10 Easy Last-Minute Gift Ideas Leveraging Consumer Insights

Friends giving gifts to each other while sitting at table. In background Christmas tree. Christmas holidays concept.

The holiday season is upon us, and while some people check off their shopping lists with Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals, there are many of us who find ourselves scrambling for last-minute gifts as the clock ticks down. If you're in the latter group (ahem, like me), fear not! Last-minute gift giving doesn't have to be stressful or lack thoughtfulness. In fact, with a little creativity and strategic planning, you can find the perfect gifts that will leave your loved ones beaming with holiday cheer. Plus, with data from MRI-Simmons, you can base your choices on actual verified research about what is hot, popular, and most usable for all those on your list!

1. Personalized Gift Cards

When you’ve waited until the last minute, personalized gift cards can be a lifesaver. Choose a store or restaurant you think the person would like and add a personal touch by selecting a unique design. Some people might think gift cards show they are an obvious afterthought, but if you include a heartfelt note about why you chose that store or how they should treat themselves, it shows that even in the rush you took the time to consider them. Also, 38% of Americans (96 million people) have bought a gift card for someone in the past 6 months, so you likely won’t be alone.


2. Subscriptions

Give the gift that keeps on giving with subscription services. From streaming TV and book clubs to meal kit deliveries and beauty boxes, there's a subscription for nearly every interest. The top subscription boxes Americans are considering right now are food kits (28% of Americans), beauty or fragrance boxes (27%), clothing (25%), and fitness or sport kits (23%). However, depending on the person, they might prefer a beer or wine club, pet box, or craft kit. These gifts not only offer a delightful surprise each month but also convey your thoughtfulness in selecting a present that extends beyond the holiday season. Plus, it saves you the hassle of thinking up the perfect gift next year too. I gifted a book club subscription to my mom on her birthday a few years ago – she’s thrilled when I renew it each year. Easiest birthday gift ever.

3. Gift Baskets

Crafting a personalized gift basket is a thoughtful and quick way to create a custom gift. Head to a local grocery store and pick up a variety of small, meaningful items. For a movie buff, consider popcorn, candy, and a cozy blanket. Or, for the coffee lover, grab some gourmet coffee beans, a stylish mug, and some sweet treats. What’s even quicker is when these gifts are preassembled and on display in the store.

4. Experiences

Sometimes the best gifts don't come wrapped in paper. Consider gifting experiences, such as concert tickets, spa vouchers, or cooking classes. As a New Year’s resolution, 35% of Americans want to see more movies in theaters, almost 30% want to go to concerts, and 25% want to go to a zoo or aquarium. Have some cash to splurge? 48 million Americans want to go on a cruise next year. Many experiences can be booked online and delivered instantly, making them perfect for those last-minute dashes to find the ideal present. You could even purchase these on the big day!

5. Digital Gifts

In today's tech-savvy world, digital gifts are gaining popularity. Purchase e-books, audiobooks, or even online courses that align with what the person likes. Low on cash? Create a digital photo book capturing special moments in Google Photos or Shutterfly for little to no cost. Nearly 50 million Americans have used these services in the past 30 days. You can send these gifts directly to their email, and they'll appreciate the convenience and thoughtfulness behind a digital present.

6. Alcohol

Elevate your gift-giving with a touch of sophistication by presenting a carefully selected alcoholic beverage this holiday season. It can be a rich red wine for cozy evenings, a premium whiskey for the connoisseur, or a craft beer assortment for the one on your list who likes it all. Over 60% of American adults (over 156 million) have drunk alcohol in the past 6 months, and they’ve spent an average of $64 on alcohol in the past month. Save them some cash this season by gifting holiday spirits! Choose options that align with the recipient's taste and consider pairing the bottle with unique glassware or a gourmet snack for an extra thoughtful touch.


7. Charitable Donations

Spread the holiday spirit by making a charitable donation in your loved one's name. Charitable contributions are common not only at the holidays; in fact, nearly 50% of Americans have made a financial contribution to an organization in the past year, and the average amount spent is about $250. Choose a cause that resonates with the person, from environmental conservation and education to healthcare and religious organizations. Many organizations offer printable or digital certificates that you can present to the recipient, highlighting the impact of their unique gift.

8. DIY Treats

Nearly 3 in 4 Americans indulge their food cravings and believe food brings people together, and over half like to try new recipes. If you have a knack for the kitchen, whip up some homemade treats. Whether it's cookies, jams, or a DIY hot chocolate mix layered in a mason jar, these heartfelt creations are a delicious way to show you care. Plus, with one-third of Americans buying hot chocolate mixes and over 40 million buying cocoa powder in the past 6 months, there’s a solid chance you already have what you need in your pantry.

9. Plant Pets

About 50% of Americans have participated in gardening in the past 12 months, and plants make for delightful and low-maintenance gifts. Choose a plant that suits the person’s living space and pair it with a decorative pot or planter. Not only do plants add a touch of greenery to a home, but they also symbolize growth which will bleed seamlessly into the New Year’s resolution season. With nearly 90% of Americans already having resolutions for 2024, the December holidays are the perfect time to support and nurture growth.

10. Last but not least… A Candle

In the last 6 months, almost 75 million Americans have bought a candle. You can’t go wrong with gifting a candle. It works for your mom, husband, coworker, and even that second cousin you only see once a year. You can choose a scent you think they’d like or just pick the one that smells the best to you. Bonus points if it’s in a decorated glass jar or metal container. Don’t believe me? Check out what Emma Stone and the ladies of SNL have to say about it…


Through MRI-Simmons' activation solution, ACT, marketers can leverage trusted and nationally representative data to target and reach consumer targets of their choice, including Americans considering meal kits, going on a cruise next year, or who have made a financial contribution to an organization in the past year. Curate your audience with over 60K consumer elements: 1000+ attitudes and opinions, 6500+ brands in 1000+ product categories; and 90+ proprietary segments. Then, activate via the DMP, DSP, SSP, MVPD, or programmer of your choice.


Last-minute gift giving doesn't have to be a traumatic experience. By embracing creativity and consumer insights, you can confidently select meaningful presents that reflect your love and appreciation for those closest to you. The key is to show that you put thought into the present, even amid the holiday hustle and bustle. So, take a deep breath, embrace the joy of giving, and watch as your last-minute gifts bring smiles and warmth to your loved ones' faces.

Sources: 2023 Summer MRI-Simmons USA, 2023 August Retail Trends Study, 2023 Q4 Trending Topics Study.
Emily Paschal
Emily Paschal
Emily Paschal is a Senior Researcher at MRI-Simmons, whose career spans market research, project management, and marketing. Emily plays a central role in the development and execution of MRI-Simmons’ focus studies.