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Mastercard Love Index shows more Africa and Middle East shoppers plan ahead for Valentine’s Day

The annual Mastercard Love Index indicates that spenders in Africa and the Middle East are willing to dig deeper into their pockets to make their partners happy and that they are going online to do it: there has been a 107% increase in the number of e-commerce transactions between 2016 and 2018.

The Index, which is created by analyzing credit, debit and prepaid card transactions over a three-year period (11th-14th February 2016-18) has revealed that whilst sentimental spending has increased globally by 3% since 2016, in MEA, this has increased by 10% with the overall number of transactions up by 20%.

For shoppers in Africa and the Middle East, planning ahead is more their style as majority of the purchases take place three days earlier (February 11th), this is however not the same globally as data showed a significant return to last-minute shopping with the majority of Valentine’s Day purchases taking place on the day itself (February 14th) in 2018.

Though global data shows that shoppers may no longer be plumping for traditional, standard gifts, this is not entirely true for Africa and the Middle East Valentine’s Day spenders.  There was a small increase of 7% spent on roses and floral gifts from around the world. In MEA, the total spend on flowers increased by a whopping 112% but for jewelleries, Africa and the Middle East is consistent with the global average with a decrease in transactions in 2018 compared to 2016.

Following the trend of experiences trumping material goods, an indulgent night in a hotel remains top of the Valentine’s gift list as the data reveals the number of transactions on hotels rose by 9% from 2016 to 2018, and with it a total spend increase of 5%. In comparison to the global numbers, the number of transactions in hotels in Africa and the Middle East rose by 20% from 2016 to 2018, with a total spend increase of 19%.

Globally, the use of contactless technology continues to rise in momentum as the value of transactions rose by a huge 229%, and an increase of 193% in the number of transactions since 2016. It’s hardly surprising this is the preferred method of settling the bill – especially with contactless payments now enabled in over nine million locations across 114 countries. In the said region, the share of contactless transactions increased by 829% since 2017 while the value of contactless transactions has seen an increase of 1252% since 2017.

“In an age where contactless payments and same-day delivery ecommerce purchases are now the norm, it’s now easier than ever to impress our loved ones with meaningful Valentine’s surprises. Our data reveals that consumers across the globe are enjoying spontaneous experiences to share with their special someone, over and above material gifts and are planning ahead to make it extra special.

“The Mastercard Valentine’s Day Index –  now in its fourth year – highlights key global and regional trends to uncover behavioural trends such as this shift towards on-the-day shopping, and hopefully offers retailers some priceless insight into consumer buying habits during the period leading up to the most romantic day of the year”, commented Omokehinde Adebanjo, Area Business Head, West Africa, Mastercard.

Regional summary of consumer e-commerce spending habits across the globe:

United States
  • U.S. saw a 98% increase in the number of e-commerce transactions from Valentine’s Day 2016 to Valentine’s Day 2018
  • In 2018, people were planning ahead with the majority of Valentine’s purchases happening on the 11th February
Latin America and the Caribbean




  • Although LAC saw a 37% decrease in the total spend during the Valentine’s Day period, the number of transactions was up by 15%
  • In particular, the number of contactless transactions saw a significant 9720% increase, with the total spend on contactless increasing by 3452% (from $9.5k in 2016 to $399.1k in 2018)
  • Share of spend on restaurants decreased by 36%, but the volume of transactions increased by 19%
  • Share of spend on flowers and jewellery both saw significant decreases – by 88% and 68% respectively from 2016 to 2018
  • However, the number of transactions for hotel stays increased by 45%, with the value of transactions increasing by 12%
  • The number of e-commerce transactions increased by 68% from 2016 to 2018, and the value of these transactions increased by 70%




  •  Europeans spent 30% more in the Valentines period in 2018 than in 2016, with 41% more in volume of transactions
  • Experiences saw key growth, with the spend on hotels, restaurant trips and transportation increasing by 23%, 15% and 61% respectively
  • Although jewellery remained largely stable, with a 1% increase in spend and 7% increase in number of transactions, flowers were increasingly popular: 2018 saw 59% increase in spend and 54% increase in number of transactions from 2016 to 2018
Middle East



  • The Middle East and Africa increased sentimental spending by 10% from 2016 to 2018, with a 20% increase in the volume of transactions
  • Contactless in particular saw huge growth: an increase of 8991% in spend from 2016 to 2018, with 25663% increase in volume of transactions (from 32 in 2016 to 8,244 in 2018)
  • Spending on small gifts increased, with a 94% increase in the number of transactions for flowers and 33% increase in spend on cards and stationery
  • Similarly, spending on experiences – hotel trips and transportation – rose by 19% and 28% respectively
Asia Pacific




  • Asia Pacific increased sentimental spending by 33% in 2018 from 2016 and volume of transactions increased by 37%
  • Increases in both spend value and number of transactions were seen in all purchase categories, with the most significant increase made on flower purchases: 89% higher than spend value in 2016 and 73% more transactions
  • Transportation was also more popular with a 65% increase in the value of spend, and 25% more transactions
  • Canadians increased sentimental spending in the Valentine’s Day period by 23% from 2016 to 2018, but the number of transactions decreased by 3%
  • Contactless spend increased by 230%, from $3.2m in 2016 to $10.5m in 2018
  • Spending on small gifts increased, with a 67% increase in the value of transactions for flowers and 27% increase in spend on cards and stationery
  • E-commerce transactions increased by 96%, with the value of spend increasing by 99%

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