You’ve heard it before — the holiday season is the most important time of the year for small businesses (SMBs). As the year draws to a close, most shoppers make a renewed effort to visit or buy from the local businesses in their communities. With consumer retail spending expected to exceed pre-pandemic levels this holiday season, the last quarter represents a big opportunity for small businesses.
How big, exactly? That’s a tougher thing to quantify, and it’s the primary question we set out to answer in a special holiday edition of our Small Business Now report.
We polled 500 SMBs across a variety of industries and 500 consumers in the U.S. to better understand how important the holiday season is to SMBs. We also dug into whether the business results generated during this period typically have any lasting impact after the holidays end. As it turns out, the holiday season is a critical time for SMBs to acquire new customers, but they could be doing more to activate those customers in the new year.
Here are the holiday stats and trends small businesses need to know, along with some additional findings from our Small Business Now report that can help them achieve their year-end goals.
The reason for the season.
Small businesses depend on holiday sales to hit their annual goals.
- 75 percent of retail/ecommerce SMBs rely heavily on holiday sales to meet their annual revenue goals
- 58 percent of retail SMBs say that holiday customers are “extremely important” to the overall success of their business.
- 50 percent of SMBs get at least one quarter of their annual revenue from holiday shoppers, and that number jumps to 73 percent for SMBs in the retail/ecommerce space.
However, most shoppers don’t realize how vital their holiday spending is to small, local businesses.
- Supporting small businesses and their communities is the number one reason why consumers choose to visit or buy from an SMB.
- However, only one-third (33 percent) of consumers feel that visiting or purchasing during the holidays makes a significant impact on an SMB’s livelihood.
- The top emotions felt by small businesses after a customer visits or buys during the holiday season are thankful (78 percent), happy (69 percent), and hopeful (37 percent).
There is no question that the holidays are an important time for SMBs, but what’s clear from our research is that only one third of consumers are getting that message. There is a need for SMBs to better convey why this time of year is critical to their business and encourage their customers to shop local to support their communities.
Tis the season for growth.
As they enter the final months of the year, small businesses are focused on one thing above all else – attracting new customers. Fortunately, holiday shoppers are open to being courted.
- The top goals for SMBs heading into the holiday season are finding new customers (63 percent), retaining current customers (52 percent), and planning for next year (45 percent).
- 84 percent of consumers surveyed are likely to visit a small business they’ve never purchased from this holiday season.
- 87 percent of consumers say they are more likely to return to a small business in the future after visiting/buying during the holidays.
- Personalized emails and texts (52 percent), social media ads (42 percent), and sales or discounts (40 percent) are the most popular marketing tactics SMBs use to grow their customer base during the holiday season.
During the last three months of the year, small businesses see waves of new customers both in-person and online. These shoppers are highly engaged and looking for reasons to visit or buy. This makes the holiday season a terrific time for SMBs to capture people’s attention and grow their customer base.
Nurturing in the New Year.
Most small businesses do not have an effective marketing strategy to nurture, retain and convert their holiday customers in the new year, and it could be holding back their growth.
- 93 percent of SMBs agree that retaining new holiday customers into the following year is important – but just 18 percent feel their Q1 strategy is highly effective, and 14 percent have no retention strategy at all.
- 81 percent of consumers are more open to receiving marketing messages from a small business after visiting or buying from them during the holidays
- Less than half (49 percent) of shoppers receive an email after making a purchase, and 27 percent never hear from the business again.
Most SMBs are heavily focused on reaching new customers and growing their lists during the holiday season, but equally important is how those customers are nurtured once the calendar turns to January. The key to making the most of the holiday season is having a good customer retention strategy in place.
So, what can SMBs do to ensure they make the most of their holiday audience? Our research shows that the most successful SMBs change up their marketing tactics in the new year to focus on engaging those new customers. We see our customers dial up tactics like loyalty programs, events and contests in an effort to activate their audience and turn holiday customers into repeat buyers in the following year.
Make this season merry and bright.
Our research proves that the holiday season is the most important time of year for many small businesses, especially those in the retail industry. Those who can appeal to shoppers, and keep them engaged after the holidays end, will be well-positioned for growth in the following year. The right marketing platform can be a game changer for achieving these business goals.
Constant Contact’s proven digital marketing platform was created specifically for small businesses, and it delivers everything they need to succeed before, during and after the holiday season. With powerful online marketing tools, contact management and sales features, and innovative AI capabilities, we make it easy to get more clicks, more customers and more sales. And, you don’t need any marketing experience to start seeing results.
Let us help you boost your holiday sales and build lasting relationships with customers this holiday season. Start a free 60-day trial today, and make sure you win this holiday season.
Constant Contact’s study analyzes insights from 500 small business decision-makers in the United States at the Director+ level, and 500 U.S. consumers aged 18+. For the purposes of this study, “the holiday season” is defined as falling within the standard Q4 period of October-December. All statistics are representative of their associated demographics. The survey was conducted by Ascend2 in September 2023.