SOURCE: Manta

Manta

October 29, 2013 09:00 ET

Small Businesses Prepare for Shortest Holiday Shopping Season in Over a Decade

Manta Q3 Small Business Wellness Index Reveals Insights on Millennials, Mobile and the Government Shutdown's Effect on Holiday Optimism

COLUMBUS, OH--(Marketwired - Oct 29, 2013) - With the shortest shopping season since 2002 drawing near, Manta conducted its Q3 Small Business Wellness Index to determine how business owners are preparing for the upcoming holiday season. Holiday sales traditionally represent a large percentage of a small business's annual sales and Manta's small business survey of more than 1,000 respondents revealed that 85 percent say that this holiday season is just as, if not more, important than last year. While holiday shopping and sales are vital for small businesses, the recent government shutdown has shifted their outlook, with only 13 percent saying they are more optimistic about sales this year over last and 50 percent predicting holiday shoppers will be spending less because of it. This is in sharp contrast to the nearly 50 percent of small businesses last year who were more optimistic than the previous year going into the 2012 holiday season.

Holiday 2013 for Small Business
Fifty percent of small businesses say they will maintain their current sales strategies during the shorter holiday season, focusing on sales and promotions. Those who are refining their selling strategies are starting promotions earlier (11 percent), leveraging social media (11 percent) and increasing their email marketing initiatives (8 percent). Business owners are also focused on what they identify as the three most influential drivers for shoppers -- price (35 percent), customer service (24 percent) and online reviews (11 percent).

"The holidays are the most important time of the year for my business and we've lowered our prices during this short holiday season to try attract more clients," said Samuel Rodriguez, co-owner of Ryan's Rest Dog Boarding and Training based in Farmington, AR. "Manta's network helps me learn about new sales strategies from other small businesses to stay ahead of the competition and prepare for the holiday season."

Millennials and Mobile
This holiday season, small business owners are also paying attention to the Millennial generation, which represents $1.3 trillion in consumer spending, according to Boston Consulting Group. Nearly 30 percent of business owners reported that Millennials are more likely than other generations to shop via a mobile device, and 15 percent said Millennials are more engaged by video than their other customers. This also supports their expectation that mobile will have an increased impact on their business. Twenty percent expect an increase in mobile transactions this year, while another 13 percent expect mobile to drive in-store shopping or transactions via mobile coupons or discounts.

"We're seeing the astounding effects of the continued shift to online holiday shopping -- especially from mobile devices -- to the small business community," said Kristy Campbell, director of marketing at Manta. "It's encouraging to see the business owners in our community gaining an understanding about how their online actions impact their business -- from their online presence on sites like Manta, to the impact of online reviews, to selling goods, and running promotions online. With the changing demographics and mobile habits of Millennials coming to the forefront, these trends will continue to accelerate and gain importance."

The Shop Local Movement -- Small Business Saturday
Finally, relatively new promotions aimed at small businesses are having an effect -- albeit a relatively small one. Twenty-two percent of small businesses said that special promotions like Small Business Saturday make a difference in their business, while 36 percent are unsure and 30 percent say they haven't yet seen an impact.

Holiday Tips and Strategies for Small Business
Manta understands that many small businesses rely on the holiday shopping rush to close their year on a high note. Here are a few tips that small business owners can quickly put in place to help increase their holiday success:

1. Think Local. Focus and capitalize on your local knowledge and connections: You know your customers and your locality much better than the neighboring big businesses. Leverage your knowledge to create targeted holiday content, and conduct outreach via email and social media. Take advantage that you don't have to wait for permission from corporate HQ to be quick and scrappy with your outreach.
2. Get Creative. Bundle individual and complementary products and services to create a unique holiday gift offering. This approach is more personalized and makes customers feel like they are getting a great price and convenient holiday deal.
3. Technology Takeover & Mobile Millennials. Create an email marketing strategy with automated email lists to deliver a steady stream of content to keep your brand and business top of mind. Millennials are mobile and social media savvy so develop mobile selling strategies if possible and leverage your social media channels to share deals, gift suggestions and updates.
4. Engaging Content. Create engaging content mapped to a strategic timeline. Make the tone of your emails and social media posts reflective of the timeline for consumer shopping behaviors. For example, develop content and begin outreach early using phrases like "Get ahead of the holiday rush!" and as you move closer to Christmas or Hanukkah, build urgency into your subject lines, Tweets and Facebook posts such as "There's still time...", "It's not too late...", etc.
5. Customer Service is King. Capitalize on great customer service. As a smaller shop, you have the ability to provide unique and tailored services for your customers unlike big businesses. Leverage your relationships with your loyal customers and amplify your customer service to draw in new ones.

About the Manta Small Business Wellness Index
*Manta polled 1,003 small business owners between Sept. 26, 2013 - Oct. 7, 2013 and 1,051 small business owners between Oct. 18, 2013 - Oct. 21, 2013 via an online survey, who are members of Manta.com and have claimed their Manta business profile. The margin of error is +/2.98 percentage points. For more on the Manta 2013 Q3 Small Business Wellness Index, please contact manta (at) highwirepr (dot) com. To access the full survey results, go to http://www.manta.com/media/q3_wellness_index_102913

About Manta
Manta helps small businesses profit, connect and grow through the largest online community dedicated entirely to small business. Millions of people come to Manta each day to buy from, partner with and connect to companies. By joining Manta, small businesses easily harness the power of the Internet. Get visible; grow your business for free at www.manta.com.