According to prominent groundhog weather predictors, spring is still some weeks away. However, there's a good chance that love can thaw any chilling effects cold weather may have on consumer's wallets. Several recent surveys and studies suggest customers plan to spend big during the holiday and that now is the time to send out Valentine's Day marketing and advertising.

Early in January the National Retail Federation surveyed 7,277 consumers about their Valentine's Day plans. Their researchers found that consumers are planning to spend near record amounts on gifts, dinners, and other items for the people (and pets) they care about.

U.S. consumers are expected to spend an average $143.56 on Valentine's Day, as 55 percent of the population intends to celebrate it this year, which is an increase from last year's $136.57 average. Total spending is expected to reach $19.6 billion, up from $18.2 billion last year. The numbers are the second highest in the survey's 15-year history, topped only by the record $146.84 and $19.7 billion seen in 2016.

"Americans are looking forward to pampering and indulging their loved ones with flowers, candy, dinner, and all of the other Valentine's Day stops," NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay said in a statement. "With the holidays behind them and the winter months dragging along, consumers are looking for something to celebrate this time of year."

How consumers will spend this money on Valentine's Day may be a little surprising. Apparently, it isn't just for people in love. The NRF study found that many consumers plan to buy gifts for a variety of people. This year's survey found consumers plan to spend an average $88.98 on their significant other/spouse ($12.1 billion); $25.29 on other family members, such as children or parents ($3.5 billion); $7.26 on children's classmates/teachers ($991 million); $7.19 on friends ($982 million); $5.50 on pets ($751 million); and $4.79 on co-workers ($654 million). Those aged 25-34 will be the biggest spenders, at an average of $202.76.

Since Valentine's Day has blossomed into a day with so much gift giving, there are great opportunities for business owners and marketers to reach their target audience, and perhaps even new audiences. Valentine's Day can be a little like Christmas; it may be for people in love, but a good gift can be anything the person likes. So business owners don't have to try too hard to shoehorn love into their marketing. Just letting people know that a restaurant has a good special for two or that a certain item makes a great gift may be all it takes.

One of the ways business owners can take advantage of this planned spending boom is to start early with their Valentine's Day marketing campaign. Most people (or the smart ones, anyway) don't wait until the last minute to make their Valentine's Day plans. This can be seen in how people respond to holiday marketing. According to a recent study by Fishbowl, open rates for emails sent 1-2 weeks in advance of Valentine's Day were 39 percent higher than those sent the week of the holiday.

The Fishbowl study also had some advice on how to get the most from email marketing campaigns during Valentine's Day. According to their report, words that performed highest in email subject lines included "Sweetie," "Sweetheart," and other variations on "sweet," as well as "Love," "Lovers," and "Amore." Similarly, Valentine's Day symbols and emoji also performed well when placed in subject lines.

As the data shows, it's not too late to launch a marketing campaign for Valentine's Day, but time is clearly running out. So if you haven't started your email drive, social-media campaign, or pay-per-click ads, now is the time. And for another interesting marketing study, read this article on the value of personalization for marketing.

Published on: Feb 5, 2018