Commentary

Valentine's Day Brings Channels Together

While waiting 30 minutes for a quick oil change at Valvoline Instant Oil Change last week, I noticed this could be the only brand with “Val” in its name that hasn’t tied the letters into a Valentine’s Day promotion. Maybe they should!

It is the season and Valentine’s Day sales reached an all-time high of $19.7 billion in 2016, per the National Retail Federation. This year the NRF forecasts a slight decline to $18.2 billion. 

Among its predictions, NRF says more will enjoy meals at home than dinners out. Nearly 25% (more heavily weighted by younger customers 34 and under) intend to celebrate the holiday by sharing an experience, say theater tickets or a one-hour lesson in Glassblowing, followed by chocolate in Brooklyn.

The NPD Group also forecast a flat outlook for restaurant industry traffic this Valentine’s Day.

“It’s just a battle for share. More restaurants than visitors,” Bonnie Riggs, NPD restaurant industry analyst, told Nation’s Restaurant News. “We need to keep in mind that competition is no longer just restaurant competitors. It has become a very fragmented market, and consumers have many options available to them to obtain a prepared meal.”

NPD expects traffic at quick-service restaurants to grow 1% this year, while traffic at dine-in locations will fall 2%. Currently, the majority of restaurant visits go to limited-service concepts.

“I really believe [innovation] to be the overarching theme,” Riggs said. “It is going to take creativity, uniqueness and staying ahead of the curve in terms of technology platforms.”

Gourmet food service Blue Apron offers a “Love at First Bite” promotion suggesting customers consider their all-ingredients-in-a-box home delivery service instead of going out to a restaurant.

Expect to see fewer physical cards and more digital greetings such as the emoji Dunkin’ Donuts is offering on Snapchat.

Ranked high on our personal favorites list is  “Name a Roach” with the Bronx Zoo offering an official certificate for $10, or certificate with chocolates for $35. The packages featuring plush insects are sold out.

Valentine’s Day is not just a couples’ thing anymore and Increasing numbers of single people celebrate Feb. 14, buying gifts for their pets.

Petco reminds visitors to its Web site “Don’t forget your real true love this Valentine’s Day” with deals on Valentine’s toys, treats and more in-store. Click through, however, and you are greeted by a standard navigation page, which requires going three levels deep. There is the opportunity, though, to get one-hour delivery.

It was also adopt-a-pet weekend on Feb. 11 and 12, a reason to bring prospective new customers to retail locations.

At Amazon, Valentine’s Day is front and center with “Valentine’s Day Made Easier” and the option for free 1-day shipping for Prime customers. All the products displayed for me were Amazon technology.

Valassis issued a release calling Valentine’s Day a critical holiday for ensuring customer retention. “To win, marketers must be on top of their game. Basic segmentation is no longer enough,” said Curtis Tingle, chief marketing officer for Valassis.

According to Valassis, 55% of consumers visited a store, restaurant or business after getting an offer on their smartphone/tablet when near the location, according to the 2016 RedPlum Purse String Survey.

Marketers need to focus on personalization, relevant deals, and local targeting, he said. What innovation have you seen this Valentine’s Day season? Please share what caught your eye. 

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