Mobile and Internet technology are playing a vital role in selling pleasure products in today’s changing market. Recent innovations have bred scores of new marketing tools — and experts who have mastered them — that purveyors are using to strategically target the modern shopper.
Sportsheets Vice President Julie Stewart attributes society’s embrace of social media and smartphone technology to the sense of safety it offers. “Particularly after September 11, people feel safer at home,” she said, “people are having less face-to-face communication and are communicating through devices more often. There’s no part of our lives that won’t be touched by technology.”
With technological advances moving at a fast pace, sex toy manufacturers are turning to a younger generation for guidance.
“New technology and new tools in marketing are coming so much quicker,” Stewart said. “We’re evolving with it. We’re paying more attention to the trends and different technologies that the younger people on staff are utilizing. We want to make sure we’re giving as many consumers as we can what they’re looking for.”
With the release of the Sex & Mischief collection, Sportsheets recently made its foray into QR coding. The back of every product package features an excerpt of a sensual tale along with QR code teasing the consumer with the full story and additional product information and video.
According to Sportsheets’ Julie Stewart, S&M’s packaging caters to different demographics and results in widespread appeal.
“With S&M we softened bondage with images that are mainstream and appeal to many people,” she said. “Shoppers under 25 years old are attracted to the QR code and the older demographic likes the stories.”
Each S&M QR code directs consumers to individual product landing pages featuring a slide show of images, video and the sensual story in its entirety. According to Stewart, Sportsheets’ created its QR codes inhouse and will continue to incorporate them on the packaging of other products.
Several major adult product manufacturers, such as Topco Sales, also are finding creative methods to use QR codes for marketing.
During the summer’s ANME Show, Topco Sales unveiled the Wildfire Celebrity Series Jayden Jaymes Cyber-Skin Pussy and Ass Stroker, which feature QR codes on the outside and inside of its packaging. Additionally, Topco rolled out a Jayden Jaymes standee for retailers that — through the creation of a custom QR code — will deliver a sexy message from the adult star tailored for the store.
“We’re very excited to get our feet wet with this emerging technology,” said John Ferrel, Topco Sales’ web developer, in a press release. “For those customers who are tech savvy we think it will add value to the Topco sales experience.”
E-tique.org was launched by Donovan Green, president and CEO of Santa Barbara Book, Inc., who operates a chain of retail locations in Southern California and Arizona. The company offers a computer with a QR code reader that can be installed inside any retail location for customers to view its content without the need of a smartphone.
E-tique also creates QR codes for manufacturers. Green told XBIZ that E-tique partnered with CalExotics, creating hundreds of QR codes for the company’s products.
According to Green, E-tique is expanding with a QR code scanner app now available on the Android App market and an iPhone app in the works.
In addition to embracing QR code technology, CalExotics is growing its online marketing efforts to serve retailers.
“On the agenda for the near future is a SEO marketing campaigns that will help drive traffic to our distribution and retail partners,” CalExotics President and CEO Susan Colvin. “We’re also going to launch a content-focused marketing platform that will surely benefit everyone who carries and stocks CalExotics products — I can’t tell you too much about it right now as it is still in development, but it will be unveiled in the next few months!”
The Internet has enabled instant interaction that’s crucial for business. On the business-to-business front, last month CalExotics held the Power Sales Webinar (See ) that connected the manufacturer to its retail partners with a presentation guided by the company’s marketing execs and chat functions that encouraged conversation.
To connect with consumers, adult retailer Castle Megastore recently launched Castle TV, a live webcast show hosted by Keith Flynn, aka Keith Kielbasa, Castle’s social media specialist and Eva Licious, the company’s content specialist.
“Castle TV provides the opportunity to build a following with fans using social media to see what we’re doing here at Castle besides announcing the release of new products and featured products,” Flynn said. “It helps our customers build a reportire with us and learn best practices that we may have to share.”
Castle TV’s 45-minute online show is dictated by customer feedback and its hosts keep it fresh and engaging with humor that’s sometimes “borderline immaturity,” Flynn said.
“We sway to the side of professionalism but we still entertain,” he said. “The teachers I’ve learned the most from were very entertaining. The show’s format is pretty loose. We try to stay on topic and answer everyone’s questions. It keeps it fun and interactive — like viewers are building a relationship with us. It makes it more personable for the viewer. We have cue cards that structure what we’re going to talk about, which products we’re going to discuss and then it’s a nice volley between Eva and I — she’ll take a toy, I’ll take a toy and we’ll ad lib a lot and have fun. We also use a teleprompter to see viewers’ questions and responses in the chat box.”
For the company that proclaimed itself to be “low technology, high-intercourse” on the Selling Pleasure Products panel during February’s XBIZ Retail, Sportsheets has long been recognized for its product demo videos whose in-store delivery technique most recently underwent its third iteration.
“First it was a TV with a separate DVD player, then we tried a TV with an attached DVD player, and now we’re using digital video frames with content on memory drives,” Stewart said.
The rise of mainstream tube sites has allowed certain product demo videos to go viral — thus progressively amassing page views from potential customers.
Pipedream Products launched pdTV so people have a more reliable source to embed and share the company’s product demo videos, Pipedream Products public relations manager Kevin Johnson said.
“The public tube sharing sites have time and again suspended us or removed videos due to content,” Johnson said. “It never ceases to amaze me at what gets removed and what is left on a site like YouTube. Recently, we received notice some of our videos have been ‘age restricted,’ which is totally understandable. For instance, the Fuck Me Silly mega masturbators, which are molds of actual body parts are left up where they can be viewed by anyone over 18, but the Bootylicious vinyl blow up doll video was removed altogether. With pdTV retailers and bloggers can know the video will always be available when they need them.”
pdTV is designed like a tube site with videos readily available to share and download.
“pdTV houses all of the short-form commercially produced product demonstration videos,” Johnson said. “We also have many of them available on our YouTube and Vimeo pages. Our YouTube page also has videos created on a more personal, informal basis to answer real questions we get from consumers. Sometimes it is just easier to make a video and show how to operate something, insert the batteries or such instead of trying to write out instructions.”
CalExotics rolled out an online hub for its product demo videos as well with the launch of CalExotics TV, a server-based video solution to offer online stores, bloggers and social media professionals the ability to stream or download California Exotic videos.
“Technology is shaping California Exotic Novelties’ marketing in new and exciting ways,” said Desiree Duffie, CalExotics’ director of marketing and public relations. “We have several key strategies currently in place. First of all, because we believe ‘content is king,’ we recently launched CalExotics. TV, which provides product videos to our customers. Since we understand how important it is to educate consumers on the retail level we provide QR code product category signs for brick and mortar retailers. Additionally, to help arm our customers with the marketing collateral and tools they need, we recently did the highly successful Power Sales Webinar.”