••• small business research 

You take the good with the bad

Women business owners detail their highs and lows

A row of local woman-owned small businesses.2022 proved to be a stressful year for female entrepreneurs. According to Office Depot’s 2023 Women’s Small Business Survey, over half (63%) of those who opened their business prior to 2022 said the past year was the most challenging for their business, with one in six feeling stressed daily. 

Twenty-three percent of respondents are experiencing concerns with fatigue and 13% are struggling to find employees. Thirty-five percent of small business owners say they employ their family members while 19% indicate it is against their philosophy to employ members of their family. Thirty-five percent say they would benefit from having marketing materials, access to office supplies (25%) and networking tools or platforms (34%).

Fifty-six percent of female business owners say there are highs and lows when running a company and 52% say it takes extensive time and effort to reach success. Forty-three percent of owners emphasize the importance of making connections and 42% advise other business owners to prepare for unexpected hurdles. Some say it is challenging to always be on the clock and to figure out how to balance tasks and distractions. Others say they struggle with the lack of co-worker camaraderie, not being amongst other people and not having a proper workspace with enough storage for business necessities.

More than half (55%) of women surveyed reported that they run their businesses primarily from home. Many have made substantial investments in creating a dedicated at-home workspace, with one in five claiming they have invested more than $5,000 of their own money for work-from-home equipment and tools to help run their business. This includes purchases like laptops (36%), printers (35%) and software programs (24%).

Despite facing myriad challenges, 70% of women say they enjoy being their own boss and 73% say their work-life balance has improved since opening their own business. Over the next year, small business owners aim to grow their profit (59%), gain more customers (53%) and expand their business (28%).

OnePoll conducted this survey of 1,000 female small business owners from February 1-6, 2023, on behalf of Office Depot. 

••• shopper insights

Long COVID, grocery store-style

Traditional grocers still affected by changing shopper habits

A green shopping cart in front of a pink wall.Traditional grocery stores are losing their dominance as shoppers continue to choose the hybrid and digital options that were popularized during COVID-19, with many consumers finding them to be easier and more convenient. According to PYMNTS, a payments and commerce platform, post-pandemic, only 44% of shoppers on average are visiting brick-and-mortar grocery stores, compared to 63% in early 2020.

Before the pandemic, 75% of Baby Boomers and seniors, 65% of Generation X, 51% of Bridge Millennials and 47% of Millennials only made purchases at physical stores. Fifty-eight percent of Gen Z and 53% of Millennials were more likely to shop both in-store and online. Post-pandemic, 72% of Baby Boomers and seniors, 57% of Gen X, 38% of Bridge Millennials and 36% of Millennials purchased grocery items in-person only. Gen Z stayed the same post- and pre-pandemic (41%) but 6% exclusively shopped online after COVID-19.

Thirty-seven percent of respondents say they have made no in-store purchases, 19% made half or less than half of their purchases in physical stores and 44% say they bought more than half of their items in-person. The items purchased in-person more than half the time include fresh fruits or vegetables (53%), fresh meat, chicken or fish (54%), frozen food (50%), packaged items (48%), cooking supplies (47%), canned goods (49%) and condiments and spices (49%). The items that are most commonly purchased online include pet supplies (55%), baby items (50%), personal and health care items (48%), paper products (46%) and cleaning supplies (45%).

Shoppers are influenced by many factors when deciding which method to shop. Thirty-six percent say they are most influenced by the convenience of online options and 32% point to higher in-store prices and a lack of deals and benefits as factors driving them away from traditional stores.

Thirty-one percent of Baby Boomers and seniors, 35% of Gen X, 44% of Bridge Millennials, 43% of Millennials and 45% of Gen Z say a key factor for switching from physical stores is convenience. Fifteen percent of Baby Boomers and seniors, Millennials and Gen Z say traditional stores have a smaller selection of products and less brand variety. Thirty-eight percent of Baby Boomers and seniors, 36% of Gen X, 27% of Bridge Millennials, 24% of Millennials and 14% of Gen Z say there are more deals and lower prices outside of grocery stores. While fear of getting sick is still prevalent, it is no longer the No. 1 reason to avoid in-person shopping with only 6% of Baby Boomers and seniors, 7% of Gen X and 7% of Millennials citing it as a reason to purchase fewer products from grocery stores.

The PYMNTS Changes in Grocery Shopping Habits and Perceptions study surveyed 2,426 U.S. consumers from December 22-25, 2022.

••• shopper insights 

Trust, communication are key

Etsy customers detail their expectations

A wooden block with an image of a shopping cart.Trust in an Etsy product listing is a significant deciding factor for both frequent and infrequent shoppers. The Etsy SEO site eRank found that accurate photos, clear communication and reliable sellers increase customer trust when making a purchase.

Eighty-two percent of respondents say that photos are a must when browsing a product. Sixty-eight percent say that the images should be accurate representations of the items listed. While photos are important features in a listing, 81% say that clear and direct product descriptions are also needed. Shoppers prefer descriptions that detail the product and its dimensions, materials or any other important features.

Many shoppers rely not only on photos and item descriptions but also on a store's reviews and ratings. Sixty-nine percent say that a seller's rating is considered when making a purchase and 81% say they take positive product reviews from other shoppers into account.

While Etsy sellers have little to no control over the shipping process or potential delays, shoppers are appreciative of their communication efforts when delivery issues happen. Eighty-four percent of buyers say they enjoy being notified when their items ship, giving them an estimate of when their package is expected to arrive. Twenty-one percent also say they are more likely to shop again if a seller is responsive throughout the shopping processes.

Many Etsy shops offer customizable items which shoppers often purchase as birthday gifts. Fifty-three percent of respondents say they have used the service to purchase items for birthdays and 91% say it is a go-to spot for unique birthday presents.

Shoppers say they are likely to purchase another item from a seller if they receive a high-quality product (67%), free (45%) or fast shipping (30%), if a coupon code is offered (13%) and if the packaging is nice (8%) and includes free items (8%) or a personal note (7%).

While some use Etsy for specific occasions and celebrations, many use it frequently for household products or personal items. Forty-one percent of Etsy shoppers fall above the U.S. median household income with only 9% of shoppers in the $20,000 or less income range. The majority of customers (27%) fall into the $20,000-$49,000 range, 22% make $50,000-$74,999, 17% are in the $75,000-$99,999 range and 24% make $100,000 or more.

eRank’s Etsy Buying Habits report surveyed 1,000 recent Etsy shoppers in November 2022.

••• consumer insights

What happened to good-old 15 percent?

Survey finds ‘tip-flation’ getting out of hand

A mason jar full of coins.Tipping is expected when going out but “tip-flation” has led many to question why they should tip for everyday purchases. According to Angus Reid Institute, a Canadian nonprofit focused on independent research, 64% of Canadians say they have been prompted to tip more often and 62% have found themselves being asked to tip higher percentages.

Twenty-eight percent say the amount they have been encouraged to tip has remained the same. Twenty-eight percent of respondents also say the number of times they have been asked to tip has stayed the same while only 4% say it has decreased. Eighty-three percent say too many places are asking customers to tip and only 13% say customer service has improved in recent years while 71% strongly disagree and disagree that it has gotten better.

“Tip-flation” may be attributed to the introduction of point-of-sale machines that offer pre-set percentage options. Payment machines often show higher percentages than the universally understood 15%, now offering customers tip options up to 30%. 

While tipping is not a new concept, 78% say it no longer serves its original purpose. Seventy-three percent say that instead of a tip being a form of appreciation for a good service experience, it has become an excuse for employers to underpay staff.

The expectation to tip higher amounts has led many to forgo outings where tipping is expected. Forty-nine percent of 18-34-year-olds, 48% of 35-54-year-olds and 31% of people over 55 say they go out less to avoid the extra tipping costs. Thirty-two percent say they are OK with the current tipping system but 59% prefer the idea of a “service included” experience that would eliminate tipping and replace it with higher base wages for employees.

When reflecting on previous dining experiences, 52% of 18-34-year-olds, 51% of 35-54-year-olds and 54% of those over 55 say they tipped 15% to 19%. Fourteen percent of 18-35-year-olds, 22% of 35-54-year-olds and 24% of people over 55 say they tipped 20% or higher. While tipping at a full-service restaurant is more universally accepted, many respondents question which services should receive a tip.

While at a coffee shop, 21% of 18-34-year-olds, 25% of 35-54-year-olds and 38% of people over 55 almost always tip, yet 63% of respondents say that tipping should not be required while 24% say tips should be 14% or less. Eighty percent of women and 72% of men say they tip their hairdresser or barber but 40% of respondents say tips shouldn't be required while 30% say a standard amount for those services should be 14% or less. Fifty-three percent say tipping is not necessary for taxi and Uber drivers and 42% say the same about food delivery drivers while 39% say delivery drivers should receive a tip of 14% or less and 14% say taxi and Uber drivers should be tipped 15% to 19%.

The Angus Reid Institute conducted this survey with 1,610 Canadian adults who are members of the Angus Reid Forum on January 31-February 2, 2023. 

••• health care research

Rx for MDs: find a new vocation

Health care professionals fight burnout

A progression of a match burning out.Despite extensive efforts to address physician burnout and enhance doctors’ well-being, new data show that U.S. physicians report significantly more work-related stress and burnout in late 2022 than just a year before. According to InCrowd, a data and insights provider for the health care and life science industries, 30% of U.S. physicians in late 2022 say they feel burned out, up from 23% the year before.

