Valentine’s Day has special meaning for me. Not only because I have been lucky enough to be with my valentine for 30 years, but it reminds me of my many years in the retail flower business at 1-800-FLOWERS, where February 14th and Mother’s Day are equivalent to Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Christmas combined.

These are, at their core, “social” and “personal” holidays, created to allow people to openly express their love, appreciation, gratitude, and affection to one another. With the digitally connected consumer having constant access to Facebook, Twitter, mobile apps, and tools that allow them to freely express that love, appreciation, gratitude, and affection, I wondered:

• would consumers’ use of digital communications increase during a social holiday and the wide availability of free messaging cannibalize or hurt traditional retail sales?

• has the digital world enabled more connections, and grown the overall population of people who celebrate Valentine’s Day?

My experience in cross-channel retailing has proved that more channels mean more choice, with a greater opportunity for sales and loyalty. I looked at the latest infographic from Monetate (also shown below) and the National Retail Federation’s Valentine’s Day data compiled by market research firm BIG for answers to my questions—and to see if there was any correlation between the rise of social networking as a means of communication and lifestyle, online commerce, and shopping behaviors during this traditionally retail-dominated holiday.

Almost 60% of Americans surveyed report celebrating Valentine’s Day. Over 50% of respondents planned on buying greeting cards and candy, closely followed by 36% who planned on purchasing flowers or spending a night out together. While the audience was not the most digitally savvy (51% of respondents didn’t own a smartphone or tablet), there were a couple notable stats that support my theory regarding the online behavior shift on Valentine’s Day:

• No surprise, online was the only retail channel with consistent growth for three years or more, although projections for 2012 show a rebound across department stores and specialty stores.

• 71% of 18- to 34-year-olds celebrate Valentine’s Day compared to 47% of 55- to 65-year-olds. It appears the younger generation is celebrating at a greater pace and therefore likely inventing new holiday rituals that could be digitally driven.

So, how many consumers have shifted their Valentine’s Day purchases from physical goods like print cards and boxes of chocolate candy to Facebook posts, digital greetings and Farmville gifts? Now that would be an interesting infographic!

Retailers Get Their ♥ on for Valentine’s Day

Elaine Rubin is the founder and Chief Prophet at Digital Prophets Network LLC, an ecommerce advisory firm that provides access to their proprietary network of experts and thought leaders available to help advise and educate retailers in all aspects of ecommerce and multichannel retail strategy, planning, talent placement, and resource solutions. A recipient of the NRF Silver Medal award for contribution to retail, Rubin co-founded and chaired, a division of the National Retail Federation. She is also a member of the Monetate Strategic Advisory Board.