To succeed in marketing for Valentine’s Day, it pays to look at the data. Because even more so than other peak shopping periods, Valentine’s Day has some distinct characteristics that require acting early, adjusting often and understanding the behavior patterns of shoppers.
For example, one unusual factor for Valentine’s Day retailers is the short shelf life of traditional gifts, such as chocolate and flowers. “We’ve been at this for so long, you know for 40 years-plus, and we have such rich data both on the marketing side and the customer that we started our planning for Valentine’s Day 2022 even before Valentine’s Day of last year, because we have to get our orders in so early,” says Tom Hartnett, group president, Consumer Floral and Gifts for 1-800-Flowers.com Inc. “We have a 270-300 day time period to make sure we have the quantities we need. ”
Further complicating matters is that Valentine’s Day shopping—unlike what happens during the holiday or back-to-school seasons—takes place over a much shorter period of time. “Valentine’s is a compressed holiday,” says Chris McCann, president and CEO at 1-800-Flowers.com Inc. “So in the first two weeks January we start fine-tuning from an IT perspective, making tweaks and then doing a whole stress test readiness review to make sure everything is in place to handle the surges of volume that we expect to see.” 1-800-Flowers.com Inc. is No. 67 in the 2021 Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000.
And here’s where things get particularly complicated. While much of the consumer purchases for Valentine’s Day take place in the last few days before the holiday, the best time to market to shoppers—especially women—is much, much earlier, according to data from Helium 10, which provides tools to brands and retailers who sell on ecommerce marketplaces.
The Search for Love
An analysis of Amazon search traffic by Helium 10 shows that searches containing the word Valentine during late January and early February have a high conversion rate and relatively low cost per click (CPC).
The conversion rate for Valentine searches reaches its highest point from Jan. 27 through Feb. 9.
The cost per click (CPC) for ads tied to searches for “valentine” are highest between Feb. 5-13.
That means the rise in conversion rates comes before the rise in cost of CPC ads.
What drives such an unexpected pattern?
According to Bradley Sutton, director of training and chief evangelist for Helium 10, and an independent Amazon seller, it’s the difference between men and women.
“I looked at what were the top keywords relating to Valentine’s Day last year, and the top two were ‘Valentine’s Day gifts for him’ and ‘Valentine’s Day gifts for her,’ and it’s really interesting because the week of January 9, 2021 ‘Valentine’s Day gifts for him’ had about 500,000 estimated searches,” Sutton says. But several weeks later, searches for “Valentine’s Day gifts for her” skyrocket. “It seems women get a head start on buying gifts for their husband or boyfriend, but the guys forget about Valentine’s Day until the last second,” Sutton says.
(Search) terms of endearment
Beyond the Amazon marketplace, overall web searches, such as on Google or Bing, for “Valentine’s Day” dropped in the weeks leading up to the holiday this year as compared with 2021. The holiday was the 22nd most searched term for the year in 2021 and the 43rd most searched term in 2022, according to Searchspring, a maker of site search and merchandising tools for retailers.
In addition, Searchspring said:
- Consumers are less concerned with thriftiness this year, as searches for “sale” dropped 60%, going from the 4th most searched term in 2021 to the 12th most searched term in 2022.
- The term “pink” was second most searched term in 2021, but this year it plummeted 78% to the 18th position.
- Overall searches during this period of time fell from last year.
- 58% of total searches were conducted on a phone and 39% on a desktop computer.
Love and Money
Valentine’s Day spending is expected to reach $23.9 billion this year, up from $21.8 billion in 2021 and the second-highest year on record, according to the annual survey by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics.
Online continues to be the most popular shopping destination for Valentine’s Day this year, visited by 41%, followed by department stores at 32%, discount stores at 28%, local small businesses at 18% and florists at 17%.
Candy (56%), greeting cards (40%) and flowers (37%) remain the most popular gift items this Valentine’s Day. Almost a quarter (22%) will opt to gift jewelry. Total spending on jewelry is estimated at $6.2 billion, up from $4.1 billion in 2021 and the highest in the survey’s history.
Alliance Data Systems Corp., which provides payment systems to retailers, said its data suggests a surge in gift giving this year. Based upon the results of a survey of 802 U.S. consumers conducted by Alliance Data and Lucid Holdings in January 2022, the payments company said:
67% of consumers will purchase a gift for their significant other, up 14% from 2021
39% of Gen Z consumers plan to purchase luxury goods—more than any other age group
Meanwhile, NRF says experiential gifts will rise this year. Nearly a third (31%) of respondents plan to gift an “evening out” this year, according to NRF. That’s up from 24% in 2021 and just slightly below pre-pandemic levels, for a total of $4.3 billion.
That rise in “experiential” gifts is good news for 1-800-Flowers. The retailer acquired Alice’s Table, a provider of live streamed classes in floral and culinary skills in January. This year Alice’s Table offered a Valentine’s Day class in flower arranging. McCann says 80,000 people have signed up for floral arranging and other classes on the platform since the company began working with Alice’s Table in 2020.
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