Love May Be in the Air, But It's Not in the Inbox

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ICE melts consumers with hearty payoffs.
ICE melts consumers with hearty payoffs.

Folks at the Adobe Digital Index expect Americans to spend in excess of $500 million dollars online on flowers, jewelry, and candy for their sweethearts by day's end today—and that's only counting e-coms that focus on Valentine's Day gift categories. Much more will be spent on the sites of mass merchants the likes of Target and Walmart.

Whether consumers show their love by spending with the big boys or specialty retailers is often determined by emails received on desktops or mobile devices—an especially important channel direct marketers capitalizing on this day famous for last-minute flower deliveries.

Jim Davidson, manager of marketing research for email marketing provider Bronto, may be one of those last-minute Valentine purchasers, delayed by his email obsession:  In search of shifting marketing trends for what he calls this “non-anchor holiday” he opened and personally reviewed more than 2,000 Valentine's day emails this week from among 350,000 campaigns monitored by Bronto.

All this week leading up to today, emails promoting flowers, jewelry, and other Cupiditous fare spiked to as high as 8% of total email volume. Yet there's a little less love in the air (or the inbox) this week than there was exactly one year ago. On February 5, only 11% of retailer emails received carried Valentine's Day themes, versus 14% on that day in 2012. On the 9th it dipped to 6%, compared to 13% last year. Is love leaking out of the world? (See chart.)  Say it ain't so, Jim!

“Valentine's Day themes dipped this year, but I think it's been because of more competition from other events like Super Bowl, Mardi Gras, and Chinese New Year,” Davidson says. “It's year of the snake and we've seen a good amount of snake-themed emails. Other Chinese New Years haven't had this effect. There's something about snakes that seems to excite pop culture.”

Pumped up by marketers this year, however, was the use of heart symbols in email subject lines. Eight percent of emails received on February 8 had a heart, as opposed to none last year.  “Use of the heart special character is an ongoing buzz among marketers,” Davidson notes. “Are they effective but corny?  Are people too used to them?”

“Free” and “shipping” were the two most-used words in emails over the past few weeks, followed by “save.”  The most popular percentages of savings offered were 25% and 20%, though Davidson noticed a significant increase in emails offering 50% off, a phenomenon he surmises is due to excess Christmas inventory at many retailers.

Davidson singled out a handful of campaigns for creative honors this year:

Willow Ridge:  The number 14 is commonly employed in V-Day appeals, and this apparel retailer promoted 2-cent shipping, as well as 14% off all orders, encrypting its offers with the full date of 2/14.

Uncommon Goods:  Tomorrow, all gift purchases effectively cease, so no retailers ever use the 15th in emails. But true to its name this e-com used the headline “February 15th Is Not So Romantic” to urge people to order early.

ICE: This jewelry retailer used the heart symbol to the max, playing the popular mystery coupon game by having consumers click on one of six hearts to win up to a 30% discount.

See the slideshow above for examples of more heartwarming email creative.

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