut-off dates as long as possible
  • Offering same-day pickup or delivery leading up to the holiday
  • Extending your holiday hours in the final days before Christmas

Don’t forget post-Christmas shoppers

You've survived the holidays… almost.

While this post focused on last-minute shoppers, did you know that the highest traffic day in December 2017 for mobile shoppers was actually December 26, the day after Christmas?

In 2017, there was a 46% increase in online retail sales between 12/26 and 12/31. These belated gifts or gifts for themselves had a 20% higher average order value too.

Don't let your discounts or free shipping end when Christmas does. Extend them through the New Year to capture the after-Christmas shoppers in 2018.

After the holidays reward yourself with a nice big cup of hot cocoa, relax, and look forward to another great year!