February 14 is a day for expressing love, finding your match, and celebrating—or despising—your relationship status. For retailers and brands, Valentine’s Day usually means wooing shoppers with all things red, pink, floral, shiny, and sweet in an effort to profit from the proposition of love.
Brands and retailers should instead consider new ways to transform the shopping experience into one that facilitates authentic connections. That will in turn grow shopper love and loyalty, and is more likely to appeal to the younger Millennial audience.
Here are a few suggestions on ways to create moments of connection for shoppers:
Drive traffic by giving shoppers more ways to shop for love at your store
Starbucks and Match.com are offering people a new opportunity at Valentine’s Day love over coffee with a special “Meet At Starbucks” section on Match’s mobile app. Additionally, Starbucks is customizing the in-store experience with “The World’s Largest Starbucks Date” on February 13th when customers can enjoy special coffee and treat menu pairings.
Grocery, mass, or drug retailers could consider converting key sections of their stores—such as wine, deli, or beauty departments—into matchmaking destinations where shoppers can find the right product for the occasion and make a personal connection with someone.
Expand your beliefs on how to bring calendar occasions to life
Shoppers are trained to expect seasonally relevant messages and offers—which means they are also desensitized to seasonal promotions. Understand how your shopper target relates to the season and create new expressions of the holiday to capture their attention and differentiate from the competition. For Valentine’s Day, think of love beyond traditional romance and expand into “love for activities” or things that can tie into product categories.
For example, Petco believes Valentine’s Day isn’t just for couples—pets deserve love too! In fact, the National Retail Federation estimates that $815 million will be spent this year for Valentine’s Day for pets. Messaging such as “Love your pet” are featured online and in-store with Valentine’s Day-themed merchandize for pet owners to celebrate the holiday differently. Retailers in other channels can extend love for pets in their pet care departments.
Allow shoppers to customize the way they express their love
Think Share A Coke. Shoppers love the personalization of Share A Coke cans whether they get their own name or a title as “Friend” or “Star” because it makes them, and their loved ones, feel more special. Rather than simply providing a ready-to-go bundled solution (though that has merits in the right context), consider offering retail stations where shoppers can mix and match products to customize their gift. This could be done across multiple categories to express different layers of love—family, friendship, or romance, etc.
Leverage existing behaviors to inspire meaningful connections in-store and out
The Atlanta Hawks recently launched “Swipe Right Night,” an in-arena experience that facilitates a fun matchmaking experience for fans using the Tinder mobile app. Fans who both “swipe right” (expressing interest) can meet at designated meet-up destinations —conveniently located near vendor stands to facilitate purchasing drinks and food as the potential love connection blossoms. This is a great example of leveraging shoppers’ existing digital behaviors (Tinder) to create a fun experience that also drives more traffic and sales. Consider your audience and identify tactics and behaviors that would be most relevant for creating connections for them in-store and out.
All of these actions have something in common: They bring consumers front and center, leveraging partnerships and custom experiences in order to facilitate meaningful connections people will remember, share, and return for more. Instead of sitting back and doing the same thing that consumers have been seeing for years, creating unique, authentic and share-worthy experiences resonates harder with people.
Monica Raugitinane is a senior strategist at Momentum Atlanta