Happy (almost) Valentine’s Day, retailers! Since the day of hearts is upon us, we thought it’s high time to remind merchants about the things they can do to spread the love. You don’t have to be in flowers or gifts industry to show your V-Day spirit. As you’ll see below, there are many things you can do around February 14 (or any day, for that matter) to show your customers and staff how much you love them.
Here are some ideas:
1. Find Valentine’s Day sales opportunities
This is the first consumer holiday of the year, so if you felt business slow down from the Christmas season, Valentine’s Day could be just the thing to give your company a boost.
Use this holiday to find sales opportunities. If it makes sense for your business, stock up on products that are commonly purchased for Valentine’s Day. These include jewelry, greeting cards, candies, or flowers.
It’s also important to remember that Valentine’s Day isn’t just about “stuff.” A lot of consumers tend to treat their loved ones to experiences such as dinner at a romantic restaurant or a movie night.
With that in mind, consider partnering with a local restaurant or theater this February. Perhaps you can offer show tickets or gift certificates as part of a Valentine’s Day promotion.
2. Get busy with email marketing
Whatever type of business, there’s bound to be a Valentine’s Day spin that you can take advantage of in your email marketing. Here are a few ideas:
a. Position your products as a unique, non-typical Valentine’s Day Gift
Not selling romantic or gift-centric products? See if you can market them for Valentine’s Day anyway. Consider what BirchboxMan is doing: rather than trying to sell “typical” V-Day gifts, the company is positioning their product as a unique and non-cliche gift for Valentine’s Day, using the slogan “better than melted chocolate.”
b. Encourage customers to treat themselves
Another great angle for Valentine’s Day? Encourage shoppers to buy gifts for themselves. Have a look at what Kate Spade is doing. In anticipation of Valentine’s Day, the retailer sent out an email promoting their personalized merchandise and encouraging customers to give themselves a well-deserved treat.
c. Find a Valentine’s Day angle for your merchandise
Try to find ways to infuse your products with the spirit of Valentine’s Day. Check out Apple’s V-Day campaign this year. While electronics aren’t inherently romantic, Apple made it work by highlighting the many ways that their products can make your loved ones smile.
3. Have your employees nominate memorable customers (then give them a special treat)
Consider giving out awards or special treats to your best customers. But instead of just looking at sales data, identify these customers using more qualitative ways. Check out what Egencia (Expedia’s corporate travel arm) did during its customer appreciation effort for Valentine’s Day last year.
Egencia had its travel agents nominate customers to receive a Starbucks gift card, and they had their staff explain their reasons behind their nominations.
For instance, one client was nominated because they remained patient with their travel agent despite being stranded. Another client got a nomination simply because the agent enjoyed working with them.
Once the nominations were in, Egencia got in touch with the customers to send them their gift cards. The great thing about the effort is that instead of just giving away the Starbucks cards, Egencia took things a little ways further by actually telling their customers why they were nominated.
“I had just planned on reaching out to the customer and not sharing why they were nominated,” Cate Vanasse, Egencia’s Senior Marketing Manager told Marketing Sherpa. “But as I started to look through the reasons why travel consultants nominated someone, it was so touching that we just knew we had to put that in front of the customer.”
According to her, that human element went a long way with their customers and Egencia got a lot of great feedback because of it.
4. Support a charity or local group
Here’s an idea: Find a way to show your customers how much you appreciate them by supporting a charity or group that they love. That what Pop & Ice Cream, a small business marketing and consulting firm is doing.
“At Popcorn & Ice Cream, we’re all about showing customers the love all year round and that includes Valentine’s Day!” says Hillary Berman, Founder and Small Business Fanatic at the company.
“For the past two years, we’ve sent our clients, as well as company partners and friends a box of Girl Scout Cookies with a note wishing them a ‘sweet’ Valentine’s Day. They absolutely love the surprise and that we’re supporting our local troop at the same time.”
Why not do something similar in your business? Give your best customers a token by sourcing it from a charity or group close to their heart. This will enable you to kill two birds with one stone: you’ll spread the love to customers while supporting a worthwhile cause at the same time.
5. Give your employees a valentine’s day treat
Don’t forget your employees this Valentine’s Day. You may want to give them a special V-Day treat to show your appreciation. Doing so will not only delight them, but you can bet that they’ll be so pleased, they’ll pass the love along to your customers.
Note that what you choose to do doesn’t have to be a big, expensive gesture. On his blog, Customer Service Expert Shep Hyken writes that businesses can delight employees just by offering a special lunch or dessert. “How about a heart shaped cake. Just something to put a smile on everyone’s faces and put them in a great mood for the day. Happy employees lead to happy customers!”
6. Hold an event
Valentine’s season gives you a great excuse to throw a party. Why not hold a customer appreciation event and treat your best patrons to free food and a good time? You can even run a special sale while you’re at it.
That’s what NRG Salon Spa in Ontario did. In 2013, they threw a “Be Mine” customer appreciation event that included drinks, desserts, flowers, and 15% off all their services.
See if you can do something similar in your shop. If you’re an apparel retailer, for instance, maybe you can hold a fashion show coupled with a special Valentine’s Day sale.
