Today is December 22, and with Christmas only three days away you may think that your small business holiday sales season is over (until the after-Christmas sales begin). But not only shouldn’t you close up shop just yet, now is the time to double-down on your holiday sales program and snag those procrastinating purchasers who are suddenly feeling the pressure to complete the shopping they have put off for just about too long. And, there is no dearth of those procrastinators.

A September, 2015 poll of holiday shoppers found that 55% (and 60% of online shoppers) plan to finish their shopping in December, and 20% don’t expect to finish until Christmas Eve. Another recent poll of holiday shoppers also found that 20% of holiday shoppers expect to finish buying on Christmas Eve, and the same poll found that this percentage held regardless of whether the procrastinators planned to shop online or in retail stores. Further, 5% of both online and retail shoppers reported not planning to finish holiday purchasing until Christmas Day.

So, whether you’re a service business, a bricks-and-mortar retailer, or an online store, it is definitely not too late for a last-minute holiday promotion. Here are some ideas for every business type.


Last Minute Holiday Sales Promotion Ideas for a Service Business

Gift certificates are the quintessential last-minute gift, and with the advent of email combined with an automated system, they can be bought up to the very last minute– even on Christmas Day. Gift Certificates are also a great choice for any type of service business, as they can be flat dollar amounts, certificates for a specific service such as a special spa treatment, a full house cleaning, or even an upgrade to the service the recipient typically buys.

However, nothing says “I forgot about you until the last minute” more than a generic email with a gift code in it. Do your feet-dragging customers a favor, and provide gift certificate options that make them look like thoughtful geniuses.

The simplest way to do this is to have professionally designed gift certificates ready that you can complete with the gift and recipient details, and then email to the gift giver to print out. Several options for creating these include Canva, a free online design tool that includes multiple gift certificate templates; The design tool (quite a bit less sophisticated than Canva, but it does not require that you sign-up for an account), or this free template site that enables you to download from a nice set of holiday-oriented gift certificate templates for Microsoft Word. (On the download page for the Word templates, be sure to click the small “free” link to download the template– the page tries to trick you into downloading a software program with a large “Download” button– don’t use it, only use the free link. Also, there will be a box at the bottom of the template advertising the template site, just select and delete it to get it off your certificates.)

Another option is to obtain complete contact information for the gift recipient at the time the order is placed, and to email the gift certificate directly. When you do this, you can also include information about the gift. If the gift recipient is a current customer, you can review their purchase history and make suggestions about how they might use the gift (if it isn’t for a specific service). Additionally, you could even provide a button that the recipient can use to schedule an appointment with your company. (See 5 Ways to use a [Book Now] button to get more appointments for instructions on how to do this.)


Last Minute Holiday Sales Promotion Ideas for a Retail Business

If you are a bricks-and-mortar retail business selling from a storefront, the best way to snag those last minute shoppers is to make the purchase no-brainer easy. One method for doing this is to create a display at the very front of your store with pre-wrapped gifts. Have an unwrapped sample at the display that customers can touch and feel, and place the wrapped packages with it. You might even attach a card to each one that the purchaser can complete to add a truly personal touch to the gift. That way you’ve helped not only with a gift selection, you’ve also taken care of the wrapping and the card, thus enabling the late shoppers to cross someone completely off their lists.

If you have several product lines that appeal to different types of customer, create a display for each one. Just don’t create too many—those procrastinators are late for a reason, one of which may be problems making decisions.

Don’t worry about wrapping too many packages, you can always un-wrap those that don’t sell and return them to inventory. For the cards, you can purchase any package of holiday cards from a store. You could also print your own. And, while you don’t want to go overboard with branding, putting a small logo on the back of a card is fine. If you want to try this, check out this source for some festive free templates.


Last Minute Holiday Sales Promotion Ideas for a Web Based Business

Pick one or two items from your inventory that fit into a FedEx or US Postal Service flat rate box. Pack them up beforehand, and have them ready to go just as soon as an order is received. (You can always unpack any that don’t sell.)

Feature these on your website as last minute gift ideas that can be shipped to arrive in time for Christmas. Use a single sale price that includes shipping for delivery before Christmas, and change the price as the holiday approaches. So, for orders placed on the 22nd (provided you can mail the same day), include 2-day shipping and for those placed on the 23rd include next day shipping, and raise prices accordingly. Also, be sure to set expectations appropriately for customers so that they won’t be disappointed. And if you can, get those packages to the shipper immediately after the order is received and processed.

Including shipping, even expedited shipping, in the purchase price is very important. The NRF 2015 Holiday Trends and Expectations report found that free shipping was ranked as either important or very important to 86% of holiday shoppers in 2014, second only to low prices (90%). And, according to a Price-Waterhouse-Cooper (PwC) survey, 83% of holiday shoppers say standard free shipping would make them “extremely likely” to make a purchase.

To help you set prices, the following are standard rates for flat rate boxes from FedEx and the US Post Office. Note that for standard 2-3 day Priority Mail, the Post Office does not guarantee a delivery date; while FedEx does guarantee delivery dates for their 3-day and 2-day shipping options.

