In October, we surveyed our merchant community to hear exactly how they’re approaching the holidays — focusing on plans for online sales, digital tools, and asking what exactly a predominately online Black Friday looks like for local retailers.
While small business owners are hopeful for a successful holiday season, many are looking for the most efficient ways to offer perks, discounts, and seamless shopping experiences — without investing additional financial resources into flashy holiday offers.
In this report, we examine the insights from nearly 200 small businesses, whose owners shared their expected challenges, priorities, and plans ahead of the holidays. Looking back at the past several months of economic uncertainty, we share perspectives and actionable tips on how small businesses can prepare for the crucial weeks ahead.
- Surviving a Pandemic: The Impact of
COVID-19On Small Businesses
- It’s Time to Reinvest In Our Small Businesses and Local Entrepreneurs
- Planning for the Holidays: Merchants Weigh In on Seasonal Strategies
- Tips and Tricks for Holiday 2020: A Checklist for Success
Surviving a Pandemic: The Impact of
COVID-19 On Small Businesses
Pandemic buying habits have drastically changed how consumers shop, and how small businesses grow. When the pandemic began to spread within the U.S, 55% of small businesses believed it would take six months to a year before the U.S. business climate returned to normal.
Now that we’re more than six months into limited quarantines and reduced
With 75% of SMBs reporting that
Store and restaurant owners have leaned heavily into
The standout trend for SMBs that is here to stay is curbside pickup. While buy online, pickup in store, or BOPIS, was already a growing retail trend, mandatory store closures led to the accelerated adoption of curbside pickup across the nation. On Ecwid, total U.S. sales fulfilled via curbside pickup increased by 388%, since the beginning of the year. While we saw the strongest peak of curbside pickup adoption in May, Q3 had about about 2/3 of that level. As holiday shopping continues, the high volume of curbside pickup will continue to spike in a
Overall, Ecwid merchants saw a 114% and 71% YoY increase in orders and sales, respectively, during the first half of the year. From relying on social
Julia Rose Boston stays social, but not distant, on Instagram:
During a time when
By curating new collections, improving the check out experience, and using Instagram Stories to grab shoppers’ attention, Julia has been able to sustain her business selling new and
Even while global supply chains impacted her pricing and procurement strategies, her team adjusted inventory to focus on more accessible stock. Her entire business is run on Instagram, and the majority of customers purchase on mobile. By connecting her social presence with her Ecwid storefront, Julia’s sales from April 2020 to June 2020 exceeded $3.5 million!
Julia relies on the personalized, not automated, customer interactions to foster relationships with customers.
Kissed By A Bee Brings organic growth to organic beauty:
Prior to the pandemic, Akilah relied on trade shows and events to secure about half of her income, and reach customers outside of her immediate area. Following her final show in February,
Known for her creative and
NanoSeptic cleans house selling sanitization tech:
NanoTouch Materials invented and manufactures a full line of NanoSeptic continuously
To accommodate the constant demand for their cleaning products, at the start of the pandemic, the NanoSeptic team added employees on a weekly
The team automated multiple steps in the fabrication
From February 2020 to March 2020, NanoSeptic saw a nearly 3000% spike in orders on their online
It’s Time to Reinvest In Our Small Businesses and Local Entrepreneurs
We’re at an inflection point for Main Streets across the nation. Because the pandemic accelerated so many digital trends for small businesses, it’s going to inform how they do business for months, and more likely, years to come.
Small businesses don’t just service communities, they are the community: local owners, staff, and shoppers are all impacted by the closures sweeping the small business sector. According to data from Yelp, 60% of
When small businesses thrive, it’s felt across the economy. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy, SMBs have contributed to 65% of net new jobs created since 2000. Past recessions have shown us that while small businesses are usually the hardest hit, they are also some of the most impactful in influencing a recovery, by supporting local employment. In short, saving our
While new digital operations and limited government aid has helped to sustain small businesses in 2020, our small businesses need the support of local shoppers to help keep communities alive.
Bracing for winter woes
Pandemic buying habits and preferences are here to stay. Consumers and small businesses have grown accustomed to the
When you couple the cooling weather and the looming threat of a second
This winter, small businesses are tasked with recreating the momentum and enthusiasm of the crucially important holiday season. Simultaneously, they are still combatting the economic effects of this year’s losses and staving off new ones. It’s a significant challenge, and, in order to rise to the occasion, small businesses nationwide will need to revamp their holiday strategies. Let’s take a look at how merchants selling on Ecwid plan to do just that.
Planning for the Holidays: Merchants Weigh In on Seasonal Strategies
Small business owners understand the significance of this holiday season on their ability to operate within the new year, but with limited budgets for holiday promotion, they need to be doubly thoughtful about holiday strategies. Here’s a glimpse at the numbers:
Small businesses see lasting effects of
COVID-19 on holiday plans
Many new small businesses operating on Ecwid, seriously invested in
For the businesses that were already online, they doubled down on online shopping. Now, more than three fourths (76%) of our merchants said that the
Outside of the economic implications of the pandemic, the impact of
Ahead of what will be the busiest online holiday season yet, the shipping capacity shortfall between Thanksgiving and Christmas could average 7 million packages daily, according to ShipMatrix, Inc. With confidence in shipping timelines waning, more than half (55%) of merchants plan to move up shipping deadlines to account for delays. While both consumers’ and merchants’ expectations around shipping plummett, most small businesses (87%) do not plan to increase seasonal staff to fulfill online
Take DIY Delish, a
Conservative discounts await Black Friday and Cyber Monday shoppers
Black Friday has always been a major shopping moment for big box retailers like Walmart, Target, and Best Buy; however, small businesses have struggled to compete with low prices. Instead, Small Business Saturday has created a space for local retailers during the unofficial kickoff to holiday shopping. This year Cyber Weekend will look different, given that holiday shopping began in early October.
