Ah, Valentine’s Day, the holiday that is simultaneously hated and revered by millions! The holiday that pressures new couples into making grand romantic overtures! The holiday that fosters feelings of inadequacy and loneliness in singles! The holiday that would likely cease to exist if it weren’t for greeting card companies pushing their not-so-hidden agenda of boosting sales – an estimated 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year.
In the 2004 feature film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, the main character says this of Valentine’s Day, “Today is a holiday invented by greeting card companies to make people feel like crap.”
Think I’m being just a touch cynical? Perhaps. Or maybe my attitude is simply reflective of the recent trends we’ve been seeing with regards to this billion-dollar holiday.
I used SimilarWeb to find out what people were searching for this Valentine’s Day (besides true love, of course) and which sites saw the biggest traffic spikes from this quintessential “Hallmark Holiday.”
Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places
Valentine’s Day as a commercial holiday is prevalent primarily in the US, Australia, the UK, and Mexico, but in the past several years it has spread to other countries as well.
According to our data, here are the top 10 countries with the largest amount of traffic to dating sites. As you can see, the top 3 are the United States, Russia, and France.
I also took a look at the top 10 dating websites worldwide, to see how much traffic each was receiving, especially around Valentine’s Day. Since the dating industry is expanding online and grabs substantial amounts of traffic from visitors around the world, it seemed obvious that there would be a big spike in desktop visits.
The majority of the most popular dating websites are from the United States, the country that celebrates Valentine’s Day with perhaps the most gusto. Yet surprisingly there wasn’t much of an increase in traffic around the holiday on any of the dating sites analyzed.
Could it be that people had already found their beloved, so no longer had a need to search for Mr. or Mrs. Right online? Or does this mean that web visitors were looking for quick flings instead of true love on Valentine’s Day? I’ll let you draw your own conclusions on that one.
The Gifts that Keep on Giving…or Not
Next I took a look at jewelry sites, just as certain to find a big spike come Valentine’s Day. What I found was rather anti-climactic.
While there was an increase in traffic for the 3 top US jewelery sites – Jared.com, Kay.com, and Zales.com – this traffic spike is not that substantial – especially if you compare current traffic to what you normally find during the big shopping seasons (ie, Christmas, etc.)
As you can see here from Zales.com, traffic to the site peaked during the winter holiday shopping season (Christmas again). Meanwhile the traffic to the site on Valentine’s Day pales in comparison. This was surprising. Diamonds are forever….apparently love is not.
Next on the Valentine’s Day popular gift checklist was lingerie. I took a look at popular lingerie and clothing retailer Victoria’s Secret, again certain to find a boost in traffic around Valentine’s Day. Again, I was mistaken (yet no less surprised).
So I checked out chocolate and candy. Surely Godiva or Hershey’s or Sees Candies must have seen a traffic spike, right? Wrong. It was business as usual for all three sites, with no noticeable traffic bumps for any of them.
Were people just really not that into Valentine’s Day anymore, despite the hype surrounding the holiday in virtually every aspect of popular culture?
Don’t Worry, Cupid – Someone is Still Benefiting
I knew a lot of people were still buying into the Valentine’s Day hoopla, I just had to find out where they were going. Naturally, I went back to the commercial source: greeting card and flower delivery sites.
Here you can see that traffic to proflowers.com peaked at over half a million desktop visits about a day before Valentine’s Day.
During this period there was a traffic surge of more than 1000% within a few days. The exact same thing happened on 1800flowers.com, another industry leader.
Big spikes in traffic, all around Valentine’s Day. That’s where all those visitors were headed – not to buy lingerie or jewelry or chocolates, but to paper and e-card websites and online florists.
FTD.com, a leading flower and gift delivery service also saw a very nice increase in desktop visits. Edible Arrangements also did well in terms of traffic. The popular company specializes in creating and delivering fruit and candy bouquets, with traffic peaking at 167K visits a few days before February 14th.
Traffic to these sites grows as the holiday approaches. The peak is not on Valentine’s Day, though, but a day or two before when the orders are placed. After all, time is of the essence – you wouldn’t want to upset your significant other with a late edible bouquet!
Greeting card companies also experienced a massive rise in site traffic. The formidable Hallmark company saw traffic jump to 123.7K visits, far surpassing their 45k monthly average by 174%.
Popular e-card site123greetings.com saw an even more drastic change with traffic peaking at over 904k, more than 432% higher than the January monthly average. The best part is that 123greetings is free – so you can send your loved one an e-card at no cost to you. Because while love is priceless, who doesn’t want to save a buck?
Love Still Conquers All, Just Not Super Creatively
Either people are losing interest in Valentine’s Day or they can’t be bothered with ordering pricey gifts. Or perhaps people are getting tired of the pressure to go above and beyond with over the top Valentine’s gifts. It seems most people are simply doing what’s easiest (and often cheapest) – sending flowers and e-cards.
But perhaps this response is appropriate, given the nature of what most people acknowledge is a manufactured holiday. In the end everyone wins – the companies see a big boost in sales or site traffic (or both) and at the very least you have your own heart-shaped red and pink flashing e-card. Sending flowers, paper and e-cards is still a nice gesture, even if it’s a little uninspired. I can’t really think of anyone who doesn’t appreciate a chocolate-dipped fruit bouquet, even this grumbling old cynic.