The holiday shopping season is definitely in full swing, with just weeks to go before Christmas day. And while some early bird shoppers are probably taking it easy by now, a big chunk of consumers will still flock to retail stores. In fact, you can expect your foot traffic (and hopefully) sales to pick up in the coming weeks and continue til the days leading up to 25th.
Speaking of which, last minute holiday shoppers can be a godsend to retailers because they give you plenty of opportunities for sales and engagement.
And that’s exactly what we’ll be talking about today. In this post, we’re offering some practical tips to help attract—and convert—last-minute holiday shoppers.
Check them out below:
Recognize that speed can make or break sales
Speed is critical to converting last-minute customers. Remember, these shoppers are pressed for time and need to complete their purchases ASAP. They want to browse, shop, and pay with ease. That’s why you should remove any friction points that are slowing down the shopping experience and ensure that shoppers can get their hands on products in the most convenient way possible.
Here are some things you could look into:
Store navigation and staff
Set up the necessary signage, and arrange fixtures in a way that makes it simple to navigate your store. You want shoppers to quickly and easily find what they’re looking for when they’re in the shop.
Clearly point out where people can find gifts for men, women, kids, etc. Train your employees to know where everything is. That way, they’re prepared to help shoppers who need assistance.
Also instruct your staff to be more diligent with cleaning and organizing your store. Have them move about the shop and be on the lookout for disorganized products or items that aren’t in their proper shelves, so they can tidy up immediately.
Store navigation improvements can also be applied to your ecommerce shop. If you’re selling online, create banners or even special navigation links for the season.
For example, why not have a collection or page filled with your top holiday products or gift items? Then for best results, put up a link in your navigation bar to direct people to the page. You should also have holiday-themed banners up on your front page so visitors can get to your offers or products in as few clicks as possible.
Look at what Dormify is doing. The homeware retailer has a special “Gifts” link on its navigation bar to make it easy for people to access the merchandise. Dormify even changed the font color of the link so users don’t miss it. And to make things even more convenient, Dormify grouped gifts by price (i.e. Under $25, Under 50), by recipient (i.e For Her, For Him), and by category (i.e. Stocking Stuffers, For the Home, Travel).
When customers have already decided that they want to buy from you, the last thing you want is to lose them at checkout. Unfortunately, many retailers seem to be dropping the ball when it comes to ringing up sales. Between long lines and associates having trouble with the POS, the checkout experience can be frustrating and could lead to shoppers abandoning their purchase.
Prevent this by improving the checkout experience. Depending on your store, there are a number of ways to go about this. Some stores are replacing their slow cash registers with mobile POS systems that not only work faster, but can also speed up checkout through functions like email receipts and mobile payments.
Other retailers are taking things a step further by untethering their POS system altogether. This lets associates ring up purchases on the sales floor, rather than from behind a cash wrap.
Consider what Magic Memories is doing. The tourism photography company replaced their old POS system with an iPad-based one. This, according to Chief Operating Officer Steve Taitoko, gave the Magic Memories staff the mobility to better interact with customers.
“Since we’re able to use tablets to process payments, our staff can actually go out to where the customers are, as opposed to just sitting behind the register waiting for people to come up,” he said.
Speed is obviously critical for online retailers. Studies have found that “40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load.” This means that a few seconds delay in your site’s load time could result in you losing about half of potential customers.
That’s a big chunk, especially during the holidays, so make sure you address all your site speed issues (and prevent them from turning up) before the season’s shopping rush.
Some of the things you can do are:
- Optimizing your images
- Reducing the size of above-the-fold content
- Getting rid of unnecessary plugins
- Minifying resources
To check your site speed and to see the things slowing you down, you can use Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool here.
Also be sure to check out our post on addressing high ecommerce bounce rates for more insights on optimizing your online store.
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: Efficient order fulfillment is important all year round, but during the holidays, it becomes a make-or-break factor.
