Attract last-minute shoppers with these simple strategies

4 minute read

The holidays are coming up fast, but plenty of people are still hunting down deals or struggling to find the perfect gift. Shoppers who’ve left it to the last minute can give your sales figures a serious lift.

In the final days of the holiday frenzy, here are some simple strategies to help your small business capture the attention of the last-minute crowd.

Put gift ideas front and centre

By definition, last-minute shoppers don’t have a lot of time, meaning they’re often stressed out by the circumstances. Take some of the pressure off by putting gifts front and centre, both on your website and in your brick-and-mortar store. Research has shown that store windows play a vital role in attracting attention. Merchandise placed at the front and just to the right of your store’s entrance tends to attract the most eyeballs, making it the smart place to stock hot-selling, high-margin items.

Gift ideas should also be prominently displayed on your website. Feature popular items on a specially designed holiday homepage, and organize your content so shoppers can easily filter gift ideas for men and women, adults and children, as well as by category and price.

Finally, promote the option of buying gift cards – there’s no more straightforward choice for the frenzied shopper. Make them available to purchase online and print out at home for those real last-minute laggards.

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Code Red!

Red is a festive colour, and one that suggests a sense of urgency. Stimulate customer impulses to finish up holiday shopping by highlighting key sales in red banners at the top of each page on your website. An eye-catching banner that promotes a store-wide percentage discount, a free shipping offer, or even one that counts down the remaining shopping days before Christmas will have a subtle and profitable impact on buying habits.

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Extend your opening hours

Make an informed decision on how long to stay open by accounting for additional staffing and utilities costs compared to the projected revenue you’ll earn in each extra hour. Observe foot traffic in your store and tailor your hours to fit the needs of shoppers, especially if they’re not the same people who tend to visit at other times of year. If you’re suddenly busier in the morning, for instance, you’re probably better off opening earlier than holding a Midnight Madness event.

Experiment with different schedules to see what works best for this season and seasons to come.

Make returns easy

No matter when they shop, people never want to have to worry about a complicated or limiting return policy. Ease their fears by offering a clear-cut pledge that any item bought now can be brought back or exchanged well into the New Year. Feature the policy prominently on your website, and include an offer to pay the cost of returning online purchases. Shoppers who know returns aren’t going to be a problem feel better about buying now, and are more likely to become loyal, satisfied customers who’ll make future purchases from your small business.

Be a competitive shipper

High shipping costs are a key contributor to abandoned shopping carts. If you’re not offering it already, increase conversions by giving your customers free or flat-rate shipping in the final days of the holiday shopping season. Needless to say, free shipping is the most attractive option, but may not be cost-effective. A flat-rate plan means shoppers know up front how much they’ll have to pay for any order, no matter how many items they buy.

Last-minute shoppers need to know their items will arrive on schedule, so make sure you prominently post the cut-off dates for holiday delivery.

Engage with email

An email message with an arresting subject line and the promise of limited-time deals can deliver big results for your small business. Don’t worry about trying to write something creative and catchy – it’s often better to be blunt. Readers will react to a subject line that screams ‘Today only: free shipping!’ or ‘Your last chance to save 25%!’ Get a better idea of what resonates with your customers by testing several subject lines and monitoring open rates. Include one or two eye-catching images of popular gift items and keep the whole thing brief enough that the recipient can make sense of it with a quick scan. Make sure your message is mobile-friendly so potential customers can read about your offers while they’re on the go. Include opening hours and location information at the end of the message. Finally, give people the option to purchase items directly from your email, saving them the trouble of surfing to your website or visiting your retail store.


Get creative – and interactive- with your social media accounts in a way that provides last-minute shoppers with useful information. Promote a different gift idea each day on one of your feeds, including photos and videos of the featured product, to raise awareness for what’s available. Another social media strategy, one that’s great for encouraging engagement, is to crowdsource a holiday wish list of most-wanted gifts from your followers. Promote the list to last-minute shoppers as a source of inspiration for gift ideas.

Hit the streets

Make a final push by engaging directly with potential customers while they’re out shopping. Print out flyers and distribute them on the streets around your store in the final few days or weekend before the big day. A physical reminder of your business that includes details of your sale or information on a few of your great gifts might be just enough to make up the mind of a harried shopper who needs to get through a list of holiday to-dos.

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