Valentine's Day Shopping

With the frenzy of the November-December holiday crush still ringing in their ears, many merchants may be tempted to schedule vacations for late January and early February. Those that do so may be missing out on the chance to cash in on what could be the second busiest holiday season of the year.

Valentine's Day is fast approaching, and merchants across the Web have put their ambitious search marketing programs back into action.

Staying in the Game
The stakes may not be quite as high, but the challenges may be even greater -- Valentine's Day sales typically occupy a smaller window, with many taking place at the last minute.

"This is the second-biggest season for a lot of retailers," Rich Riley, general manager and vice president of Yahoo (Nasdaq: YHOO)  Small Business, told the E-Commerce Times. "There are other seasons for shopping and buying, but as a specific holiday, Valentine's [Day] is at the top of the list."

Merchants who successfully capture the most sales possible use the same techniques and tactics as during the holiday season, he added, buying focused search terms, creating gift-buying guides and working to keep customers informed of inventory updates, shipping promotions and other changes.

"It is a fast turnaround from the holidays, no question," Riley said. "But I think if merchants spend a little time planning, they can make it work and have a great month."

The Dally Factor
The challenge of selling mainly to men ratchets up the stakes during the Valentine's season, according to Ray Galeotti, president of EvesAddiction.­com, an online jewelry site.

"That expression -- 'Women rally while men dally' -- is very true," Galeotti told the E-Commerce Times. To combat that reality, the site has tried to ease the decision-making process by creating a gift-guide page aimed at men, with a limited number of items on it.

"You've got to make it easy to use," he stressed. Offering too many items may dilute the effect and keep shoppers from getting closer to making a decision.

Eve's Addiction has also ramped up its targeted search marketing efforts, buying a number of keyword terms, including "girlfriend gift" and "Valentine's gift" and related terms, with strong traffic from those efforts. The site is ready for last-minute sales, Galeotti said.

"One of the accomplishments I'm most proud of is that our peak sales day during Decmeber came on the 19th. We constantly modified our site to reflect the changing time lines and we offered on-time guarantees for last-minute sales" that had extra shipping charges, he pointed out.

"In our category, this is probably the second-most important holiday there is," Galeotti remarked. "We set a date that in mid-January, we'd switch into Valentine's mode. This is an opportunity we can't afford to pass up."

Shave and a Gift Bag
Smart retailers have long known that the holiday season extends well past Christmas, noted Forrester Research analyst Carrie Johnson. This has become especially apparent as gift cards have become increasingly popular, and more shoppers have gone online looking for after-holiday bargains.

"The holidays really continue into the new year," she said. Large retailers have gotten the message: Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN)  has an entire section of its home page set aside for Valentine's Day gift ideas and a search for "Valentine's" on eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY)  returns nearly 14,000 items for sale.

If handled correctly, Valentine's Day can become another extension of that beefed-up holiday season, said Mark Williams, the president of ShavingCream.­com.

"It was a real eye-opener for us last year when the Christmas sales remained strong right through mid-February," he admitted. "I was looking at a graph the other day, and it had a real spike in it centered around Feb. 1."

Williams also added specific V-day terms to his company's holiday and year-round pay-per-click search term arsenals. Some of those terms include references to FedEx as the company's primary shipper, which means that last-minute gifts can be delivered -- at a cost, of course -- in timer to reach their destination before the holiday. 

By Keith Regan
E-Commerce Times

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