See to it that you’re able to get products to your customers as quickly (and reliably) as possible. If you’re shipping merchandise, be sure to inform (and continuously remind) your customers of your cut-off dates so they know when to place their orders.
ESSIO, a store that sells aromatherapy shower diffusers, does this quite well. “We focus on consistently reminding customers when our cut-off deadlines are,” says founder and CEO Peter Friis. “There’s last day to order economy shipping, last day to order expedited and last day to order overnight. For each, we have a site stripe at the top of our site explaining the deadlines. Then we also send out an email to customers on the last day to remind them.”
You may also want to create an easy to read shipping chart, such as the one by Snapfish below. This gives people an at-a-glance guide for when they should place their orders.
The holidays are also the perfect time to provide in-store pickup and same day delivery services. Last-minute holiday shoppers are always in a hurry (for obvious reasons) so they would appreciate the option to pick up their purchases on their own time or have it delivered on the same day.
Send out holiday gift guides
Your last-minute customers could use a bit of help and inspiration finding presents. Give them a leg up using gift guides filled with ideas and product recommendations.
Go through your product catalog, pick out the ones that would make for great presents, and include them in your holiday guide. Bonus points if your guide can add real value (instead of just plugging your business). On top of gift recommendations, why not throw in recipes, party ideas, or tips for enjoying the season?
Check out what Starbucks did. In 2014, the coffee company sent out a holiday gift guide to their email subscribers to entice people to check out their brews and merchandise. And in addition to their holiday picks, Starbucks also added a link to their “Holiday Pinspiration” board on Pinterest that’s filled with recipes and gift ideas.
Consider changing up your merchandising mix
Depending on your store, you could consider spicing up your product mix during the holidays by selling items you don’t usually carry. If your main products don’t normally make for great holiday presents, it would make sense to branch out a bit.
Take for example, Lucky Brand, a retailer that specializes in denim. As Forbes puts it, since “jeans are a tough gift for people to give to someone else,” the retailer shifts its merchandising mix by adding shoes and accessories to their catalog.
You may want to do the same if you find yourself in the same holiday dilemma.
At a time when customers are getting more marketing messages and emails in their inbox, how can you stand out and get them to notice your offers? One word: personalization.
Be more targeted with your offers. If you’re sending out emails, tailor your messages to the buying history and preferences of your customers. Touch base with people who bought from you in the past and remind them of the reasons why they love shopping with you. Tell them their favorite brand is back in stock and you’re giving them a special discount just for being a regular customer.
Offer gift cards
Gift cards may get a bit of flack for being impersonal, but they’ve proven to rake in sales, especially during the holiday season. The NRF found gift cards to be the second most popular gift this year, with 56% of consumers saying they’re planning to give them as presents.
Gift cards are a godsend for last-minute shoppers who don’t have time to cook up gift ideas, so see to it that you stock up on them in the coming weeks. Help your customers out by displaying them at checkout and other prominent parts of your store. Have your associates remind them that you have gift cards in stock.
Some retailers, such as ESSIO, are even letting customers print out gift cards themselves so they can get them on the spot. “For the truly last minute shopper this year we plan to offer digital gift cards so someone could literally order, print and create a card as a gift for someone on Christmas Eve / Day,” adds Friis.
Set up gift-centric displays
Determine your top-selling and most gifted items during the holidays, then put the spotlight on those products by placing them in a special display or shelf. Make sure people see it (and know what it is) by putting signage along the lines of “Holiday top sellers” or “Gifts for him/her”.
For best results, bundle these items to increase value and incentivize sales. Depending on the products, there are a number of bundling strategies you could implement, including:
Complementary products – Group a product with a relevant accessory or complementary items (e.g. A doll and her accessories.)
Multiple item grouping – Bundle a number of units of the same products then sell them as a package. (e.g. Items that come in multiple colors.)
Slow-moving items with top sellers – Pair slow-moving products with your more popular items. (e.g. Top-selling pairs of shoes with slow-moving socks.)
