The feast of the patron saint of lovers, Saint Valentine, will inspire couples the world over next Friday to celebrate their devotion through cards, gifts, and expensive dinners. And even though there are only a few days left until St Valentine’s Day, businesses could still benefit from a last-minute marketing push for the event.
Florists, gift retailers, and restaurants are those most likely to feel a boost from the festival of romance this week. And the good news is that there is still a lot of business to be won. While many people may be led by their heart at this time of year, it would seem that fewer of them are ruled by their head, with large numbers leaving Valentine plans until the day itself. One in five men buy their girlfriend’s present on Valentine’s Day, while one in twenty grabs something on the way to their date, a study by delivery firm myByBox found.
The rewards for getting your Valentine’s Day marketing right are huge. It is one of the biggest retail days in the calendar, and the sums that sweethearts are prepared to spend are quite eye-watering.
Last year, £467 million was spent on Valentine’s Day jewellery
Retailers with an online presence could particularly benefit from presents bought at the eleventh hour. One in three Valentine’s purchases last year was made on the internet, research from software firm Exact Abacus found. And more transactions are taking place on smartphones and tablet computers, as people shop on the move, so it’s important to make sure that your website is enabled for all types of device. Web content should be up-to-date and SEO friendly to ensure that your firm comes top of the list of any Valentine-related searches. Place clearly marked links from the home page to any Valentine-specific content. Also, offering present-wrapping and speedy delivery – and advertising these services prominently – is essential at this late stage.
Those with a physical shop front still have time to create a Valentine’s display – though be realistic about whether your products are appropriate for the occasion. If you sell golf jumpers, then Valentine’s is unlikely to be your best marketing opportunity. If your stock is in a more romantic vein, it can be worth the time and working capital to put on a show to draw in late customers. Send out a call to arms by email to your regular mailing list, assuring your clientele that you have all the solutions to their Valentine gift-buying dilemmas. Use social media in a similar manner. If working longer hours on Friday means catching more custom, then keep the doors open. And, of course, you must ensure you’ve got enough stock to meet potential demand.
£262 million was spent in 2013 on flowers for February 14th, with almost 190 million roses sold in the UK
Florists should have it made around this time of year. Along with Mothering Sunday, Valentine’s Day is the busiest time of the year for the UK’s 15,000 flower sellers, many of whom operate as sole traders. But the competition is fierce, with supermarkets and relay companies that collect online orders for larger flower distributors eating up much of the smaller retailers’ trade. You can’t just rely on a last-minute rush into your store on February 14th. In the days before the event, put signs up outside your premises, as well as sending out marketing messages through online media, offering extras to those who book ahead. You could give away a free heart-shaped balloon or a small box of chocolates with bouquets ordered at least 24-hours in advance. People need an incentive to choose your shop, and you want to get as many customers through the door as early as possible. You’ll always find shoppers clamouring for a dozen red roses on the day itself, but you could capture more custom and valuable sales in advance with a few promotions and some well-placed advertising in the days ahead.
£95 million was spent on chocolate for Valentine’s Day last year
The immediacy and potential reach of Twitter and other forms of social media are a great advantage to those who want to get their hands on the lovers’ pound. A Valentine-inspired promotion could bring in valuable business in the coming days. Last February, one small dress retailer offered the chance to win a sexy dress for Valentine’s night in return for retweeting their message and becoming one of their Twitter followers. Even businesses with no obvious connection to hearts and flowers can use new technology to take advantage of the love that’s in the air. One financial adviser used the #Valentines hashtag on a tweet linking to tips on saving for an engagement ring. And an estate agent has even tweeted a Valentine-related piece of graffiti in order to get in on the romantic act. If a brand as unsexy as HP Sauce can exploit the Valentine’s theme, as it did last year with a jokey, very blokey YouTube advert, then any business can.
Lingerie accounted for £87 million of Valentine’s Day shopping in 2013
The fact that Valentine’s falls on a Friday this year increases the likelihood that amorous couples will take an entire weekend away, so those running hotels and B&Bs with vacancies should think about how to attract late-comers. One in five hotel bookings for Valentine’s Day are made within three days of the celebration, according to travel website ebookers.com, and those that reserved rooms via a mobile device were even tardier in their approach, with 72 per cent finalising hotel deals on February 14th itself. Including a Valentine’s eve dinner with the room rate could put your establishment at the top of the list. Tweeting a promotional price or emailing those on your mailing list on February 13th could particularly speak to those looking for last-minute inspiration.
About £75 million was spent last year on Valentine’s Day cards
Those catering in the literal sense for the Valentine’s crowd can still get diners through the door if they’re not already booked up for Friday. While some restaurants will have been booked out for some time, a good proportion of courting couples leave it to the evening itself to find the venue for their candlelit dinner. If you haven’t already devised a Valentine’s set menu, do so, and market it prominently outside your eatery. At this late hour, you need to use any marketing means available to attract customers, even old-fashioned paper flyers delivered door-to-door in your neighbourhood. But mobile technology is another essential weapon in your marketing armoury. If your bar or restaurant is less than full on Valentine’s night, send out a special promotion there and then via social media to attract any undecided punters. Offering money off drinks or fun prizes could bring in custom that may have gone elsewhere.
Finally, don’t forget that plenty of people are sickened by all the red and pink merchandising and schmaltz of this celebration of romance. You could appeal to the cynics who want no part of the romantic enterprise, and advertise your business as the anti-Valentine’s option. A spa might offer pampering breaks for singles who lack that loving feeling. Or a bar could hold a Cupid is Stupid event, determinedly shunning all romantic songs and references, to win over those who think the occasion clichéd and commercial. Either way, large sums of money will be spent in the coming days, and small businesses are still in with a chance to get a slice of the action.
Image courtesy of digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net