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*Article originally published on PYMNTS

OK, true confessions time. Did your special Valentine get you a present last week, and did it truly knock your socks off? Or did it leave you wondering why you hadn’t ditched that Valentine a long time ago?

We’ve got data on this holiday gift giving occasion that might surprise you — who spent more, who procrastinated more and what gifts went over like a heart-shaped lead balloon — courtesy of Loop Commerce and its evaluation of the State of Valentine’s Day gift giving.

Hot off those heart-shaped presses.

First, a little context.

Gifts, Bring Them On!

While the fact that people like receiving gifts on Valentine’s Day — and any other day — will come as a shock to exactly no one, Americans, as it turns out, also really like giving gifts. According to Rasmussen, 82 percent of Americans report that giving gifts is something they enjoying doing, which, statistically speaking, means gift giving is as popular as eating chocolate.

But giving gifts in the digital age can be something of a challenge, mostly because it is easy to take for granted how much you actually you have to know about someone to buy them a decent present. Even thinking beyond the obvious stuff, like personal taste, favorite color, hobbies, interests, etc., gift giving online also requires a bunch of other technical data that one might not have easily on hand about a friend — even a close friend — like their mailing address or shoe size.

Never mind the can of worms/sensitivities with giving some of the rather personal gifts that Valentine’s Day tends to inspire.

The default solution to this quandary historically is the handy dandy gift card — it requires minimal personal knowledge of the recipient and can be delivered digitally. It’s a popular solution — $140 billion spent on gift cards annually attests to that — but not a perfect one.

The majority of consumers, according to brand new data from Loop Commerce, don’t actually like giving gift cards, by and large. And on Valentine’s Day, it might even be a real no-no — that is, if you’d like to spend next Valentine’s Day with him or her.

Only 5 percent of consumers report really loving the act of giving someone a gift card, 19 percent report loving it and 20 percent report liking it — for a net positive takeaway of 44 percent. A quarter of consumers say that they dislike giving gift cards so much they never do it, and 31 percent of consumers say they do give them if they have to, but only as a last resort.

That means that 56 percent of consumers would rather give a gift, which, for retailers, is a much bigger market opportunity — in the $200 billion–$300 billion range. It’s a market opportunity that Loop Commerce, with its GiftNow buttons inserted on product pages on web sites, set out to solve. Loop Commerce allows gift buyers to send items without having to select a given size, color or other unknown that might otherwise lead to rejection, exchanges or returns. The receiver gets the gift via email, the day of the gifting occasion, and it can be customized to their liking or exchanged for another item or store credit. And all the gift giver needs is the recipient’s email.

Now back to the Valentine’s Day gift giving part of this story.

Loop looked at data from across its portfolio of merchants — some fancy ones, too, like Bergdorf, Neiman, Saks and Coach — to see how gifting all played out that day. And at a presentation last week at National Merchant Day, the team at Loop Commerce had some — in some cases, surprising — insights to offer into America’s annual celebration of love and togetherness.

So, what did we learn?

Love — By The Numbers

So, how popular is Valentine’s gift giving? Depends on how one looks at it.

While Americans have just collectively shelled out $18.2 billion in flowers, chocolates and jewelry, Valentine’s is not the heaviest-hitting gift giving or getting occasion of the year. Birthdays and Christmas own most of that market, representing over half of the reasons Americans take to the stores or web. “Just because” is also a surprising popular reason to buy someone a present, beating out both Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day.

Valentine’s Day may also be among the year’s more impromptu holidays, since Loop’s data showed that a little more than a quarter (27 percent) of Valentine’s Day gifts were scheduled to deliver ahead of time, as opposed to the 73 percent of gifts that were bought and sent for receipt the day of via GiftNow.

Nothing says I love you more than not being found out that you actually forgot to shop before the big day itself.

This Valentine’s Day also saw consumers who did most of their browsing via mobile device — 81 percent via their phone versus 19 percent who browsed via mobile. But when it came time to convert, the desktop still won the day — 68 percent of purchases were made on computers, while 38 percent were made via devices.

As far as what payment brands gift givers used, Visa was the big winner with ~40 percent of purchases, followed by PayPal, Amex, Mastercard and Discover.

As for what people were buying, maybe not much of a surprise. Apparel was the leading category for both men women; accessories and footwear also have appeal across genders. Men, however, were more likely to get electronics or jewelry/watches as a gift, while women were more likely to get beauty products or home and garden-related goods.

That also means that, yes, men got more jewelry than women for Valentine’s this year — if we count (non-smart) watches.

PYMNTS would ordinarily observe that something seems quite wrong with a Valentine’s Day picture that has men getting more jewelry and women getting more home and garden products.

But Loop’s data also shows that, by and large, people made good gift-giving choices. Nearly two-thirds — 64 percent — of gift recipients accepted their gifts as selected, and only 36 percent exchanged. Among those who exchanged the gift, 66 percent modified an attribute and accepted it. Only 12 percent of the total set of gift receivers decided they wanted something different.

It does seem men did somewhat better in choosing gifts than their lady-loves this year, since men exchanged their gifts more often.

And that was not the only notable gendered difference when it comes to spending on love.

The Battle Of The Sexes

Women are more likely to buy for Valentine’s than men are — 47 percent more women than men send gifts on Valentine’s. We surmise that has something to do with women buying for their kids and parents/grandparents.

But what men lack in quantity, they may be trying to make up for in quality of gifts since, on average, men spent 63 percent more money on their gifts than their female counterparts. They may also be trying to get the edge on advanced planning, since 54 percent — and thus the majority — of last-minute gift senders were women.

And as for those returns, 32 percent more men exchanged their gifts than women, either indicating women aren’t as good at buying gifts as men are or that men are just much, much pickier than women, despite what stand-up comedians might have one believe.

As for what people didn’t like?

For women, scented body lotion/perfume was not a big hit; For men, it was belts.

So, the pro tip here might be Valentine’s is a poor time to imply your girlfriend’s/wife’s skin could be softer or that your boyfriend’s/husband’s pants could fit him better.

But the big lessons we can take away are…

It is, of course, the thought that counts when it comes to giving gifts, though some thoughts are better than others. But, at least as it seems to appear from looking at the Loop Commerce data, people tend to do a great job when they are able to send gifts. They just need a little help getting them there in time when shipping windows expire or critical information is not handy.

Which is good news because there is little in life less romantic than getting a gift card for Valentine’s Day.

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