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Why Valentine’s Day Matters

A big day for love, and an even bigger one for e-commerce

Though the holiday is known for inspiring public declarations of love, the origins of Valentine’s Day are much more secretive. The story goes that a priest married soldiers in secret, against the emperor’s wishes, before they were sent to war. He was sentenced to death for his actions—a sentence that was carried out only after he fell in love with a blind girl and left her a sonnet (written from ink he squeezed out of violets) so beautifully written that it gave her back her sight. More modern and embellished versions say that he signed it with his name: “All yours, Valentine.”

The story is as romantic as Valentine’s Day itself, but there’s another side to the day created for couples (and not just couples: today many people buy gifts for their pets, too!). Today, Valentine’s is also a day of love for e-commerce companies around the world. For this year, an NRF (National Retail Federation) study suggests that about 54.8 percent of all consumers in the US will celebrated the holiday, which literally means that 54.8 percent of consumers will actually buy something to give on the 14th of February— and that’s a big, big number.

Does this mean it’s gotten less romantic? No, we still buy mostly adorable gifts like flowers and cards, and treat our loved ones to a night out or the hippest restaurant in town. The difference is that today, we can do a lot of that—gift buying and night-booking—online.

That’s why Valentine’s Day is one of the biggest holidays days of the year for e-commerce all around the world. (Learn more about other big e-commerce holidays in our Shopping Holidays infographic.) According to Forbes, consumers in the US spent $18.6 billion on Valentine’s Day last year—with online shoppers spending 31 percent more than in-store ones, according to The Shelf. There’s a big Valentine’s shopping pie, and e-commerce will get a huge slice of it this year.  Marketing Profs says that this year, the biggest search category for Valentine’s Day hasn’t been flowers or chocolates, nor nice dinners out or gift cards: instead, it’s jewelry—with diamonds taking the first spot.

Getting Involved in the Giving

With numbers like these, e-commerce companies want to get involved in the fun, which in many cases means stepping up their digital advertising game. More and more studies help us reach the same conclusion: when it comes to Valentine’s, social media matters. A lot. Promoting your wares on social media—whether through your social media team or in an automated way, using programmatic—will help drive customers to your products and also help in terms of branding. Take a personalized approach whenever possible. Also: remember that e-gift cards are getting more and more popular, and that allied with Valentine’s sales, they could easily increase your revenue.

Valentine’s is the time when competition between retailers is high, and planning ahead is mandatory—particularly since online shoppers like me often don’t. Last minute shopping was made easier than ever thanks to e-commerce, and offers like guaranteed delivery by February 14th (with gift wrapping included!) will make your shop appealing to all of those who just want a quick, good solution for their Valentine’s forgetfulness.

You Won’t Need Forgiveness if You Don’t Forget

Or, just make sure your customers don’t forget—you can use programmatic to run highly targeted promotional campaigns to reach the highest-value potential customers, a perfect compliment to the email campaigns you’re already sending to known shoppers. Display ads with dynamic product recommendations can help make the gift-giving process easier for shoppers, recommending best-sellers for prospects and tailored offers for existing customers.

Also: don’t forget branding. Your customers are your Valentine, so make sure they know it. Send something to customers who deserve it the most, and hopefully they’ll give you back the most valuable present you could get: loyalty. At the end of the day, Valentine’s Day isn’t just about one day of sales for businesses—it’s also a chance to let your customers know how much you appreciate them.

In a way, we are all playing the part of St. Valentine in our own way: his sonnet gave eyesight to a blind girl, and businesses can help give lovers around the world the romance they seek—not with violet ink, but with e-commerce. Romance is still very much alive, in love… and in business.