Survey Says: Why Customers Aren't Buying and What Might Convince Them

A look at the latest findings on consumer confidence, e-mail marketing, and hiring tactics.

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Penny pinching: Almost a third of consumers do not think the economy will ever bounce back fully.When it comes to the future, the only thing consumers know for sure is that they plan to keep being frugal. Marketing via e-mail has become a feast or famine situation. And when you decide not to call a job candidate's references, you could be making a big mistake. Here's a closer look at some of the latest small-business surveys.

Things Aren't Looking Up

What do consumers think the future holds? Well, not a fat wallet, that's for sure. According to BIGresearch's Consumer Intentions & Actions Survey for July, the number of people who expect the economy to bounce back to pre-recession levels declined from nearly 45 percent a year ago to 36 percent today. Just over 32 percent say they don't think the economy will ever bounce back fully, while about the same number are uncertain.

With such a mixed outlook, it's no wonder BIGResearch reports consumers will continue to be "frugal and practical." Projecting over the next five years, consumers say they will be considering purchases more carefully (49.3 percent) and will attempt to stick to a budget (46.7 percent). Just 12.5 percent of consumers say the economy will not affect their lifestyles.

While I'm personally optimistic about the recovery, I understand the hesitancy to spend. Like those in the survey, I'm putting off major nonessential business and personal purchases until the economy gets on a bit firmer footing. But I confess -- I still love to shop.

Why the Message Counts

You need to design your marketing e-mails to get an immediate response -- or you may never get a response at all, according to Experian Marketing Services. Almost half (47 percent) of transactions and 75 percent of opens and clicks occur within one day of an e-mail's receipt, a new Experian study shows.

Customers tend to respond fastest to e-mails about business products and services. What you e-mail and the subject line also matter: Limited-time offers in subject lines get the fastest response (triggering 59 percent of transactions the first day), while coupons get a much slower response (36 percent of transactions occurring on day one).

Another good way to generate sales? Sending e-mails to customers who had abandoned their shopping carts gets 52 percent of them to buy within a day. Speaking as a frequent online shopper -- discounts, limited-time and free shipping offers are all purchase incentives for me.

Don't Believe the Hype

It's likely you're not making a lot of hiring decisions these days, so you need to be picky about the people you do bring on board. Before you make the final decision, make sure you check references. In a new survey from OfficeTeam, more than 20 percent of managers report changing their minds about promising job candidates after speaking to their references. What are managers asking when checking those references? More than one-third (36 percent) care most about the applicant's past job duties and experience, while 31 percent ask about the person's strengths and weaknesses.

It's easy to get swayed by a great resume and a fantastic job interview -- but it's also simpler than ever to find out what people have really done and what they're like to work with. Like lots of entrepreneurs, I tend to trust my gut, and when I find a candidate I really click with, I'm ready to hire him or her on the spot.

But that's a big no-no these days. OfficeTeam's survey shows that lots of candidates are stretching the truth about their skills, experience and strengths. As hard as it may be to curb your enthusiasm, slow down and take the time to do a little investigating before you welcome that new hire on board.

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a content and consulting company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Follow Rieva at and visit to sign up for her free TrendCast reports.

Tags: consumer spending, e-mail marketing, e-mail marketing campaign, hiring, HR, job interview, recession, Rieva Lesonsky, spending, Survey Says

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