In days gone by, customers shopping for Christmas gifts would do so in October and November, allowing plenty of time to find the perfect present. When shopping online even as recently as the mid 2000’s, early November saw the highest amount of orders placed with online stores. The volume of orders received in late November and December would tail off significantly.

Now though, online shoppers are purchasing later and later. In fact, a recent study by eDigitalResearch and IMRG claims that as many as 47% of shoppers felt comfortable buying online just a week before Christmas Day. So what’s driven this change in shopper mentality?

1.  “Please allow 28 days for delivery”

Remember this? Whenever we shopped via catalogues, in the early days of TV shopping, and even online, any product was typically advertised alongside this immortal phrase. In 2014 however, allowing 28 hours for delivery is almost the norm, and with services such as Shutl, allowing 28 minutes for delivery is now possible.

In just the last couple of years, consumer confidence in shopping online and home delivery has improved dramatically. The same IMRG and eDigitalResearch study found that in 2013, just 34% of customers felt confident of shopping online just a week before Christmas Day, a jump of 27%.

So what’s brought about this change in confidence?

Firstly, eCommerce retailers have really stepped up their eCommerce fulfilment operations, staffing and resourcing for the increase in demand right up until Christmas. Secondly, carriers such as DPD, Hermes, and UK Mail have all invested heavily in parcel tracking and their physical footprint to improve their overall service levels, which has given consumers further confidence.

Furthermore, carriers such as DPD, Hermes and Royal Mail are also now offering 7 day per week eCommerce delivery services. Although newly launched in 2014, it will be interesting to see just what the take up will be on these premium delivery services.

 2. January Sales in (erm!) December…

Remember when January sales used to happen in January? Not any more. The trend over the last few years has been to offer discount after discount in the lead up to Christmas, rather than wait until January. This has proved to be a winning strategy for many online retailers, with margin being sacrificed for order volumes.

Regular online shoppers have also got wise to the strategies of online retailers at Christmas, who typically offer bigger and bigger discounts in the run up to the big day. As a result, many customers wait until the final few days of the sales, to benefit from the increased discounts.

3. Mobile. Shopping anywhere, anytime.

2013 was the beginning of the mobile shopping boom. This trend is ever expanding, and as such, customers can now shop online via their mobile phone, wherever, whenever. Mobile, more than any other technological advances, has driven the growth in eCommerce over the last few years. At Christmas 2013, online shoppers spent an average of £245 via their mobiles. This figure surely looks set to grow again in 2014.

In summary, it’s clear there are multiple reasons for why customers are shopping closer and closer to Christmas. More than anything though, it’s a combination of the above factors which has lead to this trend. For retailers, getting their internal order fulfilment and customer services operations operating efficiently should be the first priority, otherwise any additional order volumes will simply cause a large Christmas headache.