Holiday Shopping Season Is Here And People Are Ready To Spend: Survey Says

The holiday shopping season is huge for many retailers, but how much is your business expecting to make? Could college students survive without the Internet? And is giving your employees holiday gifts really worth it? Here's a closer look at some of the latest small-business surveys.

They're Already Shopping Around

Is your business ready for the onslaught of holiday shoppers? Since it's only the beginning of November, you may think you still have time to prepare -- but you’d be wrong. According to a new survey of social-media users by Lab 42, an online market-research firm, 38 percent of consumers have already started their holiday shopping -- and most of them, 66 percent, are doing it online.

The good news is most people will be spending the same (49 percent) or more (37 percent) than they did last year. A good way to "encourage" the sale is by offering free shipping. Nearly one-third of consumers say free shipping makes them "more likely to purchase from a particular retailer." The next biggest motivator? About one-quarter are looking for stuff on sale. And you better be "social" -- 61 percent of shoppers plan to research "the perfect gift" via social networks. Most (72 percent) will head to Facebook. The other social mediums they cited: YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn will get significantly less of the shoppers' attention.

A Matter of Life and Death

If you market to college students and young adults, or if they're among your employees, you may already know just how important the Internet is to them. But a new study from Cisco really brings it home. The second-annual Cisco Connected World Technology Report, which surveyed college students and young professionals in their 20s, found 33 percent think the Internet is a "fundamental resource" -- in other words, as vital as air, water, food and shelter. About half (49 percent of college students and 47 percent of young adults) say it is "pretty close" to that level of importance. And more than half of the respondents said they could not live without the Internet, calling it an "integral part of their lives." Think about that the next time you think about banning Facebook from the office.

The Gifts That Keep on Giving

Don’t be Scrooge this holiday season. A survey by Staples Advantage found that getting a holiday gift from the boss improves employee morale (75 percent), makes employees like their company more (60 percent), and improves employee productivity (33 percent).

In the mood to give? Think about what would make your team happiest. Food and drink is the preferred gift, cited by 70 percent of employees. Electronics (mentioned by 60 percent) came in second. And apparel came in third, named by 20 percent of employees. Giving your staff gifts is a small gesture that can have a big payoff. Even a little bit of chocolate goes a long way.