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According to the National Retail Federation, Americans will spend over $20 Billion on gifts, food and celebrations for the Valentine’s Day holiday. That’s up over a billion dollars from 2018. The most common purchases? Candy, flowers and an evening out. The competition is on for businesses to catch the hearts of consumers this holiday — and the rewards are lucrative: the average person is expected to spend nearly $162, this year.
So how can a brand ensure that consumers choose them when expressing their love this Valentine’s Day? I talked to Harry Chemko, CEO and commerce technology expert at API-oriented commerce brand Elastic Path, to get his take on how to stand out from the crowd this Valentine’s Day.
Harrison: How can brands stand out from the pack when it comes to Valentine’s Day? How does connected commerce, experiential retail and integrated purchasing impact holiday shopping for big spending holidays like Valentine’s Day?
Chemko: It’s not just about the gift itself any more. Consumers are looking for something memorable, eye-catching and tailored for social media sharing. I’d challenge marketers to think about how to create a really unique experience. Valentine’s Day is all about emotion — and it’s no longer what the gift is, but how you receive it. Maybe amp up the gift card with a video message. Package jewelry in a way that encourages the perfect Instagram post. Maybe it’s a beautiful package with custom art or a personal photo. And all of it should be sharable online, because one of the best parts of receiving a great gift is telling your friends about it.
Harrison: For industries like floral and jewelry, Valentine’s Day causes a huge boost in traffic. How do brands prepare for inconsistent customer interest and make sure their mobile and websites can handle the volume?
Chemko: I don’t know if this is as much of an issue with Valentine’s Day as it is with Black Friday or Cyber Monday or the weeks prior to Christmas. I do think it presents an opportunity if you can deliver local, same-day service to all those last minute shoppers out there. While many consumers rely on online shopping for gifts and flowers, it does require some advance planning. Local and smaller businesses can win Valentine’s Day by offering something that online companies can’t — whether it’s an in-person experience, same-day availability or customizability.
Harrison: Social buying is picking up steam for retailers, restaurants and more. What are Facebook, Instagram and Twitter doing well to empower brands and what opportunities are marketers missing?
Chemko: My Valentine’s Day gifting has always started with Instagram. I think the platform has been doing a great job giving advertisers an avenue for discovery and personalization, and I see it only getting better. The next step is to identify any friction points to your e-commerce experience, once a user swipes up or clicks on a link. If a consumer sees an ad they like, the brand needs to make sure they usher that person all the way through from click purchase. If your buying process isn’t personal or is overly complicated, you risk losing that sale. Conversion from Instagram sourced leads should be one of the highest goals for your marketing team.
Harrison: What role does personalization play for an opportunity like Valentine’s Day?
Chemko: Past-purchase history is a great opportunity for personalization. A great brand will have records of what the consumer has purchased, what they’ve returned and what’s on their wish list. Consider a gifting journey to take place over several years. Remind the buyer what they bought last year, and make some great suggestions this year to build on a similar theme. For example, if they bought a beginner cookbook this year, perhaps suggest some knives or an herb garden. If they returned silver jewelry and exchanged for gold, make sure your email and social marketing is tailored to those preferences. You know a lot about your customers’ preferences and buying patterns. That information is the key to engaging them again now.
Harrison: What do you think the future holds for Valentine’s Day buying? What innovative brand experiments would help brands win?
Chemko: In the future, small day delivery will be nearly universal. So will a prime gifting experience. There will likely be more and more opportunities for co-branded experiences, like offering a yoga mat that comes with personalized lessons or a blender that comes with a smoothie delivery subscription. Being great at gift suggestions based on a known customer’s past purchase history will become more essential as you work to save the consumer time and to build their trust in your brand.
Harrison: Clearly there are many ways to enhance the Valentine’s Day customer experience; it’s often just a matter of your focus and efforts to reach out appropriately and connect. Just like everyday romance!
February 13, 2019 at 04:40PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs