Recent surveys show some surprising trends for small businesses: Low-calorie options mean higher returns, email is alive and well, and the latte index is rising.
Wondering where to channel your business’s resources for enhanced growth or profits? Curious about which way the winds are blowing for the latest consumer trends? A trio of recent studies may provide some clues to help you make the most of the current business landscape.
Low calorie, high returns
Is America’s taste for fattening foods downsizing? A study by Hudson Institute says restaurant chains that serve more low-calorie foods and beverages actually enjoy better business performance.
The study followed 21 of the country’s biggest food chains for five years, and the results over that time were pretty dramatic. Chains that added more low-calorie offerings saw a 5.5 percent increase in same-store sales (chains selling fewer low-calorie items had a 5.5 percent decline) and a 10.9 percent rate of growth in customer traffic (compared to a 14.7 percent decline for chains selling fewer low-calorie items).
What it means to your business: If you’ve been waffling about adding low-calorie items to your menus for fear that customers just won’t order them, consider yourself schooled. The more options you offer, after all, the more types of customers you can attract. Guys who like eating 5-pound burritos have girlfriends, wives and friends who’d be more likely to come along if you offered additional healthier choices. So even if your restaurant is the kind of place where Adam Richman comes to take “Man v. Food” challenges, adding those egg-white omelets to the menu could pay off.
They’ve (still) got mail
Do you think marketing to customers today requires digging your latest Instagram pic from your iPhone 5 app while holding a Twitter chat? Think again: Old-fashioned email, not social media, is the marketing activity with the greatest return on investment, according to a new study from Docstoc.
There’s a simple reason that email marketing is so effective: Email is the single most popular use of the Internet. A whopping 94 percent of all Web users use the Internet to send or read emails — more than they use it for anything else, including search (87 percent), maps (86 percent), weather (81 percent) or social networking (61 percent). In 2011, Docstoc reports, email marketing had a return on investment of 4,000 (yes, thousand) percent.
What it means to your business: Email’s pervasive use in life and business means it’s not going away anytime soon. It’s also one of the simplest, most affordable and most effective marketing tools out there — so if you’re thinking about cutting back on your email marketing efforts, do an about-face and consider expanding them instead.
The latte index is rising
Good news for the small-business owners who are still waiting for a light at the end of the recession tunnel: A study conducted by BIGinsight for Stores Magazine reports that Americans are showing greater willingness to spend on little luxuries.
Overall, 53.9 percent of adults reported cutting spending on some products and services in 2012, down substantially from the 76.4 percent reported for 2011. In almost every category, the number of people who plan to cut back on products and services decreased. Some 28.8 percent plan to cut back on their daily cup of gourmet coffee (down from 40.8 percent); 49.1 percent will spend less on casual dining (down from 54.5 percent); and 24.6 will cut spending on luxury handbags (down from 39.8 percent).
What it means to your business: While the difference is small and customers are still holding fairly tightly to their wallets, consumer spending on small treats has long been a strong indicator of economic recovery and consumer confidence. It could be time to raise your prices, add new products and services, or market your products or services as deserved — and affordable — rewards.