Are small business owners facing the prospect of unhappy holidays this year?
Pitney Bowes revealed the results of a survey conducted by ORC International, to gauge customer spending this holiday season. And the news isn't good for small business owners hoping for a big boost in year-end purchasing over last year's levels.
According to the company, 84 percent of consumers will spend as much or less during the 2012 holiday season as they did in 2011. Fifty-two percent of respondents are spending the same amount as they did last year while 32 percent said that they were spending less. The results were compiled from the responses of 1,000 U.S. customers over the age of 18.
Unsurprisingly, cost emerged as the top influencer in making purchasing decisions at 30 percent. Deals came in at second place with 16 percent of respondents citing promotions like coupons and online special offers as top factors that influence the decision to buy a product or service.
In more bad news for mom-and-pop shops, the survey suggests that consumer shopping preferences favor big retailers.
Fifty-two percent of respondents said big box retailers are the best at promoting the products they sell. Major retailers like Macy's followed with 35 percent while only 8 percent of those surveyed thought that small businesses did a good job at promoting their wares.
SMBs: Use Social Media to Connect with Customers
The subject of succeeding in such a tough retail environment was the subject of the inaugural Customer Magnet Series event recently presented by Pitney Bowes and Google in New York City.
In a company statement, Jeff Crouse, vice president and general manager of small and medium businesses of Pitney Bowes, said that despite the glum outlook, small businesses are not powerless. "When money is tight and there's an absence of optimism, the most important thing a small or medium-sized business can do is connect with the right customers," said Crouse.
During the event, Crouse advised small business owners to lock down their holiday marketing outreach plans now and take advantage of social media to engage with both existing and potential customers. Panelist Melinda Emerson, small business expert and publisher, is a big believer in social media, particularly its ability to allow a small business to act like a big one.
Emerson describes social media as "the best thing that ever happened to the small business owner." Why? Because it "leveled the playing field" for fledgling companies that lack the marketing budgets of big retailers.
And don't neglect mobile device users, particularly in these financially tight times, reminds Crouse. "Mobile is when customers are ready to buy in this environment," he says.
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