Offer gift-wrapping services
If you have the space and staffing resources for it (and if it makes sense for your business), why not offer gift-wrapping services? Your last-minute shoppers will thank you for it.
Depending on your business, you can structure your gift-wrapping services in a number of ways. You can offer it as complementary service to add value to purchases and give people another reason to buy. Or you can add certain conditions such as “Free gift wrapping with every $50 purchase.” You could also offer gift wrapping as an upsell to increase order values.
Run attractive (but still profitable) promotions
Sales are rampant during this season, and while they’re undoubtedly effective in generating sales, you shouldn’t be tempted to offer discounts that eat up your profits.
This holiday season, strive to be more strategic with your discounts. You can start by personalizing your promotions. Segment your customers based on their price sensitivity and shopping habits, then offer discounts accordingly.
The following table is an example of what you can do:
Vend tip – are you a Vend user? Our customer management software makes it easy to build and manage customer lists, so you can view, sort, and group shoppers according to factors like purchase history, balance, and location.
As we mentioned in our article about discounting in retail, carrying out creative pricing or sale strategies will allow you to entice customers without killing your profits or hurting your brand.
You can, for instance, set spending thresholds on your promotions. Rather than just giving away free shipping, why not offer it once the customer spends a certain dollar amount?
Another tactic would be to have exclusive sales reserved for your most loyal customers or top spenders.
In some cases, you may not even have to “push” your discounts to customers. Have a look at what Express, an apparel retail chain did, when it revamped its promotional strategy.
In late 2014 (and continuing to 2015), Express decided to hold fewer promotional events. It also relocated its sale items from the front of the store to the back. This move encouraged shoppers to check out their top-notch items first, and allowed the retailer to get more people paying full price without alienating those looking for deals.
Bonus resource: Need additional tips and examples to help with your promotions? The following video discusses the most popular techniques for merchandising your products during a sale and discuss their nuances.
Consider extending your store hours
For some retailers, opening a little early and closing later than usual can make a big difference this season. That’s why plenty of shops extend their operating hours during the holidays.
Last year, for example, Macy’s kept its doors open for 24 hours on December 22 and 23, and remained open from 12 am to 6 pm on Christmas Eve. Similarly, Toys ‘R’ Us also extended their hours and stayed open for 24 hours on the 22nd and 23rd, and until 10pm on the 24th.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you should automatically follow suit. Some businesses won’t actually benefit from pulling these holiday all-nighters.
The best way to figure out if extending your holiday hours would make sense for you is to pay attention to holiday foot traffic trends. Are people coming in earlier or later during the holidays? For example, do you usually have more people waiting for you when you open your doors or do you have customers coming in when you’re about to close?
Next, look at your sales data and determine if the sales you make during your extended hours would offset the costs of staying open. Naturally, if the answer is yes, then you should probably extend your store hours this season.
Raise the bar on customer service
Last-minute shoppers don’t just want to be served quickly, they want to be taken care of. They want you to help relieve their holiday stress so they can get what they need and enjoy the festivities. The best way to do this is to engage your employees.
As Joe Cecere, president at Little said, “to help last-minute holiday shoppers now—or any time of the year—retailers have to go beyond price and selection. What they need to do is leverage their most under-utilized assets—their employee base.
“Passionate, engaged employees can deliver personal customer experiences that create customer loyalty and help dial down the panic mode of the annual holiday procrastinator.”
This holiday season, recognize that taking care of your customers starts with taking care of your staff. There are plenty of ways to do this. You can start by determining your store’s peak holiday hours and scheduling shifts so that there’s a healthy associate to customer ratio and none of your employees are overworked. You may also want to hire additional associates, just in case.
Got any other tips for attracting last-minute holiday shoppers? Weigh in below.
About Francesca Nicasio
Francesca Nicasio is Vend's Retail Expert and Content Strategist. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and be more awesome overall. She's also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+.