Valentine’s Day isn’t just the most romantic holiday of the year, it’s also a huge economic event undergirded by immense volumes of data. Whether or not you celebrate it, gift-givers around the world will shell out an estimated $21 billion on candy, flowers, and more this year.
Confectioners, gift companies, flower retailers, and other businesses will rely on mountains of data to make sure this amorous day of celebration comes up roses for countless romantics across the globe. We’ll dig into some of the ways data informs these industries and can help these businesses improve their customer experience and gain an edge in an increasingly competitive world.
Data in full bloom
About 37% of gift-givers report that flowers are on their list for this year. This represents a huge logistical challenge for retailers and suppliers, one that data is uniquely able to help combat.
Flowers have a delicate supply chain from farm to destination, with refrigeration and proper handling being top-of-mind. The right data is crucial to making sure that teams at every leg of the journey have the inventory, personnel, and equipment to handle the challenge.
Back-office workers can start with insights from previous years’ shopping behavior to plan in advance for the increased demand. Integrating actionable insights into workflows at critical junctures where intelligence is needed can take this even further. For instance, when inventory drops to a preselected level, an alert can be triggered with an associated recommended action to order more or shift supplies from one location to another. Whatever the specifics, pairing insights with actions results in a smoother supply chain, less lost product, and happier customers.
Front-line workers will benefit from up-to-the-minute insights sent to where they’re working, whether it’s a point-of-sale computer or mobile device. Streaming insights and suggested actions will allow them to adjust on the fly as new orders come in or if a freak storm or other emergency causes supply-chain disruptions. Even workers in places like high-volume residential buildings or housing communities, where all deliveries are routed through a central mailroom, can benefit from actionable insights on delivery volumes to ensure they are properly staffed.
Soft Stuff, hard data
Specialty food purveyor Soft Stuff pivoted from B2B to B2C in 2020, right at the start of COVID-19; this is its first Valentine’s Day under pandemic conditions. The right data and analytics have allowed it to successfully put its line of goods, formerly found in gourmet markets, directly into the hands of consumers and even into a diverse array of online storefronts that serve the needs of unique communities.
“It’s hard to quantify the full effect [of analytics],” said Director of Technology and Business Operations Darren Klinefelter. “I was able to see in more depth the customers that come to our website, and we started better tracking our e-commerce ability.”
Even with all the challenges that 2020 threw at them, Lois and Bob Gamerman, the married couple behind Soft Stuff, report that they’re not just surviving, but thriving.
“We’re managing three, four e-commerce sites off of the same inventory,” said President and CEO Lois Gamerman. “Sisense has given us the opportunity to look deeply into the products that we’re carrying and what the throughput is for each one of these flows.”
As Soft Stuff navigated the changing conditions of COVID, different storefronts allowed it to better serve different markets: FeedingU Kosher, Chesapeake Bay Gourmet, and others. Soft Stuff has also made its products available on third-party sites like Goldbelly and has even set up specialty storefronts for other organizations, including for the Maryland LGBT Chamber of Commerce.
Love and data each take countless forms, and all those online locations bring in tons of data that Lois, Bob, and their team need to understand in order to choose the right insight-driven actions at the right time.
“We’re taking this data as it comes in, and then Darren processes it and creates a way to corral it via Sisense, so it becomes much more palatable,” Lois said. “No food pun intended.”
Like countless other companies, Soft Stuff is dealing with a world forever changed by the COVID crisis, but even with all this tumult, historical data still holds noteworthy insights.
“This is our first year direct-to-consumer, but we have some data from prior years about Valentine’s Day,” Vice President and COO Bob Gamerman said. “For instance, we know what red velvet cakes represent in our mix this time of year.”
Wherever your data comes from and however you use it, making decisions driven by insights is a necessary step in the evolution of any organization.
Unraveling travel and hotels
Despite the pandemic, Valentine’s Day is still a top-tier hotel holiday. Fewer people are jetting off to other locales, but booking a hotel room or other accommodations to get some alone time with someone special is still an option. Increased demand means these businesses need more staff on hand to tend to guests and also drives up room prices.
Even the day of the week when Valentine’s Day falls affects demand and pricing. A Saturday or Sunday date has been associated with a 42% increase in hotel room prices, plus related increases for the surrounding dates! When factoring in the long-term revenues of a hotel chain, insights like these, gleaned from years of collected data, are vital.
Head over heels in love — with data
Seasonal events like Valentine’s Day present unique, recurring opportunities to use insights to help businesses increase revenue, improve customer experience, and get an edge over competitors. Connecting the right datasets to a robust analytics system can help you make sense of them, learning from the past and preparing you for the future.
Jack Cieslak is a 10-year veteran of the tech world. He’s written for Amazon, CB Insights, and others, on topics ranging from ecommerce and VC investments to crazy product launches and top-secret startup projects.