With the holidays barely in the rearview mirror, there’s no time for UK advertisers and publishers to rest: Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. Those who want to ensure consumers purchase everything they need for this heartfelt day and boost revenues in a heartbeat need to start preparing ad campaigns and content now to stay ahead of the competition.
As we head into our second Valentine’s Day spent in the pandemic, not much has changed when we compare the state of the world in February 2021 with February 2022.
While new COVID-19 variants are crushing dreams of romantic getaways, UK e-commerce brands and publishers in the fashion, beauty, food, and lifestyle verticals have an opportunity to kick off 2022 with a bang.
In this post, we’ll take a look at how UK consumers behaved last year with the pandemic in full swing. We’ll dig into Taboola’s data to uncover the UK content trends and products that dominated Valentine’s Day 2021 and see what this year holds.
Then we’ll help you get ready to crush it this year with campaign optimization tips and tricks so you can become Cupid and shoot your advertising campaign arrows straight into the hearts of consumers.
2021: Valentine’s Day in Lockdown
Last year wasn’t all doom and gloom for UK-based online retailers. While Valentine’s Day 2021 saw a 36% decline in spending, some 70% of Brits did celebrate the holiday in one way or another.
Consumers still spent £926 million, much of which went to online retailers. Gen Z spent the most on average on gifts (£41), followed by Millennials (£32), with the Silent Generation spending the least (£10). Consumers generally opted for smaller gifts, and those who lived together spent time cooking, watching a rom-com, and enjoying each other’s company inside.
To understand what drove consumers to open their wallets, we’ve sifted through Skimlinks and Taboola data from 2021, revealing the trends that mattered most.
2021 Valentine’s Day Content & Traffic
As we analyzed the data, four trends emerged around the types of content that piqued consumer interest. Some topics are pretty typical for Valentine’s Day, while others reflect the odd times of the pandemic.
Love was in the air, and so was the never-ending quest for advice, namely advice about what to gift that special someone. As we’ve seen with other major holidays, gift guides attracted significant attention.
Gift guides are packed full of ideas for every type of relationship consumers have: things to buy their partner and best friend (including the furry four-legged kind), plus gifts for their family and themselves.
With lockdowns limiting activity choices and the typical romantic restaurant date off the table, articles that highlighted at-home restaurant experiences and alternative ways to celebrate earned a high number of clicks. It seems the old saying that the best way to the heart is through the stomach was a mantra of Valentine’s Day 2021.
As most Valentine’s Day celebrations tend to end in the bedroom, it should come as no surprise that posts showcasing women’s lingerie deals were popular. Never one to miss an opportunity, mega-celebrity Kim Kardashian launched a Valentine’s Day campaign for her Skims brand featuring herself and two of her sisters.
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Another hot trend was content featuring holiday offers from sex toy merchant Lovehoney. Publishers and e-commerce brands that joined Lovehoney’s affiliate marketing program went all out, promoting the brand’s deals and cashing in on extra revenue. (Take a cue from them and sign up for the 2022 program!)
See how Cosmopolitan UK promoted Lovehoney’s products in multiple articles across its website:
Some people love the traditions associated with holidays and, in the face of the pandemic, a little feeling of the familiar went a long way. Timeless classics that indulged the senses, including flowers and chocolates, made a strong showing in top posts as many looked to send these easy-to-buy-online gifts to loved ones.
Traffic: When Did UK Consumers Start Shopping?
Consumers started hunting for Valentine’s Day gifts towards the end of January. Our traffic data shows a mid-week spike during the last week of January, followed by a slight dip over the weekend.
Consumers were back to ordering gifts a few days into February, with the most significant spike in traffic happening on the 9th of the month, a date representing a 9.3X increase from the start of the Valentine’s Day period.
This would likely allow just enough time for online orders to arrive in time for the big day.
This last-minute approach to holiday shopping is a pattern we repeatedly see when looking at the data around emerging e-commerce events like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.
