4 tips to attract last-minute online retail Christmas shoppers

By: Luke Griffiths

This article shares some of the findings from Klarna’s interviews with UK customers, and discusses some lessons for serving last minute Christmas shoppers.

  1. Highlight convenience
  2. Get delivery right
  3. Make shopping smoother
  4. Re-think returns

As one of the most lucrative opportunities in the retail calendar, retailers have been gearing up for the festive season for months. Peak season is getting longer, and driven by intense competition, retailers are spending more than ever drawing in festive shoppers.

Big budget adverts are a symptom of this and mean Christmas ad spend hit a record high this year, with major retailers such as John Lewis, M&S and Waitrose battling it out to win the best Christmas ad of the season.

With Christmas next month, many shoppers will already have their shopping all wrapped up. Come the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, it’s likely many shoppers will be stockpiling presents. However, research Klarna conducted on the nation’s Christmas spending habits shows that there are still big opportunities for retailers to snap up a chunk of shoppers’ festive spend closer to the celebrations.

Based on interviews with 2,000 UK shoppers, the research shows that 30% of Brits have their Christmas shopping all wrapped up with at least three weeks to spare, while two in five admit they won’t finish their shopping until a week or less before the big day, highlighting the importance of catering to last minute Christmas shoppers, particularly online.

So, what can retailers do to attract those last-minute customers and lessen the Christmas shopping burden?

1. Highlight convenience

It’s no surprise that convenience is a top priority for last minute shoppers, who are fitting in shopping around busy schedules. While early buyers prefer shopping in store, over half (56%) of last minute shoppers will be browsing online. Retailers catering to this last-minute audience must make sure that their online channel is optimised for on-the-go shoppers. Being mobile-centric, eliminating extra steps in the checkout process and enabling one-click repeat purchases will yield dividends.

Late shoppers are also more likely to make impulse buys (42% vs 26%), and are less likely to stick to a planned list, meaning this is prime time for retailers to reach shoppers with targeted offers and festive inspiration.

2. Get delivery right

Getting delivery services right is crucial so that customers aren’t left in the lurch come Christmas Day. Unsurprisingly, last minute shoppers were more likely than early birds to shop with a merchant if they offered last minute deliveries (19% vs 15%). While the year-round cost of providing these deliveries may be prohibitive for some merchants, investing in the service around Christmas time will see retailers reaping the rewards.

3. Make shopping smoother

Time is of the essence for many last-minute shoppers. This was reflected in our research as these customers were more likely than early birds to shop with a merchant if checking out is quick and easy (34% vs 24%) and if the merchant has an easy to navigate mobile site (15% vs 10%).

While channel-responsive UX and a seamless path to purchase should be a year-round requirement for retailers, nowhere is this felt more keenly than during the festive season, when busy shoppers are less inclined to tolerate a bad user experience.

The demand for convenience also extends to the payment process. Both early and last-minute shoppers agree that options that allow them to see their online purchases before paying would make them more likely to shop with a retailer. This flexibility removes the dreaded tension over an unwanted present.

And with the estimated total uplift in sales for UK merchants offering flexible payment options, such as customer finance, over the festive season reaching an estimated £2.3bn, it makes sound commercial sense for retailers to offer this flexibility.

4. Re-think returns

While the run up to Christmas signifies the busiest time for retailers, this doesn’t stop come Christmas eve. Peak season now extends well beyond Christmas day itself, if you consider returns. And as the final touch point between retailer and customer, it’s crucial that adequate policies are in place to manage the increased activity.

Research we conducted shows that 83% of respondents who shop online would not shop with a retailer again if they had a bad returns experience. It is key to offer a frictionless way for Christmas shoppers to return items, and linking the returns process with payments will help. One of the biggest bugbears around returns is the effect this can have on customers’ cash flow. Offering an option to pay later is an easy way to counteract this, as customers don’t have to part with their money until they, or their recipient, is happy.

And this also has the potential to dramatically reduce a merchant’s customer service enquiries, from customers chasing refund payments or adjustments to returned goods, as no money leaves their account. At the busiest time of the year, this will come as a relief for customers and retailers alike.

The final countdown

Although the frenzy of Black Friday and Cyber Monday are often the focus for the retail sector at this time of year, there are still plenty of opportunities for retailers to capitalise on festive spending after these peaks. Retailers are in a prime position to appeal to last minute shoppers with targeted offers, a streamlined, hassle-free online experience and flexible payment options.

And by understanding the needs of different shoppers during the festive period and optimising online retail offerings, retailers can gain a competitive advantage and give Christmas sales a welcome boost. 


By: Luke Griffiths, General Manager at Klarna UK

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