Retailers must be smarter and more last-minute to halt waning interest in Valentine’s Day, says RadiumOne


The number of UK adults planning to buy Valentine’s Day gifts or cards has dropped to 45% from 50% last year – the equivalent of 2.5m people. according to new research from marketing technology experts RadiumOne.

One in four (24%) adults say Valentine’s Day is over-commercialised while the most popular reason for not celebrating (aside from a lack of partner) is ‘not wanting to feel forced’ (24%). Only 14% of adults are noticeably positive about the day.

“The commercialisation and sense of obligation mean retailers must be far smarter about how they promote Valentine’s Day to avoid alienating consumers further,” said Rupert Staines, RadiumOne’s European managing director. “The good news is technology can help. It provides extra data to improve targeting and has enabled a longer window, by pushing planning behaviour right up until the last minute.”

Technology’s role in romance

Overall, nearly half of people (49%) will use a digital device for researching and buying Valentine’s gifts; 27% alone will use a smartphone or tablet for research, one in five (19%) actually purchasing on them.

Using digital devices for research/buying rises considerably, to nearly two-thirds (64%) of 18-34s. 44% of 18-34s use a smartphone or tablet for research.

Purchasing is becoming more last-minute

Seven in ten (71%) adults don’t start planning Valentine’s Day until February (up from 64% a year ago). Those leaving it to the week before rose to 35%.

In fact, RadiumOne analysed over 250,000 pieces of Valentine’s Day and gift-related content shared online (77% of which happens on smartphones) over a two-month period to reveal activity rises dramatically from the 11 February and peaks on the day itself.

In turn, an analysis of 2.1m online purchases during a two-week period revealed online purchasing activity during Valentine’s week via desktop computers peaked the day before the big day whilst purchasing via mobile peaked on the actual day.

The role of ‘dark social’

Nearly three-quarters (73%) of Valentine’s content happens in ‘dark social’ – outside of social networks on email, instant messenger and forums.

“There are three easy wins for retailers to address consumers’ waning interest in Valentine’s,” said Staines. “Understand the role of different devices in planning and purchasing, be aware you have right up until the day itself to make your moves and ensure you have visibility into dark social, as you could be missing 75% of leads available to you. It’s about getting the right plumbing in place to track whose doing and sharing what across which devices.”
Valentine’s gift spend among adults will fall 3% to £908.2m – the 5% drop in participants being slightly offset by the 8% rise in spend (to £39.80) among people who will. Restaurants and travel companies will be most hit – a meal out and a night away both see the biggest decrease (8%) in numbers purchasing.