Online Sales Soar For Valentine’s Day 2014, Up 8% YOY

  • February 18, 2014 at 4:56 PM EST
  • By Debbie Hauss and Alicia Fiorletta
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Retailers felt the love from online shoppers this Valentine’s Day, with overall e-Commerce shopping for the week leading up to the holiday increasing 8% year-over-year (YOY) over 2013, according to research from IBM.

The IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark concluded that online sales between February 7 and February 13 improved consistently across four key categories, including:

  • Department Stores: 38% increase;
  • Gifts: 20% increase;
  • Apparel: 17% increase; and
  • Health & Beauty: 15% increase.
     

“The trends we observed the week before Valentine’s Day were similar in a lot of ways to the record online sales over this past holiday season,” said Jay Henderson, Global Strategy Director of IBM Smarter Commerce. “Online shopping is becoming more routine for consumers, particularly on mobile devices. Retailers are realizing this and are making more investments to improve the online shopping experience. When you combine that with the stormy weather many of us faced, it became a comfortable choice to stay indoors and shop for Valentine’s gifts online.”

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Research conducted by Maxymiser also indicated that online sales Valentine’s Day were significantly higher than the overall industry average. Data collected from a random sample of 500 million online shopping experiences showed that retailers gained up to $35.3 million in incremental revenue and experienced an 11% improvement in average order value the week leading up to Valentine’s Day. Total conversions also increased by 24%.

Yet, in the build-up to the holiday, the National Retail Federation (NRF) predicted that consumers would be spending cautiously during Valentine’s Day. In the spending survey, conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, NRF concluded that fewer Americans (54%) planned to “celebrate with their loved ones this year, compared to 60% in 2013.” But average sales would increase slightly, up to $133.91 on candy, cards, gifts, dinner and more, from $130.97 last year. Consumers 18 and older were expected to spend a total of $17.3 billion.

NRF also found that online research and shopping would continue to be very relevant: “Many will turn to their tablets or smartphones before making their final gift decisions; 24% will research products or compare prices on their smartphones and 32.2% will do so on their tablets.”

Creative Retail Marketing

Forward-thinking retailers were hard at work implementing innovative strategies to boost Valentine’s Day sales. In one example, online flower marketplace BloomNation launched a feature called BloomSnap, which allows customers to see the bouquet of flowers they purchased in the form of a photo sent directly from the florist before the bouquet is shipped. This case study was featured in a pre-Valentine’s Day article published by Retail TouchPoints.

A few clever email subject lines designed to drive purchases included:

  • You’ll Be Head Over Hooves For These Valentine’s Day Deals & Promo Code, from CowBoom.com
  • Final Day: Socks For Your Sweetie Sale, from GoBros.com;
  • Did You Say 14? Yup! Thousands Of Deals For $14, from 6pm.com; and
  • Time’s Almost Up (Guys!) – $10 OFF Sitewide For Valentine’s Day, from FTD Flowers (among many, many other emails sent by FTD during the Valentine’s Day build-up).
     

Windsor Circle, which provides a retention automation platform for online retailers, published a look at some other innovative Valentine’s Day promotions, including Arcadia Gifts, Bed, Bath & Beyond, Smiley Cookies and Moonstruck Chocolate.

Mobile Contributes To E-Commerce Success

Mobile traffic and sales also increased significantly over 2013. Overall, mobile accounted for 36.8% of all online traffic, up 39.6% over the same period last year, according to the Digital Analytics Benchmark from IBM. Mobile sales reached a new high, acquiring 17.2% of total online sales, a 42.9% increase from 2013.

“With an increased portion of traffic going to mobile, retailers recognize mobile as a huge opportunity,” said Daniel Toubian, Principal Consultant, U.S. Retail and Consumer Brands at Maxymiser, in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “Many retailers have a completely separate mobile or tablet site, which is optimized for the activities that their customers tend to use mobile to achieve, whether it be purchase, find a store, learning about product offerings or anything else.”

When broken down by device type, smartphone users shopped more (23.3%) than tablet users (13.3%). However, tablet users spent more than smartphone users, acquiring 11.4% of all online sales; smartphones only accounted for 5.6% of online sales leading up to the holiday. While shoppers using their smartphones spent approximately $114 per order, tablet shoppers spent $135.25 per order.

Spending patterns also varied by operating system. On average, iOS users spent more per visit ($132.28) than Android users ($110.54), and also made up more of overall traffic. While Android devices accounted for 11.9% of total traffic, iOS made up 24.6%.

Toubian noted that consumers’ growing interest in mobile shopping presents an opportunity for retailers to create more personalized shopping experiences, especially during pivotal holidays such as Valentine’s Day.

“Mobile is unique in that you carry your device while you’re on the go, so location and time-based information offers additional context of what a visitor is looking to accomplish,” Toubian said. “Mobile sites can then be optimized for each context. Learn about your visitors’ preferences and personalize the web or mobile site experience based on those preferences. This can include layout, images, product recommendations, landing pages, and even promotional offers.” 

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