Merchants That Got the Most Love
Hands down, Lovehoney won Valentine’s Day in the UK, earning its place as a top performing brand, thanks to its holiday promotions and all the affiliate marketers and publishers who highlighted the company’s products through click-worthy ad campaigns and gift guides.
Other adult e-commerce brands, including LELO, also scored big as adult toys topped buying lists.
Consumers interested in one-of-a-kind or personal gifts turned to Etsy while luxury shoppers hit the ‘buy button’ on UK retailer websites including Selfridges, & Other Stories, Net-A-Porter, and John Lewis.
Bloom & Wild earned a top spot for its exquisite Valentine’s Day bouquets. After surveying UK consumers, the brand discovered that many found red roses unimaginative, so the brand banned them. That bold decision led to a ton of PR and skyrocketing sales.
A few smaller brands specializing in jewelry, postal cocktail kits, and subscription boxes also made a Valentine’s Day splash.
The Products That Captured Hearts
It’s easy to draw a direct line between the best-selling Valentine’s Day products and the top-performing content and brands.
In the sex toy category, products in the traditional female subcategories of lingerie and sex toys made an appearance, but so did couples kits and male sex toys.
As is typical for the holiday, jewelry pieces such as necklaces and the always reliable sweets and flowers rounded out the top gifts.
With lockdown in full-force last Valentine’s Day, comfort and fashion gifts such as sweatsuits, cozy cardigans, and loungewear were also popular.
2022 Trend Predictions: A Pandemic Valentine’s Day, Take Two
Valentine’s Day 2022 is shaping up to be a déjà vu experience, but that’s not necessarily bad news.
As the pandemic rages on, putting us in a similar position to last year, publishers and advertisers now have a roadmap to follow. We know what kinds of content consumers want to read and which products are likely to generate the most sales.
Replicating last year’s gift guide hits will be the smart move in 2022. Expansive lists that address every type of Valentine on a consumer’s list should perform equally well this year. Those that have the resources to create more targeted gift guides can reap even more benefits as each one can be developed into a more targeted campaign.
Products that will heat things up in the boudoir will once again be popular, but don’t limit your posts to just lingerie. Remember, sex toys for men, women, and couples were equally popular last year, and that trend should continue.
Many people will opt (or be forced) to spend the holiday at home, so create content and promote products that will make a night in a little more special. Meal delivery kits have been a hit throughout the pandemic and show no signs of slowing down. Fondue for two, anyone?
And, speaking of food, chocolate still reigns supreme, so a guide to the best Valentine’s Day chocolate will undoubtedly be a winner. Chocolate and this holiday will forever be intertwined.
We expect fashion to be popular again, and the focus will remain on comfort as more indoor days lay ahead. Loungewear, trendy joggers, and snuggle-worthy sweaters should all be hits with anyone.
Lastly, we anticipate that beauty products will gain popularity. Everyone has been through a lot with the pandemic, and some pampering products like face masks or facial rollers can help ease tension.
Publisher News Articles: Examples That Will Drive Heartfelt Clicks
Of course, you want to capture a reader’s attention with an article, but you need clicks that convert to sales.
Let’s look at some content pieces from a few top publishers on the Taboola network to inspire your campaigns.
Gift Guide for Ladies: This Marie Claire gift guide has a little of everything – clothing, beauty items, jewelry, flowers, and gift boxes of Prosecco and chocolate.
Sex Toy Gift Guide: Cosmopolitan’s guide highlights toys for every kind of couple.
Beauty Products Gift Guide: Grazia put together this beauty guide that’s all about luxury scents and indulgent products.
At-home Dining Experiences: This post from Marie Claire offers a wide range of options for food delivery boxes, with something for every palate and budget.
Valentine’s Day Targeting Best Practices
The perfect piece of content won’t set your KPIs on fire unless you have the right targeting. While best practices will vary based on verticals, here’s a look at the targeting fashion campaigns should implement to increase views and clicks, as recorded on December 12th, 2021.
