Eight tips to cash in on last-minute gift shopping

It’s never too late for a good idea when it comes to selling online for the holidays. The forecasts are robust as NRF projects online shopping will grow by 7% to 9% in November and December to between $273.7 billion and $278.8 billion.[1] Retailers know there’s still work to be done to hit or even exceed these numbers.

In this blog, we deliver eight things retailers can do to increase their share of last-minute gift buying. This is an excellent time to revisit your marketing and merchandising to see if a tactic or two will resonate with your customer base and drive conversion.

  1. Heavily promote gift cards

As the season winds down, retailers often promote gift cards as shoppers gravitate to what is convenient. The focus shifts to eGift cards as instant delivery becomes perfect for the procrastinator. Our Bizrate Insights survey of 1000 holiday shoppers found that 44% of respondents planned to give gift cards over the holiday. With 60% hoping to receive, there’s room for gift-givers to buy in even greater numbers.

Visibility is the operative word with gift card promotion. Promotional opportunities abound from the home page to customer service channels. Sephora does an excellent job of showcasing “The Perfect Present” by including gift cards alongside many other holiday delights in their navigation. They start with the gift finder and do an excellent job of merchandising everything from top-rated gifts to luxury gifts to a companion Luxury Guide. Buying beauty products as gifts can be tricky, making gift cards an ideal choice. They’re excellent stocking stuffers, suitable for a wide range of recipients on your gift list.

Timing and messaging are crucial at this time of year. Lowe’s heavily emphasizes their eGift card as a perfect last-minute option for shoppers. While showcasing a series of gift cards is adequate, the power of the copy should not be underestimated. 

  1. Utilize language that resonates with procrastinators.

Bizrate Insights’ early holiday September survey of 1000 online shoppers asked about the most important factors when choosing an online retailer. The results suggest that retailers should emphasize both stock and logistics. Finding products that are in stock and ready to ship was cited by 42% and fast delivery by 48%.

Etsy has created a “Last minute gifts” department, knowing shoppers often find themselves in a pinch when shopping for that special item. These gifts are advertised as ready to ship, giving online shoppers confidence that their presents will arrive on time or early. Creating a one-stop destination guides shoppers, directing them to these items and averts unnecessary frustration along the shopping journey.   

  1. Highlight last-minute gifts that can still be delivered

Wine.com puts forth another excellent delivery-minded example. Shoppers can filter their gifts by the usual attributes, including gift type, occasion, and price. What sets them apart is the option to view what can be shipped today.

As online shoppers have come to expect quick delivery, this extra search attribute elevates the shopping experience. It is even more desirable as shoppers approach the final days of the holiday season.  

4. Keep the deals coming

62% of survey participants in October 2023 had taken advantage of a deal discovered right as they shopped. This Garnet Hill email offer is a good example of the deals shoppers hope to find. 44% of respondents prefer a discount on their total order, and here, Garnet Hill shared a 25% site-wide discount.

The other deals high on the shopper’s wishlist included discounts on specific items or groups of items. Garnet hill covers this group with 40% off in the home category. Free shipping with no minimum order value was also of interest to 32%, and even 26% still found it appealing given a minimum order value. Just 16% had hoped for another kind of shipping discount or promotion. These creative combinations and end-of-the-season promotions deliver the money-savings shoppers seek.

  Deal you hoped to find Deal you took advantage of
A discount on my total purchase (% off or $ off) 44% 43%
Free shipping with no minimum order value 32% 15%
Discounts on specific items or groups of items 29% 38%
Free shipping with a minimum order value 26% 25%
Multiple item discount (i.e., buy one, get one free) 21% 16%
Gift with purchase or discounted purchase with purchase 20% 17%
Other shipping discount or promotion 16% 14%
Total respondents 1068 732


  1. Play the omnichannel card

In an early Bizrate Insights October Trends survey of 1000 online shoppers, in-store pickup was important to 43% of online shoppers surveyed. 36% had used or intended to use this store-based convenience over the holidays. As the season winds down and cut-off dates for ground shipping pass, store pickup is a winning business model for store-based retailers. When consumers pick up in-store it is a great opportunity for retailers to promote additional gifts to drive incremental business. 

Dick’s Sporting Goods has been a long-time leader in omnichannel, offering both in-store and curbside pickup options to cater to the convenience needs of shoppers. Their promotion of one-hour availability is a savvy move that appeals to last-minute shoppers, ensuring they can find what they need swiftly. Additionally, providing clear, step-by-step guidance on the process is particularly beneficial for first-time users and those who haven’t shopped in a while, helping to minimize customer service inquiries and enhance the overall shopping experience.

6. The holidays are a perfect time to treat yourself

Nordstrom knows that even when consumers are shopping for gifts, they’re shopping for themselves as well. October’s early holiday survey revealed that 32% were shopping for gifts for others while 68% were making purchases for themselves.

This is especially true as price reductions make such purchases more appealing. From cold-weather outfits to styling one’s home, choices are abundant. Holiday looks are also highlighted, and Nordstrom is happy to share ideas/looks with shoppers upon request or book an appointment for the personal touch so many of their shoppers have come to enjoy.   

  1. Differentiate with service

For some retailers, customer service is an afterthought, but Coach helps online shoppers have a less stressful season. They highlight everything from customization and free gift wrapping to financing, along with the benefits of their Coach Insider loyalty program. 

What stands out is their free shipping and extended returns. Giving shoppers time to make decisions and offering longer return windows lets consumers know that the retailers understand them and want to make holiday shopping less stressful. Flexibility goes a long way toward shopper satisfaction. 

  1. Guarantees fuel risk-free buying.

Shopper satisfaction should be a year-round initiative, but holiday spending volumes make it even more significant. This example from Omaha Steaks emphasizes their 100% guarantee and a feel-good family factor as well. Merchandising these promises at multiple points across the customer journey can help solidify these assurances in shoppers’ minds, making them more likely to take a chance on the brand.

[1] https://nrf.com/media-center/press-releases/2023-holiday-reach-record-spending-levels