Check all the boxes on your customers’ shopping lists this holiday season

Tips for SMBs to stay on the nice list

Consumers are making their holiday shopping lists and checking them twice. Will you be on their naughty or nice list? With the 2021 holiday shopping season expecting to break records with forecasts anticipating ecommerce sales to reach between $210 and $280 billion1, the race is on for SMBs to deliver a best-in-class customer experience. And with increasing supply chain pressures and inflation, there is no shortage of challenges SMBs are facing.

To help you capitalize on the opportunities of the season despite the threats, UPS Capital commissioned research on the current challenges and opportunities SMBs are experiencing with ecommerce. Surveys of 500 U.S. SMBs, during August 2021, was supplemented with polling of 1,000 U.S. consumers aged 18+ to understand customer expectations and online spending trends around the November deal days.

Keep reading to see the insights we’ve gathered and how you can leverage them to check the boxes on your customers’ shopping lists this holiday season.

Balance market and shipping challenges

While 58%2 of SMBs expect to see an increase in online sales due to the COVID-19 resurgence they are still concerned about how certain market forces might impact their business.

Four-in-five SMBs are worried about the impacts of inflation, with 33% ranking inflation as the number one threat to their businesses. Meanwhile, nearly one-in-five SMBs point to supply chain issues as the number one threat to their businesses.

With nearly half of all consumers planning to spend less this year, and 23% planning to cut back specifically because of inflation, it’s more important than ever for retailers to up the ante to ensure they keep customers happy when shipping issues arise.

Maximize your customer service strategy

Consumers expect a high level of customer service, whether they are purchasing from an SMB or a big-box retailer. With nearly half of consumers surveyed (44%) stating a lack of resolution support for stolen or damaged packages would cause them to never shop at a retailer again, SMBs must prioritize quality customer service. Check out these tips to maximize your customer service:

  1. Provide repeated opportunities for customers to share feedback
  2. Don’t skimp on post sales follow-up
  3. Provide an omni-channel experience to meet customers where they are3
  4. Enable a positive post-sales experience with shipping insurance

Take advantage of holiday deal days

Holiday discount days present great opportunities for SMBs to capture new customers and generate new revenue. More than half of U.S. adults (56%) participate in discount days such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Small Business Saturday. And although many consumers participate in these holiday deal days, 33% do their shopping before Black Friday, presenting another opportunity for SMBs to target them with discounts to encourage them to purchase early.

Discounts aren’t the only tool SMBs can use. More than a third of consumers (35%) said they would be motivated by guaranteed replacements for lost and damaged packages, presenting an opportunity for SMBs to offer guarantees as a value-added service and cover themselves with shipping insurance to do so.

Think about how platform partnerships reflect and empower your brand

SMBs continue to have conflicting relationships with Big Box retailers and ecommerce outlets. But one thing that won’t change this holiday season is that consumers still rely heavily on Big Box retailers, with SMBs themselves attributing an average of 17% of their holiday sales to Amazon purchases – second behind their own company websites (33%) and just ahead of Walmart (12%), Google Shopping (11%), Etsy (10%) and Target (10%).

Although large retailers continue to compete with SMBs for sales, they can also serve as viable resources if they position themselves as partners. The important thing SMBs need to think about is how platform partnerships reflect their brand and empower greater levels of connectivity to strengthen the customer experience. Because in the end, it’s all about one thing – your customers and their experience.

For more details on how to check all the boxes on your customer’s shopping list this holiday season, get the complete Holiday Shipping Report.


  1. Deloitte: Holiday Retail Sales Expected to Increase 7-9%, September 14, 2021.
  2. Unless otherwise noted, all statistics used herein are derived from or based on information contained in the 2021 Holiday Shipping Experience Report, which is a compilation of two independent studies of 1,000 U.S. consumers and 500 US small businesses conducted by Dynata in August 2021, respectively, on behalf of UPS Capital.
  3. Brand Loyalty Begins with Customer Experience, UPS Capital Blog

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