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Making Adult Novelty Stores Consumer Friendly, Pt 1

Making Adult Novelty Stores Consumer Friendly, Pt 1

July 15, 2002
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" A little extra effort goes a long way toward making your store stand out from the sea of cookie-cutter adult stores all jockeying for that same sale. "

Some of the largest, best-established adult stores on the Net are not consumer-friendly. While it takes additional time and effort to make a store consumer-friendly it is time well spent as your conversion rates and customer satisfaction will improve.

There are many areas in which even someone with limited knowledge of adult products can improve their store's look and feel, making the experience more fulfilling for their customers, and potential customers, as well as improving revenues for themselves and their affiliates. If you are an adult product start-up, you can use every advantage you can get, and utilizing these retail basics can assist you.

In the non-adult world, a satisfied customer tells on average 3 people about his or her experience, while an unhappy customer tells 7 people. Some webmasters may mistakenly assume that because their product is adult in nature, that there is little risk to them if they make no effort towards improving the over-all shopping experience for their customers, yet nothing could be further from the truth! Customer satisfaction has a way of spreading word of mouth and driving the traffic you want and need to your door. As we all know, new customer acquisition is far more expensive in terms of actual investment, precious time and energy, than keeping a customer you already have happy.

As a webmaster you need only think of your own experience in brick-and-mortar stores to draw upon some key areas which you may be able to improve upon in your own shop. A little extra effort goes a long way toward making your store stand out from the sea of cookie-cutter adult stores all jockeying for that same sale. Thoughtful design decisions are only part of the equation - thoughtful trade practices matter as much if not more to a nervous potential customer.

Your Policies
Be upfront with your policies. Don't make people have to guess whether you take returns or whether their package is going to be plastered with lurid imagery. Give them as many ways as you can to contact you. Explain to consumers what name will appear on their credit card statement. A real world phone number and address goes a long way to soothe first-time buyer jitters. Mention your SSL checkout and your privacy policy. Give them the facts and be clear about it. A simple page explaining your policies will make all your customers feel better yet there are an absurdly high number of adult merchandise retailers who practically hide their real world details from surfers.

Returns & Exchanges
If you buy something from Nordstrom and it breaks you know they will take it back. This unwavering commitment to customer satisfaction instills confidence in consumers and it is a confidence that is viral - passed from person to person over decades of time. Many people, perhaps even most, won't bother to take back something that was defective but they need to feel they could take it back if they wanted to.

Many adult product e-tailers feel they will get burned by a liberal returns policy and given the somewhat unpredictable lifespan of adult novelties, it is an understandable concern. Taking back returns will cost you some money but it will give you something in return that may ultimately be worth more to you and your business: good will. A happy customer is a customer that is willing to give your business another shot. You have the opportunity to up sell this customer to a novelty with better features, more predictable results and more profits for you.

Exchanges are another area you can make your customers feel good about giving you their business. If a customer buys a smoothie vibrator and finds it too noisy, take it back. Let her pick something else. Up sell the newly weds something with a little more zing. Besides having the opportunity to turn the experience into one which will draw that customer closer to you and make her or him a repeat buyer which is every business's road to profitability - you have the opportunity to educate your consumer. Education is another way to help make that customer yours for life; explain which vibrators are likely to be noisy and which ones are quiet. Help your customers out, or get a consultant who is willing to do it for you.

Keep track of the items that fail. Make smart choices when you buy your stock. If you discover a certain novelty manufacturer produces shoddy work from foreign factories don't buy from them. Buy American made goods or switch to a different manufacturer. Practically nothing is sacred in adult toys - you can get a simple smoothie vibrator or a rubber dildo from ten different places. Thankfully manufacturers are starting to catch on that quality matters - the golden days of being able to sell junk is over. People talk, especially women.

Now you might think that it isn't your fault that something broke after an hour or a day or a month, and it's true, it isn't your fault, but your customer doesn't care. You want that customer to be happy. Happy customers become repeat customers. Not to mention if you pay $3 wholesale for a simple vibrator that lasts 60 days and replace it with another $3 dollar vibrator - you made interest off holding the money, and you got the good will of your consumer. That's golden! Writers should also limit their use of exclamation points which are shockingly over-utilized in the copy of most adult novelty stores.

Your Writing
Consumers respond well to writers who exhibit a strong voice. They want to feel like an essentially impersonal Internet transaction has a personal touch. If you don't write well, think about hiring someone who does. Good writing conveys professionalism and respect for the consumer. It can make the difference between a sale and a fail. It needs to be said that a reasonable level of grammar, punctuation and spelling should be employed. Writers should also limit their use of exclamation points which are shockingly over-utilized in the copy of most adult novelty stores.

Also keep your niche in mind and write for it. If you're selling to men, then by all means be graphic if you feel that will be successful, but if your audience is women, then be a little more reserved in your candid use of explicit language describing the human body. Women tend not to respond well to exceptionally vulgar language; a fact that never fails to amaze me when viewing explicit sites aimed at a mostly female audience. Women love sex of all descriptions, but the window-dressing and the motivation is different than for men. Your adult store needs to reflect your customer base whatever it may be.

One area which should be of concern to all adult novelty vendors is accuracy. Don't claim a vibrator is powerful if it isn't, and don't claim that an item can do something if it can't. This puffery leads to disgruntled consumers and boosts unnecessary returns, exchanges and bad will. Just because a vibrator is small and gentle, doesn't mean that there isn't an audience looking for small, gentle sex toys. Not every customer is looking for a vibrator with the power of a jack hammer. Telling the truth about your wares builds consumer confidence in you as a retailer.

If at all possible, make every effort to give your consumer some real world information about the items you are selling. If a given dildo is made of Cyberskin and is 6" long and 2" in diameter then tell that to your consumer. Pictures on the web rarely have anything to indicate scale, so a picture alone is generally not enough. More information is always better than less if it's the sort of information that could in any way effect the decision to buy from you.

About You
Another way to target your consumer's loyalty is to tell them a little about yourself. You may think you're boring but your consumer would love to see who he or she is buying from. There's a reason you can go into almost any store today and see pictures of the owners and top managers on the wall - those pictures and phone numbers are powerful tools giving a personal feel to an otherwise faceless corporation. You want to give your consumer someone to relate to and a sense that you care about them personally and their business. It doesn't hurt to add a little about why you started in business and where you see your business going. A vision statement and a few lines that will summarize your commitment to your customers does wonders when compared to the faceless spawn of trashy adult stores.

To be continued:

Stay tuned for Part 2 and learn about Marketing and Customer Service for adult toy stores:


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