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6 Reasons Retailers Should Love Valentine’s Day In 2024

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By: Jenn McMillen |

Posted on February 14, 2024

6 Keys to The Heart That Could Last Forever

Consumers are expected to spend $26 billion on this Valentine’s Day. But not all of them will love the experience. These six insights can help retail recapture the magic.

By Jenn McMillen

Here’s a fun fact to melt your hearts: This Valentine’s Day, romantics and even un-romantics are expected to spend enough on candy, roses, jewelry and other declarations of love to fund the economy of Iceland: $25.8 billion, according to the National Retail Federation.

And here’s a fact that could make your heart sink: A fair share of those shoppers will complete their purchases with feelings of unrequited love from their chosen retailers. Like many spurned suitors, those customers will be less likely to come back.

Holidays, even Valentine’s Day, can bring out the best, and worst, in a shopping experience. There’s so much marketing and pressure to “get it right,” yet the displays, online navigation, gift suggestions and checkout processes can really test a customer’s trust.

Can we ever work through this?

6 Love Letters to Shoppers, So They Come Back

Of course, we can work through this! Because researchers are always exploring consumers’ feelings. And at nearly $26 billion, Valentine’s Day has become an event worth researching.

Here are six heart-winning discoveries that can win consumer hearts – not just before Valentine’s Day, but in the months after.

  1. Shower them with online options. Of the nearly $26 billion expected to be spent this Valentine’s Day, $10.3 billion – 40% – will be spent online, compared with 35% of purchases in 2023. Retailers will want to ensure their online inventories and fulfillment are up to the task, particularly in the jewelry and apparel categories, which are expected to generate spending records of $6.4 billion and $3 billion, respectively, according to the NRF. 24-karat advice: Jewelry is a big-deal purchase, so retailers that sell jewelry should ensure their social media outlets clearly explain quality and value; 55% of consumers think it’s “important” that jewelers do so, InStore Magazine reports.
  2. Offer gifts in chicken (and fish) flavor. Talk about puppy love! In 2023, a record-breaking 32% of consumers bought squeaky toys, treats and a range of trendy items for their fur babies, birds and other pets. In 2024, expect them to fetch even more. Shoppers intend to spend a combined $1.7 billion on their pets this year – outpacing the $1.5 billion they plan to spend on co-workers, Statista reports. Purr-poseful tip: Rather than see the pets-over-co-workers finding as a commentary on the workplace, retailers can use it as an opportunity to cross-market – “Remember Spot, but don’t forget your co-workers.”
  3. Give extra points to early suitors. Retailers have a better chance of locking in Valentine’s Day sales early – and ahead of competitors – if they use their reward programs’ data and perks as honey. A program can send its most active members exclusive limited-time offers or deals on V-Day products, including bonus points, a strategy that tends to trigger FOMO. Faithful act: While they’re at it, retailers would do well to show reward members that they know loyalty goes both ways. They can, for example, send members a little love in the form of “collect at the register” gifts, such as a free chocolate heart or coupons.
  4. The hot new category is the better half. Based on NRF’s 2024 projections, significant others have gained record significance in the Valentine’s Day budget. Consumers plan to shell out a combined $14.2 billion – 55% of the holiday’s total spending projections – on their “partners in crime” this year. (The rest goes to the above-mentioned pets, friends, family and others.) That’s the highest cut allocated to significant others since NRF began tracking numbers in 2014. Forever vow: Retailers and brands will want to apply a deft hand to their marketing and ensure their love language is aligned with 2024’s target markets. Gen Zers are more likely to respond to TikTok-like promos than boomers, for instance.
  5. Remember the other half. Nearly half of all consumers (47% in 2022) do not intend to celebrate Valentine’s Day, the NRF has reported. But that doesn’t mean they won’t treat themselves. Nearly 30% of those who won’t buy for a sweetheart will mark the occasion with a little something-something for themselves, or go out with their friends, or celebrate Galentine’s Day on Feb. 13. Retailers and brands should include Me-Day offerings that appeal to these shoppers, equally. Self-love suggestion: Offer “No thanks, Cupid”-like promotions on non-Valentine’s Day gifts, or issue double reward points on self-indulgent items up to the day before the holiday.
  6. Be kind when the gift unwinds. No matter how much data retailers use to recommend gifts that are relevant to their customers, some good intentions will miss the mark. A little more flexibility on return options for Valentine’s Day purchases, including free return shipping and exchanges, could take the sting out of these transactions. Reciprocating research: Customers who miss the mark will likely remember who was in their corner when they needed it: 71% are more likely to shop retailers with lenient return policies, according to a 2023 report by Blue Yonder; 73% are more likely to make their returns in a store (read: sales opportunity), if given an incentive.

Retailers Can Be That Special Someone Next Year, Too

Lots of shoppers enter the Valentine’s Day season unsure about what to purchase, if anything. Retailers that prove they understand this uncertainty and market their gift ideas as opportunities, not merely good deals, have a better chance of celebrating anniversaries with those same customers on Valentine’s Day 2025.

If the memories are good enough, that requited love could be worth much more than $26 billion.

This article originally appeared in Forbes.

Forbes.com retail contributor Jenn McMillen is nationally renowned as the architect of GameStop’s PowerUp Rewards, and is Founder and Chief Accelerant of Incendio, a firm that builds and fixes marketing, consumer engagement, loyalty and CRM programs. Incendio provides a nimble, flexible and technology-agnostic approach without the big-agency cost structure and is a trusted partner of some of the biggest brands in the U.S.