Snow and last-minute shoppers could help e-retailers this V-Day weekend

February 13, 2015 03:47 PM

Snow, procrastinating men and online ads targeted to consumers in their 20s promise to play major roles in e-commerce this Valentine’s Day weekend, according to experts and studies.

Lest you’ve forgotten—and some of you have, suggest various reports—Saturday marks the annual day for declarations of love and the giving of gifts meant to back those words. The National Retail Federation estimates that the average consumer celebrating Valentine’s Day will spend $142.31 on candy, flowers, clothes and other items, up about 6.3% from $133.91 last year. Most consumers, 53.2%, plan to buy candy, while 37.8% anticipated buying flowers, 35.1% were preparing for a special night out and 21.1% are or were eyeing jewelry purchases, the trade group says.

The reasons for such purchasing are clear, explains Jeff Fagel, chief marketing officer at G/O Digital, which helps retailers market themselves online. “Most women look forward to being pampered and showered with gifts from their husbands, boyfriends, fathers and even children,” he says. “It’s the only holiday that comes with collateral damage if it’s ignored.”

That damage constitutes a looming—perhaps existential—threat for many consumers: 43% of men will wait until the day before to buy a gift for the holiday, according to the Valentine’s Day Consumer Pulse Report from online technology and marketing firm Rubicon Project. Including women, 38% of consumers will use the holiday to buy Valentine’s Day gifts.

Such last-minute shopping might be complicated by the movement of yet another major winter storm through the Midwest and toward the Northeast, with Boston and its surrounding region potentially taking another hit from a new blizzard.

E-retailers, though, might gain from that storm, even if many or most last-minute online orders are unlikely to arrive by the time Saturday turns into Sunday. That’s because IBM on Friday released a report that shows a “significant spike in climate commerce.” Overall, the IBM analysis shows, online shopping in the Northeast increased more than 20% during the Feb. 2 and Feb. 9 storms compared with the non-snow days the previous week.

In particular, IBM finds that:

• On Feb. 2 the Northeast accounted for 24.6% of all online sales in the United States, an increase of 24.9% from Jan. 26, the last non-snow Monday.
• On Feb. 9, the Northeast accounted for 24.2% of all U.S. web sales, an increase of 22.8% from January 26
• On Feb. 2, tablets accounted for 11.2% of all online sales, an increase of more than 15% from Jan. 26
• On Feb. 9, mobile accounted for just over 20% of all online sales, an increase of nearly 20% from January 26

“With forecasters predicting another snow storm to hit the region this Valentine’s Day weekend, retailers must be prepared to cater to the needs of those customers looking online for deal,” IBM advises in its report.

Adobe Systems estimated that the first big storm cost online retailers $35 million in lost sales due to power outages and consumers dealing with weather. But Adobe said this week that the last two storms resulted in “no impact to e-commerce in Boston,” according to Tamara Gaffney, Principal Analyst, Adobe Digital Index.

So what might all those shivering, shoveling and perhaps groveling lovebirds buy online this year to secure the hearts of their sweeties? Several surveys and analytical reports offer hints, some of them obvious, others not so much:

• An 800-respondent survey from Inc., the Utah-based mass merchant that is No. 31 in the Internet Retailer 2014 Top 500 Guide, finds that 56% of women prefer earrings as gifts, while 71% of men prefer a ring. In general, “men are hoping for a romantic or sentimental gift, while women prefer something a little more practical,” Overstock says, contradicting virtually every romantic film made since the launch of nickelodeons  more than a century ago. As for those practical gifts, Overstock says “a blender or juicer were the top appliances on women’s wish lists.”

• Sure, this second Saturday in February will have women receiving lingerie and both genders receiving rings. But perhaps not as much as is assumed, according to e-commerce analytics provider Slice Intelligence. That’s because e-retailers sell twice as much lingerie in December than in February, and because necklaces and bracelets were beating rings this year in popularity as Valentine’s Day gifts.

• Red, the traditional color of romance (and socialist revolution), is perhaps not as popular as some consumers think, suggests an analysis of more than 200,000 online searches conducted over the last few weeks by e-commerce site search technology vendor SLI Systems. It found that while red stands as the leading rose color in relevant searches (47%), other colors made stronger-than-expected showings: pink, 19%; white, 16%; yellow, 12%; and blue (6%). One possible reason? Red roses have become more expensive, according to reports, including this one from Time magazine. The most popular flower types as reflected in searches are roses (64%), lilies (11%), tulips (7%), orchids (6%) and daisies (6%), with other types making up the remainder.

• Perhaps also unexpectedly—and don’t the best love affairs usually come out of the blue?—an analysis by search engine marketing firm AdGooroo finds that none of the top 500 jewelry-related keywords in the run-up to Valentine’s Day carried specific mentions of that holiday. The findings are based on desktop text ad spend on U.S. Google AdWords from Jan. 1 to Feb. 5, 2015. The top keywords during that period include “engagement rings,” with more than $3 million in spending from 179 advertisers; “pandora charms,” with nearly $329,000 in spending from 42 advertisers; and “wedding rings,” with just more than $315,000 in spending from 174 advertisers. “One simple reason for the lack of Valentine’s keywords in the jewelry category is that they may not be all that important,” the report says.  “For instance, while jewelry advertisers spent from $133,000 to $3 million sponsoring the terms found in the Top 20 ranking, they collectively spent only $72 during the period on the general Valentine keyword phrase ‘valentine gifts for her’ and  just $17 on the phrase ‘valentine gifts for him’.”

Much like a crush usually precedes real love, online advertising often lead to purchases. The Rubicon Project finds that 60% of all consumers will research online before making purchases. That increases to 80% for so-called millennials—those consumers born between the mid-1970s and mid-1990s, and who are likely more familiar with Kanye West than Paul McCartney, according to a recent manufactured controversy. 73% of those millennial consumers are influenced by online ads compared with 57% of all respondents, the report adds. 




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