Do you hear it? The flutter of cherubic wings as Cupid takes aim at lovers young and old as we approach Valentine’s Day. But this Valentine’s Day will be so different from those that have gone before. With florists, bars and restaurants closed, how will people celebrate and treat their loved ones in 2021 and can any of us expect anything beyond a supermarket-bought valentines card?

If Covid has transformed the way we work and shop then why wouldn’t it impact the way we date, marry and show affection? We’ve already seen restrictions delay or cancel weddings but the pandemic has affected so much more in the world of romance. What changes are likely to persist post-pandemic and what opportunities could lie ahead for businesses that want to show their customers a little bit of love?

When I think of Valentine’s, I think of couples going out for a special meal. When lockdowns lift, an opportunity for restaurants, chain restaurants especially, could be screen-enhanced booths that allow individuals or groups seated at different tables, or even in different branches, to eat together. A potentially endless table could bring people together - singles speed dating or on a romantic date as well families or friends separated by months of restrictions. I see grandparents joining their grandchildren for brunch or distant friends reconnecting over a remote roast.

For those singles looking to mingle, opportunities to date safely are and will continue to be important. Daters tired of socially-distanced coffees may be interested in virtual activities that can be done together with brands that offer shared experiences online poised to do well. Perhaps an art class with supplies delivered beforehand? Mailed meal boxes are already a familiar concept, growing in popularity in the UK market but these could become more about experience - potentially led by a chef over video call or maybe a cocktail session compared by a comedian.

For those couples in a household, I imagine that delivered meals will play a large part of the 2021 Valentine’s celebrations - whether those meals have come from a michelin-starred establishment or their local curry house. Some couples may opt for a romantic night out in a car park after venturing to a drive thru. We’re experts at drive thru technology and have seen the proliferation of drive thrus really (excuse the pun) accelerate over the last few years. I think there is a huge opportunity for restaurants to expand upon their drive thru capability - from retail and leisure park favourites such as Nandos and Wagamamas offering in-car service, to quick serve restaurants using menu screens more creatively. Perhaps, through the restaurant app you could create a personalised message to animate on the menu screen - a birthday message, a video from Santa or maybe even a proposal.

In his recent blog on window shopping, Harry talked about the ability for closed shops to create sales opportunities using their windows, screens and a range of pick up options. I imagine the ability for shoppers to order directly from a shop window and receive their goods within minutes would never be more popular than during the hours before Valentine’s or perhaps an anniversary (or maybe I’m just being cynical).

So after the drive thru proposal what can technology bring to weddings? Attending a wedding ceremony virtually, an unfortunate necessity now, may become popular for those guests that can’t wrangle the travel due to lockdowns, work or childcare. We have already witnessed champagne uncorked over video conference ceremonies and I can see this continuing in the future with savvy venues making the most of video walls to show remote guests and perhaps even delivering meals or cake to those unable to be at the event.

In the run up to the wedding, remote consultations for dresses, flowers, or venues could become more common. Bakeries could send samples of cake to couples while the opportunity to have a consultation with the designer of your wedding dress to create something truly unique could be offered by bridal shops after lockdown with the dress designer taking part remotely.

Even in lockdown, love will flourish and our need for a bit of romance could provide opportunities for brands to increase customer affection now and in the future. It is also important for brands to show a little love back to their public, whether it be through loyalty rewards, offers or impeccable personalised services. Like all the best relationships, customers want to feel respected and valued and with the right data, technology and creative thinking, brands can do just that.

Darren Cremins is a Senior Sales Director at Scala for the UK and Ireland regions. As 20+ year digital signage industry expert, Darren primarily helps retailers engage with their customers. Throughout his nearly 10 years with Scala, Darren has developed a strong focus on combining not only the Scala solutions, but the complete STRATACACHE family of solutions into the UK & Ireland market in this ever-changing world of marketing technology and digital signage.

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