Valentine's Day Gifts: Emotional Significance Is More Important Than Price

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Thursday is Valentine's Day, a day of romance – and consumerism. Last year, half of all Germans gave their significant other a gift on Valentine's Day, with around one in five spending more than 50 euros. So what are the most sought-after gifts? Dr. Tobias Maria Günter and Felix Pfaffe from the global strategy and marketing consultancy Simon-Kucher & Partners reveal the formula for retail success.


Bonn – For many people, February 14 is the perfect time to buy their partner a gift – ideally one that they will absolutely love. Without a wish list or a clear hint from the intended recipient, selecting the right present can be a tricky business. However, according to a recent study* by Simon-Kucher & Partners, there are a few reliable criteria that determine whether a gift will be well received or not. “How the recipient rates a present depends on how much they think it costs to buy, as well as the symbolism of the gift,” explains Tobias Maria Günter, retail expert and Partner at Simon-Kucher. What the gift symbolizes is actually the most important factor. It even has a bigger influence than price. “This thought process isn’t conscious, though,” notes Felix Pfaffe, study author and Consultant at Simon-Kucher. “The assessments recipients make about the gifts they receive are often instinctive.”

Expensive and heartfelt is better than cheap and meaningless

In the study, participants rated expensive and meaningful gifts most highly, as they show that the giver was thinking about them specifically and put in some effort. In addition, they equated expensive/meaningful presents with an investment in the relationship. As one would expect, low-cost gifts without any personal significance were rated least favorably. It is interesting to note that cheap gifts with significance are more popular than expensive, meaningless presents. “This demonstrates that it is the symbolism behind the gift that makes it valuable,” emphasizes Pfaffe. “How much the gift-giver actually spends is less important.” When a present has emotional significance, the recipient is less price conscious, the study showed.

Personalized gifts are a winner

What does this mean for retail? “Retailers shouldn't focus solely on price when marketing and displaying their products. Instead, they should focus on the potential significance of the gift to the recipient,” says Tobias Maria Günter. “If you get your customers to understand what message the gift really conveys, the perceived value of the product increases. This can even make expensive products more attractive.”

Allowing customers to personalize products builds on this effect. Jewelry engraved with a name or personal message; customized greetings cards; mugs with photos printed on them; personalized textiles – the possibilities are endless. Thanks to new technology, such as affordable 3D printing, there are virtually no limits to the materials, colors, and shapes customers can choose for their gifts. The popularity of unique items has been increasing year on year. Retailers can benefit from this development by offering digital in-store configurators or using virtual and augmented reality to show their customers what the personalized products will look like before they are made.

*The study “Rating Gifts: Symbolism or Price” was conducted by Simon-Kucher Consultant Felix Pfaffe in summer 2018. Around 200 people in the US were asked to rate items they have received as gifts. The opinions of the buyers or gift-givers were not considered.

Simon-Kucher & Partners, strategy & marketing consultants: Simon-Kucher & Partners is a global consulting firm specializing in TopLine Power® with a focus on strategy, marketing, pricing, and sales. We help our clients achieve growth and profit targets by applying practical, evidence-based strategies. Simon-Kucher & Partners is regarded as the world’s leading pricing advisor and thought leader. The firm has around 1,300 employees in 38 offices worldwide.