For those of you who fol­low me on Twit­ter or read my post ear­lier this week, it likely comes as no sur­prise that, less than a week before Christ­mas, I’ve still got a few days left in my “12 days of shop­ping” blitz. So far, I’ve been more delighted than dis­ap­pointed, even com­ing around the bend and into Christ­mas week—but crunch time is upon us and retail­ers are feel­ing the heat just as much as us last-minute shoppers.

The jour­ney con­tin­ues, and remember—especially my fam­ily and friends who are sit­ting high atop my to-be-completed Christ­mas list—this isn’t about pro­cras­ti­nat­ing. This is all being done in the name of retail research.

Still, next year I’ll def­i­nitely start shop­ping earlier.

#christ­masshop­ping day 4 (a day late!): @musiciansfriend is my friend “2 days left for FREE ground ship­ping” ban­ner. Awe­some! #best­prac­tice

Whereas part of me wants to scream, “I know! I’m late! No judg­ments!” every time I see a count­down, call out, or other time-limited offer, the real­ity is that the good ones are pretty great.Musician’s Friend has kept me and other last-minute shop­pers up to date on just how dire our sit­u­a­tion is via a ban­ner at the top of its page. It’s updated daily, and what was once “2 days left for FREE ground ship­ping” quickly became “2 days left for 2-day express ship­ping.” A bar below the scrolling mar­quee dri­ves its mes­sage home, link­ing to an entire hol­i­day ship­ping schedule.

My take­away? I have until noon on Monday—the day before Christ­mas Eve—to place my order and still have it wrapped and under the tree ahead of the big day.

See­ing that loom­ing sta­tus bar with a promi­nent offer or light threat can com­pel the reluc­tant con­sumer to act. It’s the “speak now” of the retail world, using online call outs, email out­reach, and social media exten­sions to gen­tly coax the still-shopping out of their pro­cras­ti­na­tion shells.

But not only are these time-sensitive offers and “last calls” essen­tial for last-minute gift get­ters, they can also be a coup for savvy shop­pers. These same dri­ves to buy give the metic­u­lously planned a license to com­par­i­son shop even after the Black Friday/Cyber Mon­day crush. As the ban­ner on Free Ship ping Day .com pro­claims, “Once Again, Pro­cras­ti­na­tion Pays Off.” And many times it does. It wasn’t until after Cyber Mon­day that Ama­zon launched its Top Hol­i­day Deals page, adding daily dis­counts of 40 to almost 90 per­cent on a host of great gifts, from jew­elry and watches to toys and games, apparel, home goods, and elec­tron­ics. They’re keep­ing it going through Sun­day, Decem­ber 22, almost a full month after the pur­ported best deals of the sea­son came and went.

So, with just two days left, I took advan­tage of that free ship­ping offer. Although I could have waited it out, I would have lost out on the allure of some­thing for nothing—and ‘tis the sea­son, right? A #suc­cess for get­ting me to finally make the purchase.

#christ­masshop­ping day 5: why #shoplo­cal on a #tablet? Select & pur­chase online while on biz trip#instorepickup #hap­py­wife

What else do I love this sea­son? The small store pen­e­tra­tion of the main­stream e-commerce mar­ket. Strolby lets us stroll the ultra­cool streets of Brook­lyn, brows­ing the bou­tiques and find­ing the most unique, incred­i­bly well-priced one-of-kind gifts we crave, from home­made whoopie pies to flasks that attach to your bike. Pop Chart Lab gets my inner hip­ster geek going with sleek, visual, highly researched prints, apparel, and house­wares, each a con­ver­sa­tion starter. Think “The Advance of Audio Appa­ra­tuses,” an over­sized print fea­tur­ing the 219 engines of “aural bliss” from 1840 to today, and even the “Grand Tax­on­omy of Rap Names.” Eso­teric friends every­where are giddy with glee—and now you don’t have to live in the Big Apple to get your hands on these good­ies. They’re small, they’re pow­er­ful, and they’re doing it right. Big stores bet­ter watch out come 2014.

For me, the shop local trend is tied to one of my per­sonal tried-and-true go-to’s: a small, styl­ish jew­elry store in Los Altos. It’s been a favorite of mine for a long time, but I never thought to go to the store’s web­site. Why should I? It’s right there and I can walk in and walk out, pur­chase in hand. A shop­ping #suc­cess on the most basic, but most essen­tial level.

But this year a hec­tic travel sched­ule and incred­i­bly short win­dow between Thanks­giv­ing and Christ­mas left me won­der­ing about the store’s online presence.

It was so cool. And I don’t use that review lightly.

They have one store but an incred­i­ble online store­front. For the loyal local cus­tomer, it’s an oppor­tu­nity to take your time and browse through the inven­tory, ensur­ing that you’ve got a game plan when you walk in. It also fills those gift­ing gaps when you just can’t make it to the store. In my case, I ordered online and called to inquire about pick­ing up my pur­chase in per­son. Hours later I drove up, popped in, and walked out with a beau­ti­fully wrapped box con­tain­ing the per­fect gift for my wife.

For me, this expe­ri­ence shed light on the need for a strong dig­i­tal pres­ence, even for local retail­ers. It ulti­mately boils down to cast­ing the widest pos­si­ble net—with loy­al­ists, locals, new­bies, and pan­icked Decem­ber 23 shop­pers. You, small busi­nesses, can be their ulti­mate solu­tion, not just by under­cut­ting the big guy, but by being more nim­ble, more cre­ative, and more in tune with every­one who comes through your e-commerce site. I love this jew­elry store because it’s truly one of a kind. Pop Chart Lab prints aren’t likely to come out of a big box store any time soon. And, unless I’m in Bush­wick, I’m not going to find that uber-microbrewed, locally sourced, small batch beer.

Offer me great ship­ping options includ­ing in-store pick up, push the envelope—and the drop-dead dead­line for Christ­mas Eve delivery—and keep on tout­ing what makes you spe­cial, and I’ll keep on buy­ing. Until the very last minute. A #suc­cess for small business.

So no bah hum­bugs in this post, just a few new “bril­liants.” Not sur­pris­ingly, though I’m not done yet—I’m shop­ping right up until Decem­ber 24, of course. I’ll post my next few days of shop­ping soon and will keep on Tweet­ing right up until the last pos­si­ble minute. Keep shop­ping, con­sumers. And retail­ers, don’t stop all the great test­ing and opti­miz­ing you’ve put into play this sea­son. There are mil­lions of last-minute shop­pers who need your count­downs, your last-minute ship­ping deals, and your com­pelling reminders and rec­om­men­da­tions to get to Decem­ber 25. Don’t let them down

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