reporter's notebooks in a trash can

BloomReach Relevance Report: Valentine’s Day shopping data edition

Industrial Mop bucket

 

Listen up, significant others of other significant people: When it comes to Valentine’s Day, you’re falling down on the job.

OK, not completely. The National Retail Federation says you still spent in the neighborhood of $18.2 billion on the day of gift-giving that there is really no way around. But that is down from nearly $20 billion in 2016, according to the NRF, which relies on an annual consumer survey conducted before Valentine’s Day.

“Valentine’s Day continues to be a popular gift-giving occasion even if consumers are being more frugal this year,” NRF CEO Matthew Shay said in a written statement.

Frugal. Sounds so much better than cheap. “I wanted to get you that diamond anniversary ring, honey, but I was being frugal. I’m saving money for both of us, really.”

Anyway, at the BRRR, we’ve always found how we spend money and when to be every bit as interesting as how much. The types of gifts that Valentine’s Day shoppers spent on is hardly a shocker. The NRF says the love-struck shelled out for candy, cards, a night out, flowers, jewelry, clothes and gift cards — in that order.

Greeting cards were No. 2? Really people?

Anyway, the BRRR took a look at BloomReach customer data across our e-commerce customers and found that folks really got serious about Valentine’s Day shopping — about 24 hours before the big day.

Chart of overall conversion on Valentine's Day

Overall digital purchases on Feb. 13, also know as Holy Crap tomorrow is Valentine’s Day Day, were at a high for the month. The day racked up 39.2 percent more conversions that the February day with the fewest conversions. What day was that? Feb. 5, which was Super Bowl Sunday.

Super Bowl Sunday. Think of it as the anti-Valentine’s Day.

But, of course, data-wise, looking at all BloomReach retail customers gives us millions of data points when it comes to conversions, but it also introduces some noise.

You could make the argument that people buy all sorts of things for the ones they love on Valentine’s Day. (The BRRR looks back fondly on the mid-February day some years ago when our love presented us with one of those big mop buckets on wheels. Que romantico!)

But the truth is, some BloomReach customers tend to feature products that would be considered more traditional Valentine’s Day gifts. And so we thought it would make sense to look at a subset of customers that shoppers would be likely to turn to for Valentine’s Day gifts.

Yes, there is a certain subjectivity involved.

That said, looking at the subset presents us with the notion that there might well be two types Valentine’s Day gift buyers: The planners and the panic-ers. We’d thought about calling them the thoughtful and the last-minute grabbers, but it sounds so judgy.

We mean, what’s wrong with being that love-struck Romeo or Juliet standing in the Safeway line at 6 p.m. on Valentine’s Day with a bouquet of $20 roses that looks like it’s been through the spin cycle?

Anyway, a look at traffic to e-commerce sites aligned with Valentine’s Day shows a significant spike on Feb. 7, one week ahead of the holiday. (Thanks Google Calendar notifications!) And it shows another spike on Feb. 13., which is, well, the day before Valentine’s Day.

Chart of Feb. 2017 site visits

In fact, Feb. 13 has just a slight edge in traffic over Feb. 7, but both are well beyond any other day in February.

And while the visits a week before and a day before are quite similar, there is strong evidence that many of those looking on Feb. 7, held off on buying. A comparison of conversion rates, a way to look at web traffic compared to purchases, shows a much lower rate on Feb. 7 — less than half — compared to Feb. 13.

conversion rate in Feb. 2017, graph

Another strong indicator of buyer intent — the browse vs. buy index — also shows that Feb. 13 is the day that buyers get serious. And Feb. 7? Not so much. But it introduces a little encouragement for those who think last-minute shopping indicates a certain lack of sincerity.

The browse vs. buy index considers the average number of products that were viewed for each purchase on a given day. The thinking is that the more products viewed, the weaker the intent to actually purchase.

It turns out that on Feb. 7, shoppers looked at 29 products for every purchase. On the day before Valentine’s Day, the number was less than half that — 14, to be exact. That’s interesting as far as it goes, but the romantic in us would like to offer a defense of the Feb. 7 browsers.

Graph of browse vs. buy behavior in February
Couldn’t it be that they were simply being more thoughtful — considering one gift and then another before pulling the trigger? Hey, we can dream.

Speaking of pulling the trigger, what did buying behavior look like in the two weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day, when we narrow our data down to retailers that seem a good fit for Valentine’s Day shopping?

It turns out that there was a huge spike in purchases on the day before Valentine’s Day. (Stop us if you’ve heard this one before.) In fact, the number of purchases on the day before Valentine’s Day reached 8½ times the number on the day in February (so far) with the lowest number of purchases.

Daily online conversions in February chart

And so Valentine’s Day, it seems, exposes not only the most human of emotions, but perhaps the most human of habits.

You think there’s any chance they’ll rename it Procrastination Day? It’s got a nice ring.

Mop bucket photo by Terry Ross published under Creative Commons license.

Mike Cassidy is BloomReach’s storyteller. Contact him at mike.cassidy@bloomreach.com. Follow him on Twitter at @mikecassidy.