Small Business Owners Feel Optimistic about Holiday Season Despite Large Challenges, Says Volusion Study

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76% of SMBs feel optimistic that their business will generate more sales this holiday season and cite defining the right marketing mix as top challenge for success.

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Based on their level of preparedness and an overall positive climate for the ecommerce industry, we expect to see high performance from our merchants and look forward to supporting their efforts all season long.

Volusion, the leading provider of ecommerce solutions for small and medium businesses (SMBs), today announced findings from its report that gauges strategic outlook for SMBs during the 2014 holiday season. Overall, SMBs are optimistic about their holiday success, despite facing major challenges that stem from larger competitors and tighter budgets.

Key findings from the report include:

  • SMBs rank their top three challenges in achieving holiday success as follows: 1) Defining the best marketing mix to reach new and existing customers; 2) Competing against large retailers like Amazon; and 3) Determining a pricing strategy that remains competitive but protects profit margins.
  • 76% of smaller online merchants are “Somewhat Optimistic” to “Very Optimistic” that their business will generate more sales this season than in 2013.
  • Although 92% of respondents indicate that they are looking to acquire new customers, their marketing mix doesn’t fully align with this objective, having indicated an emphasis on retention-focused channels like social media (35%) and email (24%).
  • To help customers complete their holiday purchases, 26% of respondents said they would focus most on streamlining the checkout process, with 23% placing top emphasis on offering shipping discounts.

Overall, online SMBs designate adequate time for holiday readiness, with 58% of respondents stating they begin preparations in or before September. October is the second most popular month for smaller retailers to begin holiday planning, with 31% of respondents laying initial groundwork that month. Also of interest is the impact of positive sentiment on levels of preparedness, as 58% of merchants who are “Somewhat to Very Optimistic” about their holiday success indicate they are “Somewhat to Very Prepared” for the holidays.

Only 37% of respondents indicate that Black Friday will be “Important” or “Very Important” in terms of impacting their overall selling season, indicating that SMBs see the holiday race as a marathon instead of a sprint. Instead of placing high efforts into these major selling days, smaller retailers are focused on longer-term strategies like streamlining customer checkout, leveraging limited-time discounts, and implementing professional web design.

In terms of roadblocks, smaller retailers struggle with selecting the right holiday marketing mix. 92% of respondents state they will have some level of focus on customer acquisition, however their primary marketing channels, like email and social media, are better geared toward customer retention. Although social media can be a cost-effective alternative for merchants with smaller budgets, its impact and efficiency for acquisition are not as realized as other channels like paid search. The primary reasons behind SMBs’ selected marketing mix are a lack of time and budget.

“Small business owners have the right attitude to achieve record-breaking sales volumes during the 2014 holiday season,” said Clay Olivier, CEO, Volusion, Inc. “Based on their level of preparedness and an overall positive climate for the ecommerce industry, we expect to see high performance from our merchants and look forward to supporting their efforts all season long.”

To see the complete findings, download the full survey, “Report from the Front Lines: Small Business Outlook and Ecommerce Strategies for the 2014 Holiday Season.”

About Volusion
Volusion is the leading provider of ecommerce solutions and services for small and medium businesses. Used by over 40,000 merchants, the Volusion platform offers a complete shopping cart and fully-hosted website, along with effective marketing and merchandising tools for one affordable monthly rate. To learn more about Volusion and sign up for a free trial of its award-winning ecommerce platform, visit volusion.com.

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Matt Winn
Volusion
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