COVID might be in the air, but that doesn’t mean love isn’t. 59% of UK and U.S. internet users plan on buying a Valentine’s Day gift this year, with U.S. consumer spending predicted to reach over $21 billion.

Using data from our Core dataset, and a Zeitgeist survey fielded in January, we look to find out:

  • How is Valentine’s Day becoming more inclusive, and what does this mean for brands?
  • What can pre-pandemic behaviors tell us about celebrations this year, and the future of the holiday?
  • Is Valentine’s Day spending set to shift in 2021?

Valentine’s is for everyone.

Valentine’s Day has been changing for some time. It’s not just a holiday for couples anymore; it’s an opportunity to celebrate relationships of all kinds.

Couples and spouses are still central to the holiday – 89% say they celebrate Valentine’s – but in our most recent wave of Zeitgeist research, we found 44% of single, widowed or divorced internet users intend to purchase a gift this Valentine’s Day. 

This should serve as a reminder for brands to encourage singletons to look after themselves too. Wellness brands can score a win here by aligning with alternative Valentine’s holidays, ensuring  no-one gets left behind.

Brands are growing more aware of this, and haven’t shied away from subverting traditional Valentine’s Day messaging. Nina Ricci, for example, is spotlighting the importance of friendships via the hashtag #MyBestValentine, while “Galentine’s Day” – held on February 13th – celebrates female accomplishments as well as romantic relationships.

Normal Valentine’s celebrations are expected to endure.

For many, a stay-at-home Valentine’s may be the only option, but our data suggests couples are already comfortable with this eventuality.

Assuming the COVID-19 pandemic wasn’t an issue, UK and U.S. couples generally consider going to a restaurant their ideal way to celebrate Valentine’s day, with 46% of couples saying this. 

While a national lockdown means UK couples will likely be confined to their homes, the prominence of at-home activities, such as cooking a meal or ordering a takeaway, suggests the pandemic is likely to have little impact on their Valentine’s Day plans.

The situation is similar in the U.S. where, despite a lack of widespread lockdowns, cooking at home leads against all other potential activities we track – with the exception of going to a restaurant, something that’s likely to remain an option for couples in this market.

COVID-19 is still likely to impact U.S. Valentine’s plans. Indoor dining was paused in NYC throughout January, for example, but a February 14th re-opening offers hope for restaurants – even if this means operating at 25% capacity.

Over 1 in 3 couples would normally eat at a restaurant on Valentine’s, but over half of all internet users are still uncomfortable about indoor dining. 

If businesses are to ease these concerns, they must remember to prioritize typical safety precautions – mask-wearing, social distancing and outdoor dining (where possible).

For many, matters will need to be taken into their own hands.

Google searches are congested with “ideas for Valentine’s at home”; and while not a complete remedy, brands, retailers and businesses will need to consider how they can help in doing this.

The only real exception here, of course, is travel. UK and U.S. respondents will be hard-pressed to get away this year, but the ones really missing out are 16-24s, who are 48% more likely to say they would celebrate in this way.

Travel brands should keep an eye on these younger couples and how they’re potentially driving a major trend of romantic getaways in the future, particularly as demand for vacations builds up.

Elsewhere, restaurants have more clear-cut solutions; likely to rely on delivery services in place of their usual Valentine’s bookings. 

There’s been a huge increase in takeaway ordering since the pandemic began.

4 in 10 UK and U.S. internet users now order takeaways every month, a 19% increase since Q4 2019. 

As a result, this could potentially lead to some serious wait times on the night – there’s long-term advocacy at stake here, meaning restaurants need to be prepared.

What’s more, around 3 in 10 UK and U.S. couples tend to cook at home on Valentine’s Day. Businesses in the hospitality industry have a chance to capitalize on this by promoting meal-kits and recipes – a short-term solution at the moment, but something that may become a mainstay for restaurants down the line.

For bars, home brewing or cocktail making kits might offer a similar solution. This is a great way to connect with LGBTQ+ audiences, who in ordinary circumstances are 80% more likely to celebrate the holiday by going to a bar.

Alcohol brands have been vanguards of these groups in the past, but with the potential loss of bars (traditionally safe spaces) this year, they have a chance to step up. It’s easy to replace the drinks, but by supporting values of safety and community, they can show continued support when it really matters.

A little love for local businesses.

Among those celebrating Valentine’s Day, 75% say they intend to purchase a gift for the holiday.

Gift buyers are more likely to be male, with Gen Z and millennials representing the most prominent generations in this audience.

This has implications for how marketers should approach this romantic season; Gen Z and millennials who celebrate V’s Day are particularly encouraged by exclusive content, click and collect delivery, and social media purchase options – particularly when products come recommended.

Brands should already be strengthening their online toolset to better accommodate these people. It’s worth noting that U.S. users will have more freedom of choice when it comes to shopping this year, while UK consumers and retailers see another seasonal event curtailed by lockdown.

Our data confirms the wider push for consumers supporting small businesses or staying local – something courier services and logistics partners are also positioned to assist with.

Gift buyers in the U.S. and UK are more likely to shop here than in shopping centers or malls – marking also the first time that small businesses list among the top five Valentine’s Day shopping destinations, according to the National Retail Federation.

Going up against bigger retailers will still be a challenge, but the inclusivity of a modern Valentine’s means more reason to personalize gifts. Stores working hard to offer something unique that can’t be found at larger retailers will be at a significant advantage. 

1 in 5 UK and U.S. internet users, who celebrate Valentine’s Day, say brands should offer personalized products.

Businesses may want to lean on creatives here, supporting one another to produce customized products. Card manufacturer Thortful, for example, relies on a community of independent designers to cater its wares for consumers – offering a more personalized touch that bigger retailers will struggle to match.

Key takeaways

If brands are to get all the love this Valentine’s Day, they’ll need to keep the following in mind:

  • This is a holiday for everyone.  It’s not just couples celebrating Valentine’s Day. Brands can promote celebrations for all types of relationships – not just romantic ones. 
  • Celebrations won’t be put on hold. Our data confirms the pandemic is unlikely to drastically change Valentine’s plans, but some will still miss out. Brands need to consider how popular activities can be recreated at home – and what their role in assisting this can be.
  • Future Valentine’s trends are in motion. Valentine’s is a test for hospitality brands to really show how they’ve adapted in the pandemic. Travel companies may soon become major players as younger couples show a greater interest in romantic getaways during the holiday.
  • A big push for local. Online gift buying is still the preferred method, but gift buyers are likely to support small or local businesses too. With a greater emphasis on the individual this year, small businesses that showcase personal, exclusive wares will be best placed to compete.
Click to access our connecting the dots 2021 report

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