GUEST ARTICLE: Click for Cupid…Maximizing Valentine’s Day sales online

Picture: Istockphoto, Sarsmis
Picture: Istockphoto, Sarsmis

Related tags Valentine Retailing

According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), a quarter of Valentine’s shoppers went online to shop and/or buy gifts in 2015, up from 16.3% the prior year. 

Equally compelling statistics can be found in a survey from Adroit Digital, which found that among adults who owned both smartphone and computer, 59% stated a preference for the e-commerce channel​.

In both cases, it’s clear the e-commerce channel will garner a sizable chunk of the $20bn that the NRF projects Americans will spend on Valentine’s Day in 2016.

For brands and retailers that sell candy/chocolate, jewelry, flowers and other gifts online, this opens up a huge opportunity to capitalize on a sales event that ranks #4 among total seasonal/event expenditures — after the winter holiday season, back-to-school and Mother’s Day.

Who’s buying what on Valentine’s Day?

To understand online Valentine’s shopping trends, it’s first necessary to step back and look at the holiday’s purchasing patterns across all channels.

According to the NRF, the average person spent $142.31 on Valentine’s Day last year, up 6.3% from spending in 2014​. It seems that men were particularly eager to impress, spending an average of $190.53 ​compared to an average of $96.58 for women.

The most popular gifts were:

  • Candy/Chocolate​ (53.2% of consumers, for a total of $1.69bn)
  • Flowers​ (37.8% of consumers, for a total of $2.1bn)
  • Evening Out​ (35.1% of consumers, for a total of $3.6bn)
  • Jewelry​ (21.1% consumers, for a total of $4.8bn)
  • Clothing ​($2bn)
  • Valentine’s Day Cards ​($1.5bn)

So how does this translate into online sales? Let’s look at a ‘classic’ Valentine’s category — candy and chocolate — both in terms of what transpired in 2015 and what’s happening now in 2016.

What can Amazon best-sellers tell us about Valentine’s Day purchasing?

According to Profitero, whose FastMovers reports monitor and benchmark the Amazon top 100 sellers across 35 categories, the following hold true — or are projected to hold true — in the Candy & Chocolate category:

  • Pricing becomes more dynamic in the pre-Valentine’s Day period.​ There were an average of five price changes per product in 2015. That includes eight price changes in just 13 days for the top 10 products, compared to just six price changes per product across the top 100 products for the full month of January. Additionally, the average price for Candy & Chocolate products in the FastMovers 100 fell from $23.43 in January to $21.99 in February. Our conclusion: Increased competition in the days leading up to Valentine’s Day caused prices to fluctuate more frequently and decline.
  • Gift boxes are consumers’ favorites.​ Gift boxes were the most popular items in 2015, and comprised 55 of the top 100 — with the majority of products priced under $20. There were 28 gift boxes in the $10-$19.99 range, the literal sweet spot in Valentine’s gift giving.
  • It’s important to use product titles tailored to Valentine’s Day gifting.​ Last year, Valentine’s-themed titles helped drive sales for the FastMovers 100 — with the words “Gift,” “Valentine,” “Heart” and “Love” the most commonly used.
  • Smaller brands can get in on the action.​ Well-known brands such as Ferrero and Dove topped the list for having the most Candy & Chocolate products in the FastMovers 100 in 2015. However, smaller brands such as Pistachio Gifts and Broadway Basketeers also performed well — demonstrating that there’s plenty of room for emerging brands (including brands with limited off-line presence) to compete successfully with the ‘big guys’ in the online channel.

What are confectionery brands doing to maximize online Valentine’s Day sales?

There are several key steps that manufacturers are taking — steps that your company can also take in the future, in the event you’re not implementing them already for this Valentine’s Day.

  • Maximize discoverability with a focus on retail search marketing and category positioning.​ On online retail sites, shoppers find products primarily through searching or browsing. Optimize your product titles and descriptions with seasonal keywords to improve your organic performance, and consider sponsoring search results or category pages at some retailers.
  • Don’t miss the email opportunity.​ Targeted email blasts are another powerful way to drive shoppers to a desired Valentine’s Day sales destination. Work with online retailers to include emails in seasonal merchandising programs, and include where-to-buy links in emails you send independent of retailers.
  • Make your product pages exemplary​. You’ve got to entice Valentine’s shoppers with top-notch product descriptions and visual content. According to Syndy, a leading product content specialist in eCommerce, you can lose up to 16.5% of sales if your product photos aren’t up to snuff​. It’s especially important for your brand managers to think creatively in this area. Syndy uses Kit Kat as a prime example of outside-the-box thinking, by citing the product’s use of photos in which Kit Kat is paired with other foods to demonstrate its standing as an integral element of a healthy, balanced lifestyle. That’s extremely important at a time when confectioners are under increased pressure to reduce sugar content and tailor product offerings to more stringent nutritional standards. (And yes, be crystal clear with your nutritional information across all product pages.)
  • Expect latecomers.​ As reported by search engine Bing, consumers were searching for gifts and cards right up until (and through) Valentine’s Day. Bing reported its biggest click-through rates on ads on February 13 between 2pm and 10pm across all devices.

What does the $1.69bn spent annually on Valentine’s candy get you?

As a brand or retailer, you have an opportunity to take advantage of an occasion for which:

As more shoppers turn online, a focus on seasonal and event-based marketing and merchandising strategies can certainly sweeten your e-commerce performance.


Keith Anderson is VP, strategy & insights at Profitero, where he helps global companies gain a deeper understanding of their online presence to optimize online and in-store sales. Anderson has advised leading retailers and CPG companies including Walmart, Target, Best Buy, P&G, Unilever and Coca Cola. 

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