Who will win the battle for holiday gift procrastinators?

Photo: Walmart
Dec 18, 2018
Tom Ryan

On Monday, Target became the latest retailer to plug its wide range of in-store, online and hybrid options for last-minute holiday shoppers.

Among those options.

  • Extended hours: Now through Dec. 23, most Target stores will open at 7 a.m. and close at midnight. On Christmas Eve, stores close at 10 p.m.
  • Online-delivery guarantee: New this year, place a Target.com order by 12:55 p.m. ET on Thursday, Dec. 20 and choose “Free Holiday Shipping” to get guaranteed delivery of eligible items by Dec. 24.
  • Express one-day shipping: Place a Target.com order on Friday, Dec. 21, choose “Express Shipping” at checkout and receive eligible items by Dec. 24. Order cutoff times vary and fees apply.
  • Free in-store pickup: Place an order with Target.com or the Target app for same-day Order Pickup until 6 p.m. local time on Christmas Eve. Most orders are ready within an hour.
  • Home delivery with Shipt: Place an order through Shipt.com for groceries, gifts, decorations and more at least two hours prior to store closing on Christmas Eve for same-day delivery. The cost: $7.99 per order without subscription for orders over $35.
  • E-gifts: On Christmas Day, guests can send a GiftCard via e-mail or text or choose an instant gift with GiftNow. Introduced last year, GiftNow sends an e-gift right away for later delivery. The recipient can accept the gift, change the size or color, or swap it for something different before the gift ships.

Among competitors, Walmart this year extended its shipping cutoff date to enable shoppers to order select items until Dec. 22 and receive them before Christmas. For broader items, the cutoff date is Dec. 20. Other eligible items can be purchased online until Dec. 23 at 4 p.m. local time for Christmas-Eve in-store pickup.

Amazon last week extended ordering through Dec. 18 for free Dec. 24-guaranteed delivery with no minimum purchase. For Prime members, the two-day shipping cutoff is Dec. 22 for all areas and Dec. 23 for select areas. In eligible areas, same-day delivery (order by 9:30 a.m.) and Prime Now (delivery less than two hours) is available.

DISCUSSION 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?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
"BOPIS is an alternative, but if they really want something in time for Christmas, consumers will hit the sales floor."
"If the quick ship guarantees are met, it will raise the bar even further for what is possible the rest of the year."
"All the planning in the world will not help retailers with the last-minute shopping rush if they do not get their inventory management right."

Join the Discussion!

18 Comments on "Who will win the battle for holiday gift procrastinators?"

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Dave Bruno

At some point this week, despite later and later options from online sellers, stores will dominate. People simply won’t trust that their packages will arrive on time. Weather, logistics failures, etc. are wild cards that retailers can’t control. In the brick-and-mortar world, Target certainly has gone to great lengths to capture every last (and last-minute) dollar, and I expect they will certainly earn their fair share of procrastinators’ business.

Art Suriano

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.

Charles Dimov

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.

Zel Bianco

I must admit that I am one of those last-minute shoppers, so for me, all of those options are welcome. The online delivery guarantee sounds like the one that will be the most convenient. Now if only I can figure out what my wife will like, I will be in good shape!

Ed Rosenbaum

Good luck Zel. You still have time.

Georganne Bender

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.

Chris Petersen, PhD.

The last mile will make or break most of these last-minute options and guarantees. However, the last mile is increasingly getting compressed and more stressed in the last few days of the season. There is no question that last-minute shoppers will value the last-minute options offered online. If the quick ship guarantees are met, it will raise the bar even further for what is possible the rest of the year. The question is whether the ecosystem with third parties is expanding fast enough to meet the last-minute guarantees. The savvy retailers will use the drill of last-minute holiday execution as stress testing for the continued march toward one-day delivery in 2019.

Lee Peterson

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.

Lee Kent

If I had to vote on the best option, it would be this one. The true procrastinator likely does not trust online guarantees since there are lot of elements that the retailer can not control. A retailer open late and who will conveniently have my order ready for me is the best option. For my 2 cents.

Ryan Mathews

All these options are good. Shipping guarantees are great for stimulating online purchases, but for the REAL last-minute shoppers, nothing beats an open door for that final desperation purchase.

Dick Seesel

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.

Mohamed Amer

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.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.

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.

Ken Morris

For the most extreme procrastinators, Target and Walmart are the winners because of their physical store presence. The worst procrastinators are still buying gifts on Christmas Eve and that will limit it to BOPIS or in-store shopping and that will often result in a trip to Target, Walmart or even Best Buy.

The more moderate procrastinators can order online for home delivery and the cutoff dates for December 24 delivery are fairly similar, but Target is the most flexible: Amazon (Dec. 18 for non-Prime and Dec. 22 for Prime members), Walmart (Dec. 20) and Target (Dec. 21 and Dec. 24 if you are willing to pay $7.99 for Shipt same-day delivery).

Overall, I would say Target will be the ultimate winner for procrastinators this holiday season.

Andrew Blatherwick

All the planning in the world will not help retailers with the last-minute shopping rush if they do not get their inventory management right. The last thing people want is to be promised or offered a last-minute purchase that is then out-of-stock, all that does is create customer resentment.

Often at this time of year the winners are the retailers who have the right items still available; price is no longer an issue it is just having the stock available. The tendency is to look at not having stock left after Christmas, this can lead to valuable sales lost at this crucial time. Getting you forecasts right and stock available can make the difference between an okay year and a good year. The last week and last few days are critical as such a large proportion of business is still to come.

Doug Garnett

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.

Ralph Jacobson

One aspect I feel shoppers will default to is staying with a known entity that they’ve successfully used before. If they have last-minute gifts to be delivered in a short window, the vast majority will probably leverage the retailer that has “delivered” for them in a pinch in the past, regardless of how appealing another retailer’s offers may be.

Craig Sundstrom

“Guaranteed” delivery … and what happens when something happens and the item doesn’t make it? Stores may come to regret assurances like this.

"BOPIS is an alternative, but if they really want something in time for Christmas, consumers will hit the sales floor."
"If the quick ship guarantees are met, it will raise the bar even further for what is possible the rest of the year."
"All the planning in the world will not help retailers with the last-minute shopping rush if they do not get their inventory management right."

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