The National Retail Federation is predicting a small increase of 4.1 % in holiday sales this year. And according to a new survey from Manta, the largest online community dedicated entirely to small business, 43 percent of small business owners are more optimistic about holiday sales this year versus 2011. While 51 percent of those surveyed expect customers to buy directly from the store this holiday season, 41 percent anticipate the majority of their sales to come from online orders – a 10 percent increase from last year’s results.
“The holiday season can bring both immense pressure and great rewards to local small business owners, so this is the most critical time for them to leverage online tools and the vast expertise of other business owners,” said Pamela Springer, CEO of Manta. “We’re pleased to see many of the small businesses in our community gaining awareness about how their online actions impact their business – from their online presence on sites like Manta, to selling goods and running promotions online – and sharing their best practices and advice with other business owners.”
“We’re expecting the holidays to be busier than ever this year and I plan to use a small arsenal of online tools that I trust and that I know work for my business,” said Norman Linton, Owner of Kentucky-based Tees N Textiles, LLC, a custom screen printed apparel company. “My website and online store serve as the foundation of my efforts, Manta is the tool I use to turn interested parties into loyal customers, and posting about in-store promotions on Facebook helps me increase foot traffic into my shop.”
As small businesses predict online sales to increase this year, they are being selective when it comes to the online tools and methods they will adopt this holiday season. For example, the majority (82 percent) of small businesses have not, and will not, run promotions with Groupon or other “daily deal” sites this year. In fact, only 3 percent of respondents said these types of promotion sites have brought them repeat business.
Many small businesses run online stores or promotions through sites like Etsy and Facebook and are critical of the level of support they do or don’t receive from such sites. Surprisingly, nearly half (47 percent) of small businesses perceive Etsy, the handmade marketplace that caters to hundreds of thousands of very small retailers, as the brand that is the most unsupportive of small businesses. While the value of using Facebook was questioned by small businesses in a Manta survey this fall, 29 percent of those polled perceive Facebook to be the brand that is the most supportive of the SMB community. The other brands in question include eBay, Amazon and Groupon – about 40 percent of small business owners perceive each of those companies as unsupportive.
Manta understands that many small businesses rely on the holiday shopping rush to close their year out on a high note. Here are a few business tips that small business owners can quickly put in place to help increase their holiday success this year:
1. Know Who You Want to Sell To: Effective sales begin with understanding who your most important customer group is. This year more than half (53 percent) of small business owners look at members of Generation X as their most desired customers, with one-third (33 percent) believing that Baby Boomers will be their biggest spenders. From merchandise to promotions, think about what will appeal to your key target audience.
2. Get Creative, but Keep Your Stress Level In-Check: The holidays are demanding enough as it is, and coming up with a new pie-in-the-sky mobile app or daily-deal promotion at the last minute might suck up hours of your time that could be better spent with your customers. Use your creative juices to build a cool and appealing window display, and put your smartphone to use by taking pictures of new merchandise to post online.
3. Stick with What Works: If you know that participating in your community’s local Holiday Shopping Stroll, or that your “12 days of Christmas” promotion across your social sites are what will bring in great sales for you, make sure you are ready to roll with those programs again this year.
4. Network to Support Your Fellow Business Owners and Yourself at the Same Time: Pull together a group of three or four other stores in your community to run some cross-store coupon or discount campaigns. Work out a system so each shop is handing out a coupon for another shop in your group each week, and then switch it up. This type of “progressive” couponing is a great way to drive new customers into your store.
Starting November 5, Manta will announce the start of the “Thank You America” campaign. The campaign will feature small businesses thanking their customers for continuing to shop local and supporting them and their communities. For more information, visit www.manta.com.
Manta conducted this study from October 18, 2012 to October 22, 2012 via an online Silverpop survey of 1,087 small business owners, who are members of Manta.com and have claimed their Manta business profile. The margin of error is 3.45 percentage points. For the full report or additional information about the findings, please contact manta (at) bordersgratehouse (dot) com. To access the full survey results, go to http://www.manta.com/media/holiday_survey_10302012 .