WIA Profile: Samantha Berman
Each month, industry news media organization XBIZ spotlights the career accomplishments and outstanding contributions of Women in Adult. WIA profiles offer an intimate look at the professional lives of the industry's most influential female executives.
How did you get into this? What in your background prepared you for what you're doing now?
I've always been in sales. I was working for Panasonic as the Director of New Business Development in Canada before managing my own schedule. My first job was in banking a long time ago, I guess this is where I decided I'll never have a 9 to 5 job stuck in an office. I need air, I need to meet people, work 24/7 and be on the move all the time.
Does your family know what you do? Does it make any difference?
For most of my family I work for a bank that focuses on Internet sales. I never hide what I do to other people outside of the industry, they generally look amazed when they start to understand we're talking about adult — and I love it.
What changes have you seen in e-commerce services since you started?
It used to make so much money that most companies were not organized, to say the least. Today the market is more difficult and has more competition, which pushes people to be more serious in their jobs and in their business relationships. It's a good thing, on the whole: rough times push our industry to become more mature and work on creating newer business models that work and will ultimately keep increasing revenues.
What changes have affected your work as the Internet has gone from exotic to commonplace?
I've always worked remotely, typing emails in bed, being with my BlackBerry all the time so it did not change much for me. All of my contacts are now wired 24/7 too — which means we can almost work around the clock, and we do. The reality is, we work in one of the most highly communicative industries out there and the things we see and learn on our side of the business are transferable skills to any other online industry. Now that mainstream is coming up to pace with adult, it makes the people that have been running like this already more valuable and more marketable to mainstream. I think as a result we are seeing a lot of people change focus at this time.
What do you see as the challenges to online sales and marketing as the economy tends to decline and discretionary spending slows?
Most of the players in our industry are getting so aggressive with their customers that they end up burning bridges. Alternatively, we also see companies that are trying to be so competitive with their products that they undercut one another to a point where they're eliminating profits from themselves. Or, worse yet, we are seeing affiliate payouts that are so high the only way to remain profitable is by adding excessive cross-sales and hidden charges. This makes an even bigger problem for all of us as it works to alienate a whole new generation of consumers.
Companies need to not have sales drop and keep their customers, but I believe the way out is working harder, not devaluing the products that make up our industry. Making sure the customer is loyal to you and/or your brand means they end up spending more, recommending their friends and then we see increases of rebills.
Are there major cultural differences between countries that impact your work?
Professionally, CommerceGate focuses on Europe. There are 45 countries there and almost as many different ways for people to pay their bills and pay online. It's a common mistake to believe that customers in Europe pay their bills the same way as in the U.S. For example, most Germans don't have a credit card, and pay their day-to-day expenses with their mobile phone and all the rest — including cars and houses — in cash. Europe has a 500-euro bill just for the Germans. You need to be in Europe to know each country's makeup and how they operate financially on a day to day basis to be able to make the most of billing there.