Six hundred fifty-eight billion dollars. That’s how much consumers spent during the 2016 holiday season, up 4 percent from 2015, according to the National Retail Federation. Deloitte is forecasting the 2017 holiday season to surpass $1 trillion in spending between November and January, with $114 billion coming from ecommerce. In addition, the average consumer will spend $728 on gifts this holiday season, meaning the stakes are high for each customer businesses can convert.
This seasonal spike in consumer activity is both an opportunity and a challenge for small businesses, with some relying on the holiday season to account for 30 percent of annual sales. Naturally, the increase in activity will produce a much welcomed increase in sales, but will also put a strain on business owners to keep up with the increased operational needs.
So what are the operational areas small-business owners rely on most during the holiday season? Furthermore, within each of those functions, which brands do business owners trust to help them run their business?
Hiring is already challenging for business owners, and hiring seasonal help can be even more difficult. Why? Seasonal workers are in demand. Consider a few of the big brands and their hiring forecast for this holiday season:
- Target: Hiring 100,000 seasonal workers
- Macy’s: Hiring 80,000 seasonal workers
- FedEx: Hiring 50,000 seasonal workers
- UPS: Hiring 95,000 seasonal workers
As a business owner, your payments strategy matters, substantially. In fact, 82 percent of failed businesses cite cash flow problems as the primary reason for closure, and your payments strategy can often determine your cash flow. One interesting statistic from Intuit is the fact that 55 percent of small-business owners still don’t accept credit cards. That’s unfortunate, considering 66 percent of point-of-sale transactions are done with credit, debit or gift cards, while 2017 predictions cite cash payments representing as little as 23 percent by the end of the year. Almost every major credit card company (Discover, AMEX, Chase, Citi, Visa, Capital One) will be offering consumers cash back programs as we head into the holiday season, so consumers will be looking to use their plastic.
While the most trusted payments brands are listed below and can be up and running quite quickly, make sure to compare what each brand charges and read the fine print to make sure you select the best option for you. In addition, there can be waiting periods for money to be transferred to you for some payments brands, while others will deposit the cash automatically.
Alignable found the most trusted brands for small-business owners in payments are:
Despite what you might hear, email is incredibly powerful and efficient, with average open rates actually increasing year-over-year for small-business owners. In addition, according to Constant Contact, the ROI on email marketing is 38:1. It’s seasonal, too; email marketing is responsible for as much as 25 percent of holiday sales according to a recent report from WebsiteSetup.org.
The last statistic to consider here is that 75 percent of consumers made an impulse buy during the holiday season last year. The data here is strong. You absolutely should be doing email marketing this holiday season, and you should be doing it frequently from now until early January 2018.
The most trusted brands for small-business owners in email marketing are:
- Constant Contact
- GetResponse / AWeber (tied)
Over 40 percent of holiday shopping is done in November, and 51 percent of that shopping is done online, which means your website has to be perfect. Small-business owners need to make sure their website looks great, can easily be updated with new sales and promotions, flawlessly accepts payments, and showcases any and all activity from social media channels or in-store events.
When it comes to website management through, ease of use and customer service play a monumental role in small business owner trust.
The most trusted brands for small-business owners in website management are:
Sometimes it’s the little things that add up, especially when it comes to ecommerce during the holiday season. For instance, you not only need to make sure your return policy is crystal clear to consumers, but also make sure you and your ecommerce platform both are properly set-up for it — along with your other ecommerce needs. With over 50 percent of holiday sales happening online, all small-business owners now have an opportunity to expand their reach to close more business.
Having the right ecommerce platform is the catalyst that allows business owners to grow this area of their business. The good news is there’s plenty of online content for business owners to read about “ecommerce best practices.” The bad news is there’s too much noise and oftentimes business owners just need to know which ecommerce brands they can trust.
The most trusted brands for small-business owners in ecommerce:
With 51 percent of consumers preferring to shop online, your ability to ship products gets thrust into the spotlight, especially since over 60 percent of consumers cite shipping costs as their least favorite part of the online shopping experience. Another report found that 28 percent of consumers abandon online shopping when presented with unexpected shipping costs, with 83 percent of consumers saying they’d buy more online if they knew shipping was free.
Consumers expect (especially when paying for shipping) their goods to be delivered on time, and delivered without being broken or damaged. While it’s likely most business owners use one of the below, it’s important to compare them against each other and talk to as many business owners as possible to ensure you’re mitigating risk. Find the company with the highest percent of on-time delivery and lowest percent of damaged goods upon arrival.
The most trusted brands for small-business owners in shipping services are:
With the holiday season upon us, these 18 brands will certainly be in the spotlight for business owners even more so than they are during the rest of the year. What is it that makes these brands so trusted compared to their competitors? Is it price or reliability? While those are necessary steps along the purchasing path, the majority of these brands have made strategic efforts to focus on customer service, support and success.
Business owners, more than anyone, understand that things will go wrong and break, but they expect to be treated well when those things happen. The brands that do right by their customers are the ones small-business owners trust most, and trust is the lynchpin to small-business acquisition and retention.