Valentine’s Day 2021 may look a little different (surprise!), but love always prevails, doesn’t it? Retail has held steady during the worst of the coronavirus pandemic, while the holiday itself has evolved in its own way to be more inclusive and creative. Digital marketers should adjust messaging to the times, maximize contextual targeting and optimization, commit to a multi-channel approach. Read the data plus our 6 recommendations for a successful Valentine’s Day digital marketing approach below.

Spending Habits:

In 2020, consumers in the US reported an average spend of $196 on Valentine’s Day, an increase of 21% over 2019, according to research from the National Retail Federation (eMarketer, February 2020). It’s unclear if spend will be as high this year, though retail and consumer-spending has rebounded since the worst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Spend by Age (NRF via eMarketer, February 2020):

  • Age 35-44 had the highest average expected spending in 2020: $358.78
  • Age 65+ had the lowest: $99.14

→ Target and adjust messaging content towards Gen X.

Favorite Gifts (NRF via eMarketer, February 2020):

  • 52% Candy
  • 43% Greeting Cards
  • 37% Flowers

Candy: More than half (52%) of US internet users planned to purchase sweets for Valentine’s Day, ranking above flowers, an evening out or jewelry in 2020. (eMarketer, February 2020) A combined 62% of internet users spent on an experience: evening out, tickets to an event, trip, or spa. Due to coronavirus safety concerns and varying mandates across the country and world, we predict that Valentine’s Day gift-givers will steer away from those experiences and instead shift to creative, at-home entertainment and experiences to celebrate. Offer creative ideas or products to inspire them. 

Retail as an Indicator for Valentine’s Day 2021:

If we gauge retail ecommerce habits as a worthy indicator of how spending will continue into Valentine’s Day, then expect more shoppers to order online this year versus last. Thanks to ecommerce, retail stayed afloat during the worst of the coronavirus pandemic and consumers in turn developed new levels of comfort with online ordering.

  • New research by Mastercard shows U.S. ecommerce sales were up 92.7%  in May 2020, with more than $53 billion spent via ecommerce channels between April and May—the height of the pandemic. For scale, that’s more spent online than that last 12 Cyber Mondays combined (DigitalCommerce360).
  • Between July and August 2020, total retail sales in the United States rose by 0.6 percent. During this period, retail sales of clothing and clothing accessory retailers grew by 2.9 percent, rebounding from consistent and heavy declines in February, March, and April (Statista, September 2020).  

Digital Ad Spend & the Importance of a Multichannel Approach:

Engagement via mobile device continues to grow year after year, and consumers – especially shoppers – are consistently utilizing a multi-channel approach to read, research, engage with brands, and ultimately buy.

  • eMarketer expects retail to remain the largest spender on digital ads among all verticals. The industry will increase spending by 3.1% to $28.23 billion. (eMarketer, October 2020)
  • Retail ad spending on mobile will surpass $18 billion this year, and desktop/laptop spending will reach nearly $10 billion.
  • Mobile had a 106% higher CTR than Desktop in 1H 2020 on Bidtellect’s platform, so it’s imperative to implement a multi-channel approach  (Bidtellect 1H 2020 Native Report)

The Evolution of Valentine’s Day:

Treat Yourself

55% planned to celebrate Valentine’s Day in some way in 2020. But even those who answered “Not celebrating” did in some way.  35% of 18-25 year olds said their non-traditional Valentine’s Day gift or celebration would be “Treating Yourself.” (NRF, 2020 Valentine’s Day Spending Survey)

Lovers and Friends (and Family and Coworkers…)

Spend in 2020 (NRF, 2020 Valentine’s Day Spending Survey):

  • Significant Other/Spouse: $14.1 billion
  • Other Family Members: $4.2 billion
  • Friends: $2.1 billion

Valentine’s Day isn’t just for significant others, spouses, even casual lovers anymore. Parks and Recreation may have dubbed the holiday “Galentine’s Day” to celebrate friendship, but gift-giving seems to span across all relationships, including family and coworkers (Saturday Night Live even wrote a spoof about it). Since 2010, spend on Valentine’s Day gifts for friends has nearly tripled, from $737 million to $2.1 billion (NRF, February 2020). Retailers have adapted with more inclusive products that “allow for casual or non romantic gift giving” (eMarketer, February 2020).

And Furry Friends

Don’t forget your furry friends! Valentine’s Day spending on that very special pet in your life has also increased. In 2020, 27% of those celebrating Valentine’s Day said they’d buy gifts for their pets, up from 17% in 2010 (NRF, February 2020). Spend on pet gifts has grown exponentially, from just $450 million in 2010 to more than $1.7 billion a decade later (NRF, February 2020).

The trend is not just being driven by younger consumers like millennials and Gen Zers; spending on gifts for pets has grown among all shoppers under the age of 55.

The Takeaways: 6 Steps for Digital Marketing Success

1. Gear Valentine’s Day messaging to all relationships – friends, pets, even oneself! – not just romantic ones.

2. Anticipate a preference for physical gifts, not in-person experiences or trips, due to safety.

3. Content: offer ideas for “at-home” dates like eating in or romantic activities

4. Utilize on contextual targeting to reach consumers reading about gift ideas, inspiration, and comfort for Valentine’s Day

5. Commit to a multichannel approach: consumers will engage with content and shop on desktop, tablet, and mobile devices

6. Use real-time creative optimization: optimize to best-performing creative and adapt accordingly. Eye-catching creatives drive results.

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