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The Mindset of a Holiday Procrastinator, Explained

Andrea Reiher, Writer

This article is part of Square’s definitive guide on eCommerce best practices during the holidays. Explore the guide to learn how to curate a festive and stress-free shopping experience for your customers and stay competitive.

Despite the holiday season coming around every year like clockwork, some shoppers still seem to be caught by surprise when it’s time to light the candles and hang the tinsel — and they need all the help they can get from retailers. The holiday procrastinator has their heart in the right place, scrambling to deck the halls even if it all comes together at the absolute last minute.

For online sellers, the slowpoke celebrator can be the source of a lot of last-minute business.

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According to a 2018 survey conducted by the National Retail Federation, 56% of holiday shoppers — around 134 million people — were still doing their shopping on “Super Saturday,” or the last Saturday before Christmas. Four percent even said they would wait until after Christmas Day to buy their presents.

That’s a lot of holiday dollars coming in at the last minute, so here are some tips to get those latecomers buying from your eCommerce store.

Understanding a holiday procrastinator

While retailers must start preparing for the holidays months in advance, shoppers have the luxury of waiting — and whether it’s because they’re too busy or they’re still bargain hunting, some wait until the very last minute.

They shop down to the wire. In the NRF survey that said over half of shoppers wait until the Saturday before Christmas, seven percent of those surveyed said they actually wait until Christmas Eve. Offering extended holiday hours right up until the big day earns you a lot of goodwill with late shoppers.

They love expedited shipping. Online, these dawdlers are most likely looking for overnight shipping to try to get their gifts in under the wire. In that same NRF survey, as of December 12, a whopping 51% of consumers who still had shopping to do said they would make their purchases online. In the most extreme cases, some procrastinators are looking for gifts that can be delivered after the holidays are over.

They are young. The NRF survey also suggests that procrastinators tend to be younger shoppers. Seventy percent of shoppers ages 18–24 said they are likely to be purchasing gifts the week before Christmas, so be sure to have plenty of inventory in stock for the last couple of weeks before the holidays, especially if you have items that may be on younger shoppers’ lists.

How to meet the holiday procrastinator’s expectations

Whether they’re in-person or virtual shoppers, holiday procrastinators are generally looking to make a lot of purchases at once, mostly because they haven’t yet done very much (if any) holiday preparation. Therefore they need your help in checking off every box on their list.

Give helpful suggestions. Procrastinators know that leaving things to the last minute can make it hard to find what you want, so they’re looking to retailers for guidance. Gift guides, lists of what is popular that particular year, and recommendations for different types of recipients are extremely useful tools for procrastinators.

Take away the guesswork. Procrastinators can really benefit when your retail site offers gift cards. It takes away the time-consuming guesswork about what to get everyone — and procrastinators are always short on time. In 2014, Starbucks actually sold 2.5 million gift cards on Christmas Eve alone, which translated into 1700 gift cards sold every minute.

Gift cards don’t have to be impersonal. Consumers like having the choice of how to spend their money at a certain business. The NRF winter survey says that 60% of shoppers would prefer to receive gift cards and gift certificates for the holidays over other types of gifts. As experiential gifts grow in popularity, gift cards are a tangible way to package up exciting services like spa treatments, wine tastings, dance workshops, and more that speak to the receiver’s unique interests while allowing them to “cash in” at their leisure.

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How to catch their eye

While some procrastinators are late to the party because of how busy they are, others are waiting until the last minute to save money.

Promote last-minute deals. These shoppers love bargains and specials, so if you’re thinking that a sale on Christmas Eve can’t possibly lure in any buyers, think again. Another option holiday procrastinators love is post-holiday shipping deals. If they can save a few dollars on having something shipped after the actual holiday, they don’t mind having to wait at all.

Offer in-store pickup. These shoppers are also grateful if they can pick up their items in-store, instead of having to wait to have something shipped. In fact, 50% of online shoppers say they would love to buy online and pick up in the store, according to the NRF holiday survey. So if you have a brick-and-mortar location to go along with your eCommerce store, in-store pickup is a great option to offer holiday procrastinators because they don’t have to wait for something to be shipped.

Get social. Utilizing social media goes hand in hand with having an eCommerce store — and it’s a key way to advertise your products to holiday procrastinators, who are desperate for ideas on what to buy for everyone on their list. According to the NRF holiday survey, nearly a quarter of consumers ages 18–34 look for holiday gift inspiration on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat.

Leaving holiday shopping to the last minute can be chaotic and stressful. Online marketplaces can often play into the chaos and rely on the impulsiveness of procrastinators to close deals. Instead of adding to the problem, create a calm, seamless shopping experience that gives holiday procrastinators the peace of mind they need to enjoy the most wonderful time of the year. Give them options to buy in their own (nick of) time and you’ll emerge a holiday hero.

The holidays can be the busiest time of year for businesses. From helping shoppers find the perfect gift to keeping up with your inventory, sellers need to wear multiple hats. Square is here to help. We have all the tools you need to start, run, and grow your business, whether you’re selling in person, online, or both. And we’ve made all our tools to work together as one system, saving you time and money — and making decisions easier. So you, too, can enjoy the most wonderful time of the year. See how Square works.

Andrea is a freelance journalist covering eCommerce branding, holiday shopping, and how experiential retail and experiential gifts are becoming increasingly popular.