Why you must Market to Single People this Valentine's Day

Michelle Markelz
Marketing News
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Key Takeaways

What? Singles make up nearly half of the adult consumer market.

So what? Singles have more disposable income and spend it impulsively.

Now what? Marketers would do well to target singles with products of convenience and luxury goods.

​Valentine’s Day isn’t only for couples. Singles make up almost half the market of adults and are eager to consume.

If your Valentine’s Day marketing strategy is only targeting couples, you might as well flip a coin. According to U.S. Census data, there are 107 million unmarried people in America over the age of 18: That’s 45% of the adult population.

Research shows these singles are valuable consumers. Naveen Donthu is a research professor and chair of marketing in J. Mack College of Business at Georgia State University. He surveyed 761 singles about their purchasing preferences and behaviors and found that, as a segment, singles are brand-conscious, spend more time watching TV than their married peers, are more impulsive, and are seeking active lifestyles. 

Money to Burn

What’s more ideal than a consumer with disposable income and impulsive buying tendencies? Donthu found that single consumers, because they usually don’t have dependents such as children, have more money to spend. “We found them to be less price-conscious,” he adds, and “they’re willing to try new things.” This makes singles a target for luxury products, especially luxury brands, which Donthu’s research suggests singles are more likely to use as a substitute for a relationship. Singles’ willingness to try new things stems from their tendency to take risks. 

​​Products of the Single Lifestyle

Singles also said they sought convenience. OpenTable, an online restaurant reservation provider, supported this finding when it reported last year that reservations for parties of one had risen 62% in two years​, making solo dining the fastest-growing party size. For marketers, Donthu says, this is an opportunity to market to singles on channels that allow them a convenient shopping experience and transaction, such as online, as well as to offer a convenient product or service. “Home delivery of groceries,” he offers as an example, “could be more appealing to single people than those who are married.” 

Segmenting Singles

Singles are a diverse group, ranging in age, gender and a multitude of other demographic factors. “Usually in marketing we look at demographics,” Donthu says. “We said, ‘Let’s look at something more interesting.’ We looked at people who are single by choice versus those who are single by circumstance.” Circumstance, as Donthu’s study describes it, refers to people who were married but became single because of the death of a spouse or divorce. 

One of the key differences in motivation between the segments that Donthu found was that people who were single by circumstance participated in more compensatory behaviors. “A lot of singles [by circumstance] found themselves to be lonely and tried to compensate for that,” he says. “They used brands as a surrogate for relationships. […] We found that singles, especially those trying to cope with loneliness, spend more time watching television.”

​Tips for Winning Over Single Consumers

Donthu says another characteristics of the single by circumstance segment is their predominantly older age. Because most people who are widowed or divorced become single by circumstance later in life, that cohort tends to be older than those who are single by choice. According to the U.S. Census, 24% of unmarried adults in 2014 were divorcees. Thirteen percent were widowed.

Statistic: Number of single-person households in the U.S. in 2014, by sex and age (in 1,000) | Statista
Find more statistics at Statista

Singles Want Active Lifestyles and Are Emotionally Sensitive

People who are single by choice tend to seek an active lifestyle, Donthu found. This makes them a valuable market for a variety of goods and services that support that lifestyle. For example, fitness is one category that helps singles fulfill their lifestyle goals. Donthu notes that singles are more likely to hire a personal trainer, whereas married people tend to prefer group training for fitness.

One of the less obvious tactics marketers can take from his research, Donthu says, is that consumers who are single by circumstance are more receptive to emotional advertising than informational campaigns.

Author Bio:

Michelle Markelz
Michelle Markelz is a staff writer for the AMA’s magazines and e-newsletters. She can be reached at mmarkelz@ama.org.
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