Boon or Bust: Best Practices to Make Valentine's Day a Sweet Deal for Retailers

From its auspicious beginnings as a way to honor a saint from the third century AD as well as a Roman festival meant to mark the start of spring, Valentine's Day has become a highly profitable shopping holiday for retailers. The 2016 National Retail Federation (NRF) Valentine's Day Consumer Spending Survey projected that 54.8 percent of consumers would spend an average of $146.84 on flowers, jewelry, candy, apparel and more, up $142.31 from 2015. Total spending was expected to reach $19.7 billion, the highest ever according to the NRF.

For retailers that specialize in apparel, jewelry, luxury goods and flowers, Valentine's Day can be a boon. However, without a well thought out and executed strategy, it could also be a bust. There's much more to creating a successful campaign than to offer coupons and offers. Using customer data, retailers can enhance the entire shopping journey by serving customers the most relevant experience possible. Some best practices that will help retailers turn browsers into buyers, with the goal to entice them to return not just on holidays, but throughout the year, include:
  • Surfacing gift recommendations by referrer: For example, if someone comes from a student affiliate site, surface cost-conscious products to them instead of more expensive products they can't afford.
  • VIP gifts: Use pre-defined and tiered VIP segments and make sure you reserve and surface specific products, in higher price ranges, set aside exclusively for VIP customers.
  • Self-segmentation: Create and enable a gift finder that allows a shopper to categorize themselves as a "saver" or "splurger." This insight can then be used beyond Valentine's Day to influence segmentation-based merchandising.
  • Invite back last year's shoppers: Offer special discounts to get last year's shopper to return. Tie this into your messaging around other gifting holidays (Mother's Day, Father's Day, Easter, etc.) to try and make them a return visitor.
Also, retailers should make sure that they are employing strategies that get to the heart of changing shopper behavior, as opposed to spending time and resources on making cosmetic fixes to the appearance of their website which only affects conversions minimally. Some additional tactics that will make a more significant impact on the shopping experience and increase conversions more substantially include:
  • Social proof: Highlight bestsellers or popular items to reassure gift buyers that they are making the right choice.
Delivery: Showcase delivery USPs and reassurance, such as "guaranteed delivery date." You can also drive urgency with countdown timers to nudge customers into hitting the buy button.
Returns: Highlight USPs, offering reassurance to gift buyers unsure whether the apparel they purchased will fit, for example.
Product recommendations: Help gift buyers make a decision by displaying gift card options, and bundling and/or upselling with additional related services, such as engraving and gift wrapping, as well as self-gifting.

By focusing on creating a compelling and engaging customer experience, retailers can not only increase Valentine's Day-related sales, but duplicate those strategies for high-peak shopping holidays throughout the year.

Charleton Lamb is head of marketing, North America for Qubit, which provides context-driven personalized experiences.