Content-Type: Video is king, delivering a higher calibrated CTR and lower spend than photo and text campaigns.
Performance by Platform – Purchases: Skip desktop targeting. Instead, opt for mobile and tablet, which offer a higher calibrated CTR and lower spend for purchase goals.
Automate with SmartBid: Taboola’s SmartBid is a semi-automatic campaign bidding strategy that takes the guesswork (and headache!) out of bid optimization. Using historical data, SmartBid increases bids for impressions most likely to convert and decreases them for those less likely to convert.
High Impact Placements: Ensure your ad campaigns are shown in the most impactful sections on premium publisher sites. High Impact placements include the homepage, section front, mid-article, Taboola Feed, and more areas that grab consumer attention.
Use Motion Ads: Motion ads feature short videos or gifs that play on a constant loop without sound. They attract more attention in a sea of static campaigns, delivering higher conversion rates and lower CPAs. Use motion ads for consideration and conversions goals, and don’t forget to A/B test videos and gifs to learn which creatives drive the best performance.
Valentine’s Day Creative Best Practices
Every element of your campaign should be optimized to ensure the highest CTR. Should you choose a video or an indoor photo? An illustration with food or a photo with an animal?
Instead of guessing and wasting ad spend, use Taboola Trends to determine which images, videos, and headlines will work best. Recommendations are updated weekly and can be filtered to match your campaign targeting.
Here are two examples from Taboola Image Trends for UK-based campaigns as of 6 January 2022.
Beauty ads that use a photographic image can increase CTRs by 39%, and somewhat surprisingly, images that put the product front and center without a person in frame will drive CTRs even higher. Avoid making your image look like a banner by sidestepping text on your images, resulting in a 20% higher CTR.
Fashion ads with a woman see a CTR increase of 148%! Experiment with adding food to your images for a CTR increase of 108%, and make sure your images include a human subject for a 65% CTR boost.
Although animals can be helpful in photographs, for videos, those without animals achieve a 137% higher completion rate. Summer settings will increase completion rates by 100%, as will live-action videos compared to illustrations. Videos without food also increase completion rate by 98%.
A headline can make or break your campaign. Test out any and all of the headlines you’re considering to instantly find out which will perform the best.
In this example, the headline ‘These are the Valentine’s Day Gifts She Wants’ will significantly outperform ‘The Ultimate Valentine’s Day Guide: 25 Gifts for Her.’
Based on the Valentine’s Day news trends from 2021 and what we predict for 2022, here’s a look at some sample campaigns you could run.
Taboola Matchmaking: How Real Brands Connect to Their Target Audiences
Naked Wines enables customers to support independent winemakers’ businesses in return for discounted bottles of wine. The brand used Taboola to distribute interactive educational content to drive new customer signups. In eight months, Naked Wines drove 8,000 new signups, with an LTV 33% higher than is typical for the brand.
Pandora manufactures and sells affordable hand-finished contemporary jewelry pieces in more than 100 countries. To reach new audiences and further build the Pandora brand in France, the company worked with Taboola to drive high-quality traffic to its marketing content. Through branded content, Pandora increased conversions by 130%, and consumers spent an average of 217 seconds on the site.
When The Line, an online boutique that curates products from various designers, wanted to reach new audiences and increase brand awareness, it launched campaigns on Taboola’s platform. The successful campaigns generated 72 million impressions in three months and nearly a 100% increase in traffic.
A Little Extra Love Goes a Long Way
The secret to getting consumers to fall head over heels in love with your content and ad campaigns is to deliver what they want.
Follow the trends we mentioned – gift guides featuring cozy clothing, beauty products, at-home food kits, flowers, chocolate, and all things related to sex.
Create campaigns that follow best practices and optimize your targeting to make the most of every ad dollar. Use Taboola’s Trends tool to eliminate guesswork and launch campaigns with all the right elements.
In the end, if you deliver what consumers want, they’ll show you the love.