This season, give last-minute shoppers the gift of assistance and can’t-match convenience

Nicole Eppolito Spence December 2018 Retail, Omnichannel

We’re in the homestretch of the holiday shopping season. Three out of four holiday shopper types have been busy crossing off items on their gift list: early birds, evergreens, and deal seekers. Who does that leave? The last-minute shopper, of course.

Research shows that only 18% of shoppers consolidate their shopping to the Black Friday-to-Cyber Monday period. Meanwhile, 70% of shoppers confess they still had shopping to do in the last week before Christmas.1

Alas, the marathon continues. Read on for retail strategy tips to capture last-minute shopper demand and finish this race strong.

Make discovery and purchase easy

With more purchase options than ever, people feel overwhelmed by decisions, and it’s tough for brands to differentiate themselves. How do you make smart business decisions to meet customers at every moment of intent? Make discovery easy.

Nearly 60% of shoppers are open to buying from new retailers during the holiday season, and in the 2017 holiday season, almost half of them actually did.2 As people stray from brand loyalty, they’re gravitating toward brands that are most helpful and convenient in the moment.

With more than half of holiday shoppers up for grabs, you must show up to win.

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When it’s too late to deliver online, be available offline

Timing is everything, so let’s fast-forward to the week before Christmas when shipping is out of the question. During this time, last-minute shoppers turn to local retailers to find last-minute gifts. In fact, last year, searches for “where to buy” peaked on December 22 (a Friday), similar to what we saw in 2016, when searches for “where to buy” peaked on the final Friday before Christmas (December 23).3

These findings show that shoppers use mobile — their go-to tool for efficiency — to search for local businesses, store hours, directions, wait times, contact information, and increasingly, product availability. As proof, searches for “store hours” peak on Christmas Eve, the highest day of the year.4 If you are a multichannel brand, provide the information people need to get what they want offline and in the moment.

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It is more critical than ever for brands to provide accurate online information about their local inventory and availability. Consumers demand this. In fact, more than 40% of holiday shoppers wish that stores would do a better job of sharing inventory information.5 With products constantly in flux during this busy shopping season, marketers must step up their efforts to keep online information current and available. One way to do this is by taking advantage of Google’s robust online-to-offline shopping solutions.

One retailer who’s had success is Big 5 Sporting Goods. Last year, performance marketing digital agency Elite SEM partnered with Big 5’s digital marketing team to develop a retail strategy that drove a strong end-of-year holiday performance. Running Google’s Local Inventory Ads after the shipping cutoff date for gifts to arrive by Christmas was a key part of the plan.

These local shopping ads showed real-time availability for products last-minute gift seekers were after. The results? A 25% increase in Google Search-driven foot traffic to local stores year over year. By removing barriers to purchase and personalizing ads to individual shoppers, Big 5 was able to connect with people when they were searching for gifts, offering them a timely and localized path to purchase.

Optimize for consumer behavior by providing relevant, up-to-date information beyond just the digital marketplace.

Shopping doesn’t end with Christmas, so keep the lights on

Folks don’t finish their holiday shopping on December 24. With gift cards to spend, presents to return, and deals to act on, shoppers are rushing online and into stores, ready to buy.

But first, they turn to search. Mobile searches for “gift card balance” have grown by more than 90% in the past two years.6 These gift-card holders are eager to spend, making the days between Christmas and New Year’s Day an optimal time to engage with consumers.

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What are shoppers looking for during this time? Deals. Mobile searches for “Christmas” + “clearance” have grown by over 150% in the past two years.7 Is there any better way to clear out excess inventory than with an end-of-year sale? Win customers by reaching shoppers with competitive deals they can’t resist.

The final leg of the marathon is approaching. Stay in the race, assist your customer, and go with them over the finish line and into the new year.

Your holiday guide to the consumer's shopping journey