Valentine’s Day email subject lines expressing urgency drove strong open rates.

Love was in the inbox this Valentine’s Day season as Valentine’s Day-focused retailers reached shoppers via email to purchase a little something for their sweetie. Inc.’s, for example, sent 61 Valentine’s Day-related email campaigns this year, which is the highest number of campaigns sent among the analyzed retailers, according to email marketing vendor eDataSource. EDataSource analyzed emails of more than 30 online retailers of chocolate, flower and jewelry and mass merchants between Jan. 15-Feb. 14 with the words “Valentine” or “Valentine’s” in the subject line. 1-800-Flowers is No. 59 in the Internet Retailer Top 1000.

Among these four categories, flower retailers on average sent the most email campaigns at 38.3. Plus, emails sent from flower retailers were opened more than any other category, eData source finds.

For example, of flower retailer Teleflora’s 51 Valentine’s Day email campaigns, 16 of the campaigns, or 31%, generated a more than a 20% open rate. EData source considers a 20% open rate as the minimum engagement rate to qualify as “strong,” says John Landsman, director of strategy and analytics at eDataSource.

Here’s how the e-retailer’s stacked up by category:


While jewelry retailers may rank last for strong open reads, this could be because of the nature of an infrequently purchased, big-ticket retail category, Landsman says.

Mass merchants, such as (No. 20), (No. 3), Inc. (No. 1), Etsy Inc. (No. 22) and, were also vying for Valentine’s Day sales. sent the most Valentines’ Day-related emails of all mass merchants analyzed with 63 campaigns, 20 of which, or 32%, had more than a 20% open rate. Walmart only sent nine campaigns, however four, or 44%, had more than a 20% open rate. None of Target’s six, Etsy’s four or eBay’s 23 campaigns had more than a 20% open rate.

james allen valentinesEmails that shoppers opened the most often expressed urgency in the subject line, according to the eDataSource data based on sampling of the most-opened emails across various categories. For example, on Feb. 12, chocolate retailer Godiva Chocolatier Inc. (No. 376) sent the email, “LAST CHANCE: order the perfect gift with delivery on Valentine’s Day” to 16,000 consumers that had a 22.2% open rate. This is only one of two emails that Godiva sent and had an open rate of more than 20%, according to eData source.

“No one wants to forget Valentine’s Day in a relationship where the other partner considers it important,” Landsman says. “Putting that out there in a subject line about ‘time running out’ is a classic fear-arousal technique. Better to get it done now than to contemplate the embarrassment of having forgotten.”


Another factor to email campaigns among specialty e-retailers is the “inbox rate,” or the number of emails that a retailer sends that make it into a shopper’s email inbox, instead of the email service provider filtering the message to a spam or junk folder, or because the e-retailer has an invalid email address.

For example, of gift basket retailer Edible Arrangement’s (No. 116) 28 email campaigns, only 15 campaigns, or 54%, made it into 90% of consumers’ inboxes, according to eData Source. This is, however, an improvement over last year, when its inbox rate was 17%.

“We’ve seen over time online florists and other gifts/remembrance retailers really struggling at getting to the consumer inbox, and it’s not always clear why. Over mailing into too-long inactive audiences may have something to do with it,” Landsman says. “How internet service providers filter for spam is a notoriously impenetrable black box, so we can’t be sure.”