Also note that for short distance overnight delivery (under 150 miles) FedEx is less expensive than the USPS. For example, the USPS Priority Mail Express Flat Rate Box (for next day delivery) is approximately the same size as a FedEx Large Flat Rate Box. The USPS box ships for $44.95 regardless of distance. The FedEx box, with standard overnight delivery, will cost just $36 for local (under 150 miles) delivery, but $54 for regional (151-600 miles) delivery, and $81 for national (601+ miles) delivery. Additionally, for regional delivery you can use an Extra-large FedEx box (bigger than the USPS box) and send it for less.

All the rates below include tracking numbers, email tracking updates, and standard insurance that can be upgraded for an additional fee. Be sure to check the USPS website and the FedEx website for the most up-to-date and detailed pricing quotes based on your actual From and To locations, and for pricing on different size boxes.

USPS Flat Rate Boxes

Prices shown include insurance ($100 for Express, $50 for Priority standard, more for an extra fee). Only Express delivery is guaranteed for a specific date. Obtain free flat rate boxes at the post office, or have them delivered to your business for free. Pickup from your business is free too.

Priority Mail Express Flat Rate Box
$44.95, (Sunday Delivery available for an extra fee)
Dimensions: 11-1/4” x 8-3/4” x 6” or 14” x 12” x 3-1/2”
Priority Mail Large Flat Rate Box
$17.90 (buy online and print, $15.80)
Typical but not guaranteed 2-3 day delivery.
Dimensions: 12-1/4” x 12-1/4” x 6”
Priority Mail Medium Flat Rate Box
$12.65 (buy online and print, $11.30)
Typical but not guaranteed 2-3 day delivery.
Dimensions: 11-1/4” x 8-3/4” x 6” or 14” x 12” x 3 1/2”


FedEx Flat Rate Boxes

Prices shown include $100 insurance (more for an extra fee), and guaranteed delivery dates. Pricing based on distance, and prices below are shown as Local (under 150 miles) / Regional (151-600 miles)/ National (600 miles +). Obtain free flat rate boxes at any FedEx/Kinkos location, or have them delivered to your business for free. Pickup from your business is free too.

FedEx Medium Box
3-Day: $10.50/$19/$31       2-Day: $12.25/$22/$44.75       1-Day:$14/$39.75/$58.25
Dimensions: 11-1⁄2” x 2-3⁄8” x 13-1⁄4”   or   8-3⁄4” x 4-3⁄8” x 11-1⁄4”
FedEx Large Box
3-Day: $15.75/$20.50/$36     2-Day: $17.25/$26.75/$54    1-Day: $18.75/$49.75/$81
Dimensions: 12-3⁄8 x 3” x 17-1⁄2” or 8-3⁄4” x 7-3⁄4” x 11-1⁄4”
                      (This is the best comparison to the USPS Express box )
FedEx Extra Large Box
3-Day:$24.75/$27.25/$41       2-Day:$28/$33/$73       1-Day: $39.25/$72/$112.50
Dimensions: 11-7⁄8” x 10-3⁄4” x 11” or 15-3⁄4” x 14-1⁄8” x 6”


While you never want your customers to be disappointed because your shipping service does not live up to their promises, you can at least recoup your shipping costs when they do. (You might even refund them to your customers as a good-will gesture, or offer them as a discount on a future purchase.) Read Tip Post How Small Businesses Can Get Refunds for Late Package Deliveries for details.


Promote Your Last Minute Holiday Sale via Email

Of course, simply putting a last-minute promotion together isn’t enough—you need to make sure that people know about it. The best, and quickest, way to do this is via email.

This strategy works regardless of how you typically sell—online, over the phone, or in person. Just make sure the email uses your preferred call to action (i.e.—order online now, open until 10PM on Dec 24th, call us for fast delivery by Christmas Day, etc.)

According to the Custora Ecommerce Pulse 2014 Holiday Recap Report, email marketing drove 17.7% of online orders during the November – December 2014 holiday period, making it the third largest channel after free and paid search. The PwC survey found that 46% of all respondents report being “happy” to receive coupons and other holiday offers on their mobile phones; a recent Forrester study reported that email was the primary way consumers received coupons; and a recent Epsilon study reported that promotional email (tied with television advertising at 22%) was the type of advertising most likely to influence holiday gift purchases.

So, create a quick promotional email that describes the offer and highlights that it is available for delivery by Christmas. (If you sell online, consider including a “buy now” button directly in the email.) You don’t have much time—today is the 22nd—but you are in time to grab the attention of the procrastinators right when they are feeling the most pressure to buy.

If you already have an email list, then just send a blast as soon as you can. If not, cobble together as many email addresses as you can from your Customer List and send what you can. (Just be sure that you are using a professional email program, or at the very least an email group list—DO NOT put multiple customer names in the TO field where all recipients can see them.) It is fine to send in multiple batches, and fine to send to the same people on multiple days as long as the recipients have not sent you unsubscribe requests.

For an email marketing primer see 5 Websites to Help You Learn Email Marketing and the recent tip post 11 Mobile Email Statistics Your Small Business Should Know & How to Take Advantage of Them.


Remember, even with just 3 days until Christmas, it is not too late to both boost your holiday sales and make your customers look good with last-minute gift options guaranteed to arrive on time. Stop reading this, and get to work on your promotion right now!


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Lisa Hephner

Lisa Hephner

My name is Lisa, and I’m the Vice President of Knowledge, responsible for the management of corporate, product, competitor, marketplace, legal, and regulatory knowledge, and creation and dissemination of knowledge tools using these assets to PaySimple prospects, customers, employees, and partners.

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