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Dec 24, 2007 | 4 minute read

Last-Minute Holiday Marketing Tactics for Online Retailers

written by Linda Bustos

Clock Striking MidnightSome believe December 24th is the busiest shopping day of the Christmas season, as everyone scrambles for last minute gifts, decor and food - at least in local stores. Holiday shipping deadlines are now behind us, so what do online merchants do? I went to check out the home pages of 100 of the Internet Retailer Top 500 expecting to see a lot of last-minute pitches for electronic gift certificates and in-store pick up. (Homepages were checked late in the evening on December 23).

Everybody loves statistics, so here goes:

Promoting Electronic Gift Cards - 32%

  • 25% made e-gift cards very prominent on the home page, sometimes in more than one place (for example, banner and sidebar box).
  • The most popular tagline was "It's Not Too Late!"
  • Many included the purchase cutoff dates for guaranteed delivery, as some take up to 12 hours for delivery. Others claimed instant delivery.
  • 10% reminded you of in-store gift cards, but did not offer e-mail gift certificates.
  • Musician's Friend provided an added incentive for purchasing an e-gift certificate with a "$20 ComeBack Cash in the New Year" - when you buy a gift certificate of $100 or more, you will receive your own $20 gift card to use before February 15, 2008. A great way to bring the gift-giver back to spend more money during some of the slowest months of the year.

Musicians Friend Offer

Doing Absolutely Nothing - 27%

  • Either the homepage had no reference to holiday shopping (do they know it's Christmas after all...??)
  • Or the holiday offers had not changed from the week before.

Promoting Clearance Sales - 18%

  • Discounts of 50-75% off prominent on home page, indicating Christmas shopping is over and now it's time to buy for yourself - customers need not worry about delivery time, they are motivated by great bargains.

Aeropostale Sale

Store Finder - 16%

  • 16% linked from the home page to a store locator.
  • Only 11% had other messaging on the site encouraging people to visit their local store.
  • Some posted holiday hours for December 24th and December 25th.

Target Tick Tock Promo

Shipping Cut-Off Dates - 15%

  • Even if the shipping cutoff date had passed, many e-tailers left the information up. This probably doesn't help customers - they understand shopping on December 23 is late, but showing the cutoff dates doesn't hurt either.

In-Store Pickup - 6%

  • Surprisingly, only 6 stores encouraged purchasing online to pick up at the counter of the local store. (Mostly big-box electronic retailers).
  • A few showed cutoff times on December 24th for ordering online for in-store pickup.
  • Best Buy even offers a guarantee - if your order is not ready for pickup in one mintue you receive $10 off.
  • I really expected to see more of this (like Linens & Things or Foot Locker), but it may be too much of an inventory hassle to guarantee items online will even be available in local stores.

Same-Day Delivery - 4%

  •, Harry & David, 1-800-Flowers and ProFlowers offer same-day floral and gift basket delivery.

What's New / New Stock - 2%

  • Gap and J.Crew shift the focus to new arrivals to pique interest. J.Crew also highlights a sale.

JCrew New Stuff and Sale

New Year Shopping - 1%

  • Bed Bath and Beyond features a Times Square Paper Weight for New Year's with the tagline "Ring In 2008." This is almost a New Year promotion. It's just for one item, but the page is merchandised with home items that are very New Year appropriate.New Year Merchandising
  • I'm surprised more home decor, clothing and accessory retailers are not squeezing a little extra mileage out of the season - there's still time to order a martini set or a little something to go with your little black dress...

Unique Last-Minute Sells

  • CompUSA and Omaha Steaks will send an e-gift announcement to the recipient by email to let them know their gift is on it's way but will arrive after Christmas.
  • Amazon offers magazine subscriptions in addition to electronic gift certificates for 11th hour shoppers.
  • CafePress has a "Gift This Cart" promotion, where you can pick items and send an e-notification that you are suggesting your recipient buy your items with an e-gift card, but they can choose other things if they don't like your choices. It's almost an attempt to bring a bit more of a personal touch to a gift certificate without forcing your giftee to accept your selection.
  • Hickory Farms allows you to choose 12 gift options and send them to your recipient, they can then select one (without knowing how much you paid for the gift). Then the order ships after the gift is selected. A nice workaround because you notify your recipient you actually did remember them and give them a choice of what they want. Of course, their gift will arrive after Christmas but the thought was right on time.