A third of people may send virtual flowers or chocolate this Valentine's Day

Valentine’s Day is going virtual. More people are planning to send virtual gifts to their sweethearts than ever before.

An online survey by Viximo, which provides virtual goods to various sites, found that 35 percent of the 1,000 social network, dating site or game users it surveyed plan to purchase and send their first virtual gift this Valentine’s Day.

While more women than men typically send virtual gifts, this holiday, an equal number of men plan to turn on the virtual charm through the exchange of virtual goods. Makers of games and social network operators are jumping on the opportunity, creating limited edition virtual gifts that people can send to loved ones.

On networks such as Facebook, virtual gifts have become a huge revenue engine. Viximo found that 45 percent of respondents said they would spend more than $10 on a virtual gift, a big amount since the average price of a virtual good is $1 to $3. Of the 72 percent of people who expect to send a gift on Valentine’s Day, about 35 percent plan to send five or more (remember, these people are already users of social networks and so are more likely to send virtual gifts than the general population). Married couples send the fewest gifts, while singles and dating couples send on average 3.5 gifts each.

Brian Balfour, founder of Viximo, said it makes sense that people get as much joy out of getting a virtual gift as they do getting a physical gift. That’s because it’s the thought — an expression of friendship or love — that counts, as opposed to the real value of the gift. Balfour says people prefer real chocolate over virtual chocolate, of course, but virtual flowers and flirtatious hearts are quite popular now.

Viximo’s library of virtual goods is around a couple of thousand, as the company cycles these in and out on a monthly basis. There are about 20 publishers that use Viximo’s virtual goods. The most popular items are sent tens of thousands of times. The most popular publisher categories now are social networks and dating sites. If you want more details, the survey will be posted on Viximo’s site on Tuesday.


VentureBeat is studying mobile marketing automation. Chime in, and we’ll share the data.