Subscription Gifts Challenge ‘Big Bang’ Valentine’s Day Model

Valentine’s Day gift giving has traditionally been about the impact of a one-time gift. Whether it’s flowers or candy that will only last a little while, diamonds that are both forever and a girl’s best friend, or the hand-made card designed to melt the recipient’s heart, gifting has been about making a splash on the big day itself.

This year, however, the growing popularity of subscription retailing is providing competition to the traditional “Big Bang” gifting model for Valentine’s Day. Rather than the splashy one-time present, many shoppers are opting for gifts that keep on giving, month after month.

The subscription management platform Recurly reported a 230% jump in total payment volume (TPB) on Cyber Monday 2015. During the four-day period starting with Black Friday and ending on Cyber Monday, subscription merchants saw same-store sales increases of 70% over the same period the previous year. It’s highly likely that a large portion of this activity was tied to subscription gift-giving, and the company is expecting a similar surge for Valentine’s Day 2016.


The Non-Big Bang Theory

 Subscription retailers pour significant resources into these gift-buying occasions, seeing it as a strong opportunity to win new customers and to bolster long-term business from both gift givers and recipients.

Rocksbox is a premium jewelry subscription service that charges members $19 per month for three pieces of jewelry, which they can either wear once and return or keep for an indefinite period. The retailer has stepped up its product curation and styling guidance for the holiday. Rocksbox has identified personas such as the Hopeful Romantic, the Southern Belle and the Bohemian, to help guide gift-givers about what should go into a gift box that will match the recipient’s taste.

“People are looking at us year-round, but it’s true that the holidays are a huge time for us,” said Maeve Ricaurte, Associate Marketing Manager at Rocksbox.

Guidance For Givers And Recipients

Part of Rocksbox’ service is not just helping identify gifts but also providing members with detailed notes on optimal ways to wear the jewelry they choose. “We’re more educational than we have ever been before, and we’re testing out including images with the notes we provide,” said Ricaurte in an interview with Retail TouchPoints.

Rocksbox relies on a range of sources for both product and presentation ideas. “We use input from our own stylists, but we also leverage input from our 4,000 Instagram bloggers,” said Ricaurte. These shoppers take pictures of themselves modeling different pieces of Rocksbox jewelry in a variety of settings and accompanying various outfits and accessories.

For this holiday, “we selected a few social media mavens/influencers and sent them some jewelry samples” to elicit feedback, said Ricaurte. “While it’s too early to say this is definitely a cause and effect, we think people will be choosing items that they might not normally have selected because they like the way an Instagram blogger wears it.”

Of course, the danger of giving a subscription gift for Valentine’s Day is that the gift may last longer than the relationship. But what’s love without some risk?

Plenty of consumers will be focusing their spending on the big day itself. In fact, 54.8% of consumers surveyed by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Prosper Insight and Analytics said they will celebrate Valentine’s Day, spending an average of $146.84 on flowers, jewelry, candy, apparel and other items. This represents an increase over last year’s average of $142.31, and the NRF survey projects total spending will reach $19.7 billion, a survey high.

Respondents identified their favored shopping destinations for Valentine’s Day purchases, with consumers saying they would visit:

• Department stores: 34.5%

• Discount stores: 31%

• Online: 27.9%

• Florists: 19.4%

• Specialty stores: 19.1%

• Local small business: 15.4% 

Help For Procrastinators

For retailers that have put off their Valentine’s Day planning until the last minute, there may still be time to put together promotions by leveraging social media. Following are some resources:

• Last-Minute Social Media Marketing Ideas from CyberAlert;

• Promotion Ideas For Clothing Retailers; and

Facebook Promotion Ideas.

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