Fifty-five percent of doctors say they know at least one colleague who is leaving or has left clinical care, up from 41% in 2021 and nearly 30% say they have considered leaving their clinical care profession in the last six months, up from 20% in 2021. At the same time, physician confidence in public health has plummeted. Only 6% of U.S. doctors say they feel optimistic about the state of public health in the U.S., down from 17% in 2021.

Respondents paint a sobering picture of their attitudes toward their professions with 70% saying they feel frustrated by the pressure on health care professionals in today’s world, up from 47% in 2021. Thirty percent say they find their profession rewarding, down from 45% in 2021. One in four say they feel appreciated for their work, down from 39% in 2021 and only 16% would encourage their child or a member of their family to pursue their career, compared to 30% in 2021. 

A third of physicians (32%) say their mental health has suffered over the past 18 months, up slightly from 30% in 2021. Many doctors suggest facilities address burnout by increasing support staff for nurses, medical assistants and admins, reducing patient volumes and enforcing mandatory vacation time or half days.

Only 10% of respondents feel their medical facility effectively addresses staff member burnout and 16% say their medical specialty helps. Respondents offered some verbatims on the topic. “I think the whole system needs to be overhauled,” said a cardiologist from Georgia. Stressors also include inadequate staffing and non-clinical care demands. “[My] organization claims to prioritize well-being; however, it does not take actions to streamline administrative demands on time, does not arrange for appropriate staffing to prevent working overtime to cover clinical duties and has been ineffective in staff retention, which leads to further dissatisfaction,” said a Connecticut surgeon.

Doctors say they cope with work-related stress by exercising, spending time with family and friends and meditation – responses that are consistent across both 2022 and 2021.

The InCrowd U.S. Physician Feelings on Burnout 2022 report includes data from 500 physicians of various specialties. The survey was fielded between November 18-December 7, 2022.

••• employee research

Shifting roles

CMOs ride wave of new trends and technologies

A cartoon image of a person looking at a computer monitor and a robot looking at a computer monitor. CMOs are prioritizing new technologies and immediacy instead of long-term brand-building amidst business growth difficulty. According to executives-as-a-service firm Chief Outsiders, CMOs are optimistic about AI developments and are relying on machine learning, including ChatGPT for customer targeting and behavior modeling.

Respondents indicated that ChatGPT and other AI-powered products would be useful for content creation and management. CMOs say market research and competitive insights, strategy development and planning, digital marketing, customer service and marketing technology strategy, adoption and use will also find value in generative AI applications. 

Other findings and insights from CEOs and C-suite employees include:

AI and machine learning will be revolutionary. AI and machine learning will be game-changing technology in 2023 and it will have the most impact on marketing in the areas of customer targeting and modeling customer behavior.

The economy is a headwind to growth. Eighty-four percent of CMOs believe the economic and business climate of the next 12 months will negatively impact business goals with only 7% saying there may be a slight positive impact. The economic climate will hamper the ability to meet performance expectations, with respondents citing inflation, talent and labor issues, rising interest rates and supply chain issues.

Sales and marketing are misaligned. CMOs believe poorly defined strategy and corporate culture are the most likely causes of misaligned sales and marketing. Still, they believe that the relationship between sales and marketing has improved as companies rely on digital channels for demand generation.

The CMO’s role is changing. Seventy-four percent of CMOs believe there has been a shift in the past 12 months in the role CMOs are expected to play in driving growth. The majority of CMOs believe there is more emphasis on immediate sales, less long-term thinking and more short-term thinking. Most CMOs believe this shift is driven by changing customer behavior and increased competition. Seventy-five percent of CMOs believe this shift in how CEOs view CMOs as growth drivers is permanent.

There is an improved perception of CMOs. Seventy-three percent of CMOs believe they are viewed more positively by CEOs than in previous years.

Market research is driving growth. CMOs believe that market research and competitive insights, strategy development and planning and digital marketing will be the most significant driving factors in delivering growth.

Growth is trumping other priorities. The majority of CMOs selected “setting the growth agenda” as the highest priority for C-suite/private equity in 2023.

Customer experience is a competitive advantage. CMOs believe that creating a best-in-class customer experience is a significant competitive advantage.

Video is popular on social media. Most CMOs believe that customers want to be communicated with over social media platforms through video. Most of them will make video content production a priority in 2023.

LinkedIn and Instagram are the most popular social media platforms. CMOs cited LinkedIn as their likely predominant social platform for B2B and Instagram for B2C influencer campaigns in 2023.

Direct-to-consumer (DTC) sales in retail will rise. CMOs believe either retail or health care will significantly increase DTC sales in 2023.

Gen Z cares about environmental, social and governance (ESG) strategies. Most CMOs surveyed believe Gen Z is the most concerned about a brand’s stance on ESG when considering buying.

Chief Outsiders conducted its 2023 CMO survey with 80 CMOs in December 2022. It included a ChatGPT question in February 2023 which was answered by 45 CMOs.