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 year and 50 percent predicting holiday shoppers will be spending less because of the shutdown, according to the Q3 Small Business Wellness Index conducted by small business listing agency Manta.
Twenty percent of the more than 1,000 survey respondents said they 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.
The survey also revealed that 85 percent of respondents think that this holiday season is just as, if not more, important than last year, and half of small businesses said they would maintain their current sales strategies during the shorter holiday season, focusing on sales and promotions.
Business owners are focused on what they identify as the three most influential drivers for shoppers, including price (35 percent), customer service (24 percent) and online reviews (11 percent).
Those businesses that are refining their selling strategies are starting promotions earlier (11 percent), leveraging social media (11 percent) and increasing their email marketing initiatives (8 percent).
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.
"We’re seeing the astounding effects of the continued shift to online holiday shopping—especially from mobile devices—to the small business community," Kristy Campbell, director of marketing at Manta, said in a statement. "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."
Small business owners are also paying attention to the Millennial generation, which represents $1.3 trillion in consumer spending, according a report from Boston Consulting Group. Nearly 30 percent of business owners reported that Millennials are more likely than other generations to shop with a mobile device, and 15 percent said Millennials are more engaged by video than their other customers.
"With the changing demographics and mobile habits of Millennials coming to the forefront, these trends will continue to accelerate and gain importance," Campbell said.
Manta also provided small-business owners with a list of suggestions to make the most of the holiday shopping season, including a focus on leveraging local knowledge to create targeted holiday content, and conduct outreach through email and social media.
The company also urged small businesses to capitalize on customer service, create engaging content mapped to a strategic timeline, and create an email marketing strategy with automated email lists to deliver a steady stream of content to keep the brand and business top of mind.