7. Be romantic, but still be you
A good way to generate that “awww” factor without being lame is to incorporate love into the unique aspects of your company. Steer clear of teddy bears and candy hearts because these things probably don’t have anything to with your business (unless you’re a toy or candy company, of course). Instead, find ways to be romantic while still being YOU.
Case in point: Check out this adorable ad by WiseUp Language School that reads, “Love is the language that unites people. English is what translates.”
Through the campaign, WiseUp managed to celebrate love while promoting its services at the same time. Strive to do something similar in your business.
8. Celebrate different kinds of love
Valentine’s Day isn’t just about romance. A lot of people celebrate their affection for family and friends during this time of the year, so don’t forget to highlight those types of love as well.
For example, if you’re running a special offer for Valentine’s Day, see to it that it’s something that all your customers can enjoy.
Consider what Qdoba Mexican Grill did for Valentine’s Day in 2012. The restaurant encouraged its customers to share the love on February 14 through a creative Buy One Get One offer. To participate, customers had to buy one entrée and share a kiss with a significant other, relative, friend, or even a stranger–and Qdoba gave them a second entrée for free.
The promotion was a hit and it allowed Qdoba customers to celebrate love (whether it’s for a significant other, friend, or relative) while enjoying a free meal at the same time.
9. Market according to gender
Remember that men and women have different purchasing habits during the Valentine’s season. Men for instance, tend to spend more than women. According to a study by SurveyMonkey, “men reported that they’ll spend $100 on their significant other, while women said they’ll spend $50. And when it comes to how much men and women expect their significant other to spend on them? Men expect to receive gifts totalling $5 and women expect $50.”
Keep these distinctions in mind when implementing your V-Day campaigns. For example, if you’re sending marketing emails or newsletters for Valentine’s Day, make sure to segment your list by gender and send different emails to each group.
If you have any data on your site visitors, tailor your landing pages by displaying different recommendations and content for the two genders.
10. Inject humour
There isn’t a shortage of jokes around February 14, so don’t be afraid to use them, especially on social sites. Give your fans and customers a laugh by poking fun at Valentine’s Day. Comedians always have something to say this time of the year, so feel free to share their clips or jokes on your Facebook page or blog.
You can also check out Someecards.com and share (or create) hilarious V-Day cards like the one above.
11. Read your customers before approaching them
Instead of acting all perky with everyone on Valentine’s Day, instruct your associates to get a feel of each customer’s mood before talking to them.
Research has shown that being friendly and happy may not always be the best way to approach consumers. When a shopper is in a bad mood, they won’t be inclined to make a purchase in a happy environment.
So this Valentine’s Day, pay extra attention to the non-verbal cues of your customers. If a shopper looks happy and excited, then it’s okay to be friendly and chatty. However, if someone is in a bad mood, it’s best to be sympathetic or even a little reserved. Instead of rushing in to chat and assist them, give them some space. Acknowledge their presence, and then gently remind them that you’ll be around to help in case they need anything.
Bonus: Use Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to evaluate your customer relationships
Valentine’s is a great season to remind business that they’re actually in a relationship with their customers. As Eoghan McCabe, co-founder and CEO of Intercom, puts it, “Many people use this time of year to reflect on their relationships with those most important to them- their loved ones. It’s also a good time for businesses to think about their relationships with those most valuable to them- their customers!”
One of his top tips for doing this is to treat each customer as the unique individuals they are. “You wouldn’t talk to a new girl/boyfriend the same way as one you’ve dated for years, and you wouldn’t talk to that quiet accountant like you would that partying yoga instructor. Likewise, with your customers, don’t use a one-size-fits-all communication strategy; personalize your customer communications based on their history with your company, use of your product, and other factors.”
Erin Raese, President and COO of Loyalty360, echoes this and adds that businesses should recognize customers and show their appreciation in customized way. “As in any relationship, recognition is key. Recognize your best customers; let them know that you know they’re patronizing,” she says.
“This can be done in many ways depending on your existing strategies, you can just say thank you via a handwritten letter, a personal phone call or even an email or text. The more personal the channel the better.”
Can’t implement these right away? Recycle them for another occasion
The tips above may be Valentine-centric, but with a few tweaks, you can easily recycle these initiatives for other occasions. Events, for example, can be hosted around just about any holiday or noteworthy situation (there’s always a reason to throw a party!); and there’s never really a bad time to surprise or delight your employees.
So whether you’re reading this on Valentine’s Day, Christmas, or just a “normal” day of the year, always keep customer love top of mind and continuously find ways to express it.
Have you shown customers how much you love them lately? Are you planning to? Tell us about your efforts in the comments.
Looking for more insights to help you engage and sell to customers on Valentine’s Day (and beyond)? Check out Vend’s Sales Guide, and learn the 10 proven techniques to increase sales in your retail store.
In this resource, you will learn how to:
- Optimize your store design for maximum sales
- Set yourself apart from your closest competitors
- Add real and perceived value to each sale
About Francesca Nicasio
Francesca Nicasio is Vend's Retail Expert and Content Strategist. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and be more awesome overall. She's also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+.