Generally speaking, nearly half (44%) of consumers will start shopping earlier than last year, according to Listrak research. Based on current trends on Ecwid, apparel will lead holiday sales for small businesses through the holiday season, followed by food and beverage
Merchants are planning for the bulk of their Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales to happen online, and are offering fewer
Merchants who anticipate a spike in sales on Cyber Monday (85%) plan to sell the majority of their goods online. Additionally, merchants who anticipate a spike in sales on Small Business Saturday expect the majority of their sales to come online (78%) rather than through their physical stores (14%).
This year, 78% of our merchants surveyed plan to pursue sales or promotions for the holiday season. Specifically, half of our merchants plan to offer discounts for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, with 38% and 36% anticipating a spike in sales during that day. Nearly half (48%) plan to pursue Small Business Saturday promotions, and 41% expect a spike in sales on the day.
With fewer resources, we won’t see doorbuster deals from small businesses: less than 2% (1.6%) of merchants plan to offer deals greater than 50% off. Instead, many merchants (40%) plan to offer discounts between 11
Of the merchants who anticipate a spike in sales on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, 53% and 50%, respectively, will offer discounts
Lastly, while the majority of merchants expect moderate discounts to drive a spike in sales, a minority (20%) plan to offer discounts on Cyber Monday without expecting an increase in sales. Holiday discounts have become a
To meet consumer expectations for holiday deals around Black Friday and Cyber Monday, small businesses are offering small discounts to attempt to drive more traffic without cutting into important profit margins.
SMBs stick with the basics to drive holiday sales — leaving room for future tech innovation
Small business owners are caught in a tough dilemma: they need to offer exceptional and safe shopping experiences to gain enough revenue to continue into the new year, but they need to do so with very limited resources. To maximize their
For instance, more mainstream perks like free shipping and a free gift with purchase lead the pack on holiday
When it comes to driving
Overall, social media and large marketplaces still only make up a small portion of merchants’ primary selling
Now, even the most reluctant small businesses understand how easy it is to sell online, but most still have a long way to go before they reap the full benefits of a comprehensive
Merchants are hopeful, but they’re not wearing
In October, the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) Optimism Index rose 3.8 points to 104.0 in September, which is a historically high reading. At the same time, the NFIB Uncertainty Index increased 2 points to 92, up from 75 in April. As small businesses maintain hope for the holiday season, there’s still a lack of clarity around what merchants can expect from upcoming sales.
Across Ecwid, the majority of our merchants expect to see higher sales during the holidays. Less than 10% of our merchants predict that sales will be significantly lower this season. Most merchants (30%) expect sales to be somewhat higher, and 11% expecting significantly higher results.
There is a small minority of merchants (13%) planning to increase their seasonal staff to fulfill online
Interestingly, although merchants have limited resources for their holiday promotions, 61% of small business owners plan to expand their product selection for the holidays. In line with broader trends, these merchants plan to use free or affordable advertising tools such as email (75%), organic social media (73%), and
As Bianca Burns, partner at Plant Economy, purveyor of plant products for plant people, explains, her team anticipates a spike in orders, based on customer feedback and buying patterns. Our organic marketing efforts primarily drive sales for our business at the moment, but for the holidays, we are taking it a step further. We are excited to offer exclusive products and bundle packages, run various holiday promotions, and increase
Tips and Tricks for Holiday 2020: A Checklist for Success
Now that we’ve established how important this holiday season is for small businesses, here’s a list of digital best practices to make the most of the biggest online holiday season yet:
- Deck the digital halls. From creative window displays to a full Santa’s workshop, small businesses always cultivated their own
in-storetraditions. This year, SMBs need to update their digital storefronts and social media profiles for the holidays. Try seasonal designs and add a Holiday Gifts section.
- Diversify your marketplaces. Behemoth marketplaces like Amazon and eBay extend the reach of your consumer base, but they also increase competition with other sellers. Look beyond
mega-marketplaces,and turn to those that cater to small business owners and makers—such as Uncommon Goods and Etsy.
- Personalize. Personalize. Personalize! SMBs are built by and for local community members. For that reason, they will always create more personalized experiences than larger retailers. Lean on your community relationships and presence to build meaningful and personal experiences as well as products.
- Make a subscriber list, and check it twice. Now is the time to reach out and put your holiday marketing to work. Focus on targeting the right customers at the right time. Craft
holiday-specificnewsletters with updated deals and gift guides, A/B test email subject lines to maximize open rates, and partner with email service providers like Mailchimp to make automated emails more shoppable.
- Stay connected. Meet your shoppers where they are — on their phones — and, more specifically, on social media. Whether you’re selling, advertising, or handling customer service inquiries, stay responsive and continue to highlight product inventory and updates. Plus, you can use your profiles to highlight outstanding customer testimonials and reviews.
- Make sure all presents make it in time. Leave no gift undelivered! Upgrade your shipping and logistics by integrating your online store with a shipping tech provider (e.g. Shippo, Easyship, or Ship Station). Based on your provider, you can track packages, provide proactive delivery updates, and even extend your branding with customizable and seasonal packaging.
- Spread the holiday cheer. Ultimately, the holidays are about togetherness and supporting each other. During a time when many families will be separated for the holidays, think of creative ways to host virtual events or sell activity kits that can help bring families together virtually or connect your shoppers for
*The small business holiday