With Independence Day behind us and no major, gift-giving holidays for several months, now is the ideal time for business owners to think about ways to improve their websites. It takes time to implement and test new systems, so updating a site now will ensure everything is ready for the holiday season. A recent report from Dropoff about the habits of last-minute shoppers can also help website owners think of ways to offer better services.

For any gift-giving holiday, there will be some shoppers who buy gifts at the last minute. Though last-minute shopping may seem like a spontaneous thing, or the result of procrastination, a recent survey conducted in June, suggests many consumers plan on doing last-minute shopping for events like Christmas, long before the event.

The delivery service Dropoff surveyed more than 2,000 U.S. consumers who bought online gifts that needed to be delivered. According to Dropoff's third annual Holiday Survey,  three out of four (77 percent) consumers plan to do last minute shopping, which is a 15 percent increase compared to the 2017 results.

The fact that consumers plan on doing last-minute shopping affects their choice of online retailer. The report found that over half of holiday shoppers are more likely to purchase gifts from retailers that offer same-day delivery, and 42 percent of consumers say that same-day delivery is particularly valuable when purchasing holiday gifts.

"Going into the 2018 holiday shopping season, it's never been more important for retailers to understand shoppers' needs when purchasing gifts," said Sean Spector, CEO of Dropoff. "Consumers plan to do more last minute shopping than ever and have high expectations for quick delivery options to accommodate. Retailers can build brand loyalty beyond the holiday season and drive future purchases in the increasingly competitive landscape by working with a reliable same-day delivery partner."

For most online consumers, the cost of shipping is one of the most important factors to consider when deciding where to shop online. This is why free shipping is often a selling point for retailers. But for last-minute shoppers, fast shipping is often more important than free shipping. According to Dropoff, consumers who shop at the last minute are 78 percent more likely to purchase gifts from companies that offer same-day delivery compared to those who don't.

The 2018 holiday season could be very good for online retailers. The majority of the U.S. consumers surveyed by Dropoff said they prefer to shop for gifts online (54 percent) compared to in-store (6 percent) or a mix of both (40 percent). Providing a better shopping experience by offering fast or same-day delivery can be used to build a strong relationship with new customers. The survey results found that online shoppers are 38 percent more likely to purchase from a retailer again after experiencing same-day delivery compared to those who prefer in-store shopping. The benefits to retailers can multiply since nine in 10 (90 percent) shoppers are likely to recommend a retailer to others after purchasing a gift that arrives on-time or early.

The delay between the time an item is ordered and when it arrives has traditionally been one of the weakest points of online retail. The Dropoff survey shows that this remains the case, as 67 percent of consumers have abandoned a gift purchase due to slow delivery times, a 16% increase from 2017. And last-minute shoppers are 39 percent more likely than those not planning any last minute shopping to abandon a purchase for this reason.

Making changes to a company's website and supply chain to offer faster, possibly same-day service, is a logistical challenge that takes time to work out properly. That's why the lull between major holidays is a good time to start making the changes to make faster delivery possible. As the study shows, it's worth the effort to make an online retailer more attractive to last-minute shoppers.

To read more recent research that help website owners and marketers, read this article with some tips for marketing to the growing audience of online shopping dads.