Fast Facts for Small Business from the 2018 Cox Business Consumer Pulse Survey

Consumer Pulse on Small Businesses 

A survey of more than 1,000 American consumers explores their support of local small to mid-sized businesses and shares their sentiments on what factors would increase their willingness to shop and dine small.   

Open Their Wallets  

When it comes to small business support, American consumers are taking things into their own hands.   

Eighty-three percent of consumers surveyed feel as though the federal government doesn’t do enough to promote small business growth; 65 percent feel the same way about their local government agencies.  

Consumers are picking up the slack – 91 percent say they visit a local small business at least once a week. Forty-six percent shop small two to four times a week and nearly 20 percent visit a small business more than four times a week.  

Where Everybody Knows Your Name  

Aside from the value they place on local support, consumers back small businesses in their communities because:  

  • 61 percent – The convenience  
  • 48 percent – Better customer service than a large business 
  • 41 percent – Familiarity  
  • 36 percent – Loyalty  
  • 31 percent – Greater level of trust than a large business   

The local love is so strong, not even a cyber attack could keep patrons away. Nearly 90 percent of survey respondents said they would continue to shop or dine at a small business if it had been the victim of a cyber attack. However, 47 percent of those consumers would opt to only pay cash.  

Amazon, the New Goliath? 

Although convenience is a significant reason why those surveyed say they shop small, these consumers don’t have the best perception of convenience champion Amazon. Seventy percent think Amazon hurts small businesses.   

In-store Shopping is Timeless 

Only 7 percent of those surveyed prefer online shopping from their favorite small retail business. Sixty percent prefer making in-person purchases at small brick and mortars.  

Twenty percent are happy with a combination of both.  

Here are preferences by age:   

18 to 24  

  • In-person – 50 percent  
  • Online – 9 percent  
  • Combo – 18 percent  

25 to 34 

  • In-person – 49 percent  
  • Online – 8 percent  
  • Combo – 24 percent  

35 to 44 

  • In-person – 56 percent  
  • Online – 4 percent  
  • Combo – 22 percent  

45 to 54  

  • In-person – 63 percent  
  • Online – 6 percent  
  • Combo – 19 percent  

55 to 64 

  • In-person – 64 percent  
  • Online – 7 percent  
  • Combo – 18 percent  


  • In-person – 69 percent  
  • Online – 5 percent  
  • Combo – 14 percent  

WiFi For the Win 

Generally, survey respondents are satisfied with the experiences provided by the small business they frequent. However, there is always room for improvement. When asked what type of technology would enhance the customer experience at their favorite small businesses, the following were the top three choices:   

  • 40 percent – Free and reliable WiFi  
  • 22 percent – Email or online product recommendations based on past purchases 
  • 17 percent – Point-of-Sale (POS) that accepts mobile payments  

WiFi even trumps coffee. Fifty-two percent of consumers surveyed want small businesses to offer them free WiFi while they wait for service. Twenty percent would prefer a piping cup of java.  

Big Little Marketing Moves  

Additionally, consumers surveyed think small businesses could increase email (55 percent), in-person events (47 percent) and social media marketing (42 percent) to spark customer engagement.  

Most said the small businesses they frequent use email, Facebook, text messages and Instagram to stay in touch.  

  • 68 percent – Email  
  • 49 percent – Facebook  
  • 33 percent – Text Notifications 
  • 20 percent – Instagram   

Smart Cities, Smart for Business  

More than a third of consumers (37 percent) ages 18 to 34 think small businesses should adopt Amazon’s “checkout-less” shopping model.    

Using technology to power better experiences at small businesses is important to consumers and is becoming an important factor when consumers think about their cities.   

Forty-four percent of survey respondents say their city is beginning to adopt “smart” technology – applications that combine people, connected devices, data and process to improve city operations and the city experience.  

Business. Better Together. 

Social consciousness is spilling over into consumer’s small business shopping and dining habits. Seventy-one percent of survey respondents said they would spend more money at a small business if it supported a positive social or environmental cause.  

In like manner, 71 percent said it is important to them that the small businesses they frequent practice diverse and inclusive hiring.  

When asked how important supporting women-owned businesses was to them, thirty-two percent indicated it was significantly meaningful. Eight percent placed no importance on it at all.  

Care with Caution 

Sixty-eight percent of consumers surveyed think small business owners should openly promote the causes they support. However, 59 percent would stop supporting a small business if the causes they supported weren’t in line with the consumer’s social and/or environmental views.   

Stop and Sell the Roses  

Most consumers surveyed are in full support of adding entrepreneurship to K-12 lesson plans (79 percent said it should be a part of K-12 curriculum).  

And if they could start their own small business today, despite reports of dwindling sales and closures, most would venture into retail. Thirty-five percent would want to open a flower or novelty shop – selling pet supplies was of interest too. Becoming a restaurant owner also was a popular choice – 20 percent would trade in their day job to serve up delicious fare. 

About the 2018 Cox Business Consumer Sentiment Survey on Small Business 

Cox Business commissioned a blind survey of American consumers in April of 2018. Respondents to the online survey included a total of 1,129 consumers. The margin of error for this survey is plus or minus 3 percent. 

About Cox Business 

The commercial division of Cox Communications, Cox Business provides voice, data and video services for more than 300,000 small and regional businesses nationwide, including healthcare providers, K-12 and higher education, financial institutions and federal, state and local government organizations. The organization also serves most of the top tier wireless and wireline telecommunications carriers in the U.S. through its wholesale division.  

Cox Business is consistently ranked as one of the top Ethernet providers and recognized by third parties for award-winning business telecom service. For more information, please visit