February 13, 2001 3:50 PM PST

Showing how much you care--online

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February 12, 2001
As Valentine's Day approaches, cupid's arrows are pointing consumers to the Web.

From traditional gifts consisting of flowers and candy to more innovative gifts such as sports tickets from online auctions, e-tailers and online greetings sites are making the most out of the holiday.

"People are sending more Valentines," said Mark Rinella, vice president of Excite@Home's Blue Mountain Arts, which offers an e-greetings service. "That shows electronic greetings and what we've turned them into have become very established."

Blue Mountain has added features such as voice recordings and video clips to its e-cards, as well as the option of sending a gift. For example, Blue Mountain lets consumers attach a gift certificate, ranging from $25 to $200, to their online messages. In addition to offering traditional Valentine's Day fare of roses and chocolates, Blue Mountain links to online retailers such as MarthaStewart.com and DisneyStore.com.

"I don't think there's any reason a guy can't send a Valentine's gift," Rinella said. "We made it too easy."

Traffic to online dating sites has increased nearly 50 percent since Valentine's Day 2000, according to a new survey by Jupiter Media Metrix, but men still outnumber women on most sites. Men comprise 58.3 percent of the audience of dating sites; women have a larger representation on romance-related sites such as Lovingyou.com and The Knot, where they comprise 55.6 and 63.1 percent of the audience, respectively.

Traffic to all personals sites--including popular destinations such as Match.com, OneAndOnly and Matchmaker--increased 47 percent, from 3.9 million unique visitors in January 2000 to 5.8 million last month, according to the survey.

Sales for this year's Valentine's Day are expected to reach $2 billion--both online and offline--compared with last year's revenue of $1.5 billion, according to a study released Tuesday by Gartner.

Gartner said that the increase results from rising prices over the last 12 months and the addition of gourmet foods, spirits and gifts by Valentine's retailers. The study also revealed that a larger and more mature market is another reason for the predicted growth.

Robert Labatt, an analyst at Gartner, said the number of 18- to 50-year-old males in the market has grown, possibly contributing to the increase in sales.

"I was surprised that (Valentine sales were) increasing...over last year," Labatt said.

Gartner estimates that the online market has grown by over 16 million people in North America from 2000 to 2001. The study said that more mature Internet users also purchase in greater amounts than first-year Web surfers do.

The study showed that the Internet is also becoming more integrated into people's lives. Consumers have the capability to research for perfect gifts, and online sites are offering more gift ideas than mainstream products.

Take, for instance, online auction site eBay, where a seller is offering a Marie Osmond Valentine's Day greeting card complete with a porcelain doll in a box filled with hearts and flowers--and a Valentine's Day poem. Late Tuesday, a dozen bids had pushed the price to $44.99 from the offer price of $5.99.

Yahoo Auctions also has items up for the holidays, including Knicks tickets that are going for $120.

Although online sites are taking advantage of the holidays, the U.S. Postal Service's Web site is also attempting to stake its claim on the holiday. The site features love letters by famous figures such as Napoleon Bonaparte, Jack London and King Henry VIII.

News.com's Rachel Konrad contributed to this report.

 

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