Last Minute Shipping: Thank You for the Faster Sleigh!

According to data published by NRF, 15% of Americans have not even started their holiday shopping and only 10% of the population is finished.

Only 10% and Christmas is 9 days away! Are we all screwed?

I don’t think so. And I’m glad I’m not alone.

Thanksgiving is long gone, but it’s not too late for me to be thankful for all those retailers who are allowing me to show up late to the gift giving party. Every year they save my neck. And every year I push the limits.

It’s not that I don’t care about giving gifts. It’s just that as long as I can remember growing up, it always worked out (quite well) at the very last minute. As a kid, one of the only father / son shopping outings of the year was on December 23rd or 24th. We’d hit up Saks to pick up a bottle of “Joy” for my mom. Next door was Williams Sonoma, where I’d grab a couple things to further complete my older sisters’ growing kitchens. We’d grab some lunch and after about 90 minutes, we were back home with everything wrapped up and under the tree. Stress level, about a 1 out of 10.

Later, with siblings growing up and having families of their own and not everyone being under the same roof, that one-day foolproof strategy shattered to pieces. I really blew it a couple of years and sheepishly had to turn in those pitiful “belated” gifts, like a late homework assignment.

But then eCommerce started to slowly come to the rescue. Slowly, because to be sure, digital was always an option as long as I’ve had my own credit card. But once upon a time, that route required the greatest planning and the longest runway. Back in the day when standard ground shipping was the only affordable option, you needed to have your order placed a good two weeks in advance. Buying online wasn’t always the procrastinator’s life raft, but now it’s a completely different story.

Today, most retailers are saying December 21st is the cutoff for standard/free shipping. Last year it was the 20th. A growing number of retailers are letting us push the limits all the way up to the 23rd and the 24th. And this doesn’t just apply to run-of-the-mill items like perfume and kitchenware. If you had the means and the will, you can even buy your significant other (hopefully) a ten thousand dollar diamond necklace with just a couple days notice.

What makes all this possible? eCommerce systems are better synced with backend order fulfillment solutions, warehouse efficiency continues to improve, and retailers are actually encouraging the kind of procrastination that has become the modus operandi for many of us this time of year. e.g., retailers like Dell are touting the chance to “be a last minute holiday hero,” with free 12/24 delivery on orders placed before 2PM on 12/23.

Companies like UPS and Fedex are readjusting to this new model where last minute is now the new norm. UPS alone has predicted it will ship 630 million packages between Black Friday and the end of December. To handle such massive volume in such tight window is a major feat. Even though we see reports about struggles to keep up with the surge, the vast majority of packages are going to arrive on time this year (barring a 2013-like snowmageddon or some other disaster that’s out of anyone’s control).

Despite this fascination with Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and everything else designed for all the do gooders out there, retailers realize that there will always be this group of people who will wait until the absolute last minute. Chances are a great number of us are made up by people like me who are in fact loving fathers, uncles, sons, and husbands. We care! We’re just a little late to the party and we all want to thank massive advancements in eCommerce, logistics, and shipping for being enablers helping us save Christmas.

Stafford McKay

Stafford is the former Director of Content at Reflektion. He’s passionate about eCommerce Marketing, Technology, and Lake Michigan. When he’s not writing content, he can be found out on the water in the 1938 Chris Craft he shares with his family.