Most people still have holiday shopping left to do

Order Management

It's midway through December and the holidays have nearly arrived – but for many, holiday shopping has only just begun. According to a recent survey from RetailMeNot, as many as 9 in 10 consumers still have holiday gifts left to purchase. That's more than 200 million individuals who will be spending more money with retailers across the country.

Nearly 88 percent of holiday shoppers said they will be buying gifts at the 11th hour, with parents being the biggest procrastinators, according to the report. Meanwhile, 95 percent of parents surveyed admitted to waiting until the last possible moment to purchase holiday gifts.

Appeasing last-minute shoppers
For retailers, the holiday shopping period challenges them to achieve optimal efficiency.

For retailers, the holiday shopping period challenges them to achieve optimal efficiency in terms of inventory and order management.

Improper inventory and order management can mean lost sales to competitors, poor customer experiences and frustrated shoppers.

When it comes to last-minute shopping, the stakes are even higher. Trying to find the perfect gifts for the kids can be a stressful task for any parent, and when time is working against them, it only gets worse.

Retailers should be looking to step up their game during shoppers' time of need by making their experiences as streamlined and convenient as possible. Customers will affectionately remember the merchant that shipped their last-minute purchase right on time, and that may be the start of a successful, year-round relationship.

So how can retailers accommodate the needs of 11th hour shoppers? In addition to operating efficiently and doing everything in their power to maintain inventory levels and quickly process orders, merchants should consider their shipping offerings, according to RetailMeNot. Nearly two out of five customers ended up going over budget because they had to purchase expedited shipping to get their gifts in time.

Merchants may want to consider offering free shipping. Many retailers already take advantage of promotional periods such as Free Shipping Day on Wednesday, December 18, to encourage customers to purchase.

Providing free shipping isn't something that retailers can just flip a switch and do – they have to cover the costs somewhere.

By making an event out of it, retailers can encourage shoppers to make purchases far enough in advance to allow merchants to stand a reasonable chance of getting goods delivered on time to customers.

"Black Friday and Cyber Monday have come and gone, but the majority of shoppers still have gifts to purchase," remarked Trae Bodge, senior editor of the RetailMeNot study. "Consumers who prefer to do last-minute shopping online should take advantage of Free Shipping Day offers if they want to avoid having to pay for expedited shipping charges and potentially go over their budgets."

Affording free shipping
Of course, providing free shipping isn't something that retailers can just flip a switch and do – they have to cover the costs somewhere. Many merchants are turning to eCommerce software as a means to help them streamline operations and improve efficiency across the board, including supplier and shipping operations. This, in turn, can help retailers pass the savings down to customers via incentives such as free shipping.

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