Holiday Sales Sprint   //   December 18, 2023  ■  5 min read

Same-day delivery apps are leaning into holiday promotions

This month, delivery platforms want you to stay in and do all your last-minute shipping for decor, cooking and gifts through their apps.

For years, same-day delivery services like DoorDash, UberEats, Instacart and Shipt have been building out their non-restaurant offerings by partnering with major retailers. What began as a pitch of last-mile delivery solutions for retailers, has become a big part of these companies’ growth strategies. Now, several platforms are pushing big sales to try and get users to buy holiday gifts.

This comes as many of these delivery services began prepping for holiday shopping earlier this year. And these hefty discounts are part of a bigger holiday season trend in the retail industry. A number of big-box retailers as well as online DTC brands began offering big discounts since the beginning of November. 

UberEats, for instance, has been pushing discounts of up to 40% off on items like decor from retailers like Petsmart and Target — and as Christmas gets closer, stocking stuffers from select retailers like Target. The delivery app also partnered with its latest celebrity spokesperson, Real Housewife Luanne de Lesseps, on promoting its holiday shop.

On December 17, Instacart kicked off its first-ever “‘Tis a Big Deal Week” campaign, with discounts of up to 40% from retailers like Best Buy, The Container Store and Petco all the way until December 23. According to the company’s announcement, “whether you’re hoping to ‘skip the ship’ and need something promptly delivered to you or sent as a thoughtful gift to a loved one living afar, Instacart and more than 1,400 of its retail brands have you covered.” 

Target-owned Shipt, meanwhile, says it’s the go-to assistant for that last-minute delivery on gifts, gathering essentials and other grocery items all the way up to December 24. 

Earlier this month, the Shipt unveiled its “Season of Savings” campaign, where customers can access a number of deals throughout the month. The promos kicked off with the “5 Days of Delight” campaign, which offered customers exclusive membership deals and special discounts on holiday hosting and gifting essentials. Shipt also partnered with celebrity partners Tan France, Meredith Hayden, Issa Rae and chef Meredith Hayden by offering discounts on their curated product picks. 

According to the company, during the week leading up to Christmas Shipt sees the highest increase in order volume compared to all of December, and some of the highest of the year. During this week’s window, Shipt subscription members will receive additional discounts, like $10 off orders of $25 or more. 

According to Shipt, its most popular search terms this month include “decor,” “gifts,” “hot chocolate” and “wrapping paper.” The company expects major activity this year, after fulfilling over 250,000 items considered stocking stuffers during last year’s festive season. In 2022, the company said that batteries were Shipt’s most-purchased item under the gift category.

In a statement to Modern Retail, Shipt chief growth officer Katie Stratton said that the company has been preparing for the holiday season with its retail partners all year, “and we are excited to deliver savings and solutions right up to Christmas Eve for our customers.” Stratton said the platform’s offerings include thousands of gifting options, helping shoppers “get those last-minute stocking stuffers delivered just in time.” 

The delivery apps are also pushing memberships through these campaign pushes. Instacart is currently selling its annual delivery membership for $19, instead of $99. Meanwhile, until December 30, Shipt is offering half off on its annual membership, which normally costs $99 or $9.99 a month.

Instant delivery app Gopuff, which largely carries grocery and convenience items, leaned into discounting its FAM membership during the Black Friday week — from $7.99 per month to $36 for a whole year. According to the company, this resulted in 128% spike in week-over-week sign ups.

The membership promo was pushed alongside deals of up to 75% off CPG products, from Quip toothbrushes to Ben & Jerry’s pints. The sale also featured dozens of giftable products. This led to major year-over-year sales increases on items, such as the P.F. Candle Co.’s Ojai Lavender Soy Candle — up more than 1,200% over the same week last year. IGK Dry Hair Mask sales were up 2,200% over last year, while the What Do You Meme Core game sales were up 1,700%.

Gopuff’s senior vp of business, Daniel Folkman, said, “as consumers feel the pinch of inflation amid rising costs of living, we are laser-focused on delivering outstanding value, not just during Black Friday but every single day.” 

While in-store shopping has fully returned, experts say last-minute shopping through instant delivery is here to stay. 

Mehmet Altug, the director of George Mason University Costello College of Business’ Center for Retail Transformation, told Modern Retail the seasonal push by delivery services is another leftover behavior from coronavirus’s peak. 

“The pandemic has changed consumer behavior,” Altug said, growing the volume of people comfortable getting things like essentials and gifts through delivery services. “These intermediaries,” he said of the delivery services, “increased their reach and market share while the retailers are realizing platforms can solve last-mile delivery logistics.” Indeed, many retailers have begun to warn about Christmas shipping cutoffs, while delivery services that work with these retailers ramp up their seasonal campaigns. 

What’s being sold here is convenience to people who don’t want to run around buying essentials and gifts. “These services are targeting people who aren’t waiting days for their orders,” Altug said, noting the two-day delivery standard that Amazon has set. “Same-day delivery is another way to close the omnichannel gap.”