Marketers have been told to tread carefully around Valentine’s Day (February 14) as commercial interest in the event appears to be waning.  

A study by RadiumOne includes analysis of 2.1 million online purchases during a two-week period, and 250,000 pieces of Valentine’s Day and gift-related content shared online the last two months.

Of the consumers answering to a survey from the group, nearly a quarter (24%) feel the date is over-commercialised. A further 24% don’t want to feel ‘forced’ to celebrate.

Odds are really stacked against marketers, with just 14% of UK consumers reporting positivity about the day.

“The commercialisation and sense of obligation means marketers must be far smarter about how they promote Valentine’s Day to avoid alienating consumers further,” says Rupert Staines, RadiumOne’s European managing director.

Last minute, on mobile

The consumers that are buying into February 14, however, are increasingly doing it last minute, and choosing to do so on a mobile device.

While just under half (49%) owned up to using a mobile device in the research and purchase process, 27% claimed to use a smartphone or tablet exclusively for research, and 19% for purchases.

The majority of consumers (71%) don’t start planning for the day until February, up 6% since last year, while a third (35%) leave this until the week prior.

Making things more difficult for marketers is the fact that Valentine’s and gift-related content activity rises from February 11 and peaks on the day itself, but nearly three quarters (73%) of this happens in ‘dark social’, on email, IM and forums.

‘Easy wins’

Staines comments that there are three “easy wins” for marketers looking to address a waning interest in Valentine’s.

“Understand the role of different devices in planning and purchasing, be aware you have right up until the day itself to make your moves and ensure you have visibility into dark social, as you could be missing 75% of leads available to you.”

Gift spend on Valentine’s this year is tipped to fall by an overall 3% to £908.2 million, with restaurants and travel companies impacted the worst. RadiumOne reports that “a meal out and a night away” both see the biggest decrease (8%) in purchases.