“Interactive features were added because that’s what creates value in our site,” said Adam Silverman, affiliate manager for MelissaMidwest.com. “It’s critical for retention; otherwise there is no reason to stick around. Everything else is downloadable.”
Amateur girl sites seem like an obvious fit when it comes to which sites could benefit from interaction with surfers. Users are there because of that one model and having a sense of personal contact brings fantasy one step closer to reality. Silverman says interactive features have been a part of the site since it went live.
MelissaMidwest.com hosts a public chat forum as well as an internal member’s forum and live webcam shows. Special member access to Melissa is mentioned numerous times during the tour and there are reminders inside the site of when the next cam show takes place. Silverman says that promotion of the interactivity is essential to building loyal customers.
“The interactive features are mentioned all over the tour because it is one of our best selling points,” he said. “Many surfers join with the interaction in mind. We want people using them. If they are using (the chat board and cam shows) it increases the likelihood they will remain a member for another month.”
Silverman says that the benefits to conversion ratios and retention are easy to see, but having a forum and allowing access to Melissa isn’t some wondrous recipe for success. Interaction also has drawbacks.
“Occasionally people make inappropriate comments, but they can be easily moderated or removed,” said Silverman. “The other down side is the time involved. As you can imagine, it takes a lot of work to answer all the member’s emails, do cam shows twice a week [and] post on an internal member’s message board. But in the end, it’s well worth it.”
Amateur model sites aren’t the only sites that can benefit from surfer interaction. Mantas Manova owns RabbitsReviews.com, which provides reviews of paysites so that surfers have an idea of what to expect before they join. Since the site launched, users have been encouraged to include their own comments, which are posted along with the individual site reviews.
“Allowing for user comments gives our reviews more credibility,” said Mantas. “It also gives us feedback on how we can improve our service and even helps with search engines as it adds fresh content to our pages.”
Beyond comments, surfers can also keep an online list of their favorite reviews, much like an online shopping cart. Manova recently launched an adult entertainment blog that also encourages user comments. Like Silverman, Manova says there’s a cost that comes with allowing for interaction, but apart from the additional workload, the only other problem tends to come from surfers with a vendetta against a site.
“When paysites make changes that surfers don’t like, we know immediately due to their comments,” he said. “Most of the spam involves users who are angry at a certain paysite and keep leaving bad comments on the review. We then flag the review for an update. The result is more accurate information for future readers.”
It’s one thing to allow surfers to contact you. Paying attention to what they say may be something else. An email complaining about your service is easier to dismiss than someone blasting you from a few feet away is, as could happen if you ran a brick-and-mortar business. That distance between webmaster and surfer can be difficult to grasp fully, but Manova says that it’s something you need to pay attention to or risk losing more than you bargained for.
“It’s much easier to brush an online customer off,” he said. “First, since there’s no face-to-face interaction and secondly because there are so many more potential customers online to distract you. However, keep in mind that word of mouth travels faster online and it will affect your business in the long term.”
There are a number of ways webmasters can introduce interactive content into their businesses but one site that has taken the needs and desires of the surfer to a new level is Mask TV. It was the first site launched by M Squared Productions and it’s based around the idea that users can submit fantasies and have them fulfilled on-camera. The production team finds the rest of the cast for the fantasy and the surfer-turned-performer wears a mask to help disguise their appearance. Allen Ingram, the chief operating officer of M Squared Productions, says interactivity is “the key to success” when it comes to adult entertainment but admits that it hasn’t always been the case for the rest of the industry.
“I think a lot of the people that pioneered adult never bothered about how the consumer felt,” said Ingram. “Now that the market is saturated, customer service will be the driving force behind success.”
Customer service is something Ingram knows well. He is a sommelier and ran five restaurants before moving into the adult industry. He’s taken what he learned about listening to the needs of customers during his time in the service industry and used it to build the company. For example, users of M Squared Productions’ sites can vote on the style of content, submit fantasies or specific story ideas and even become the star of a Mask TV episode. Ingram, too, admits that the interactivity is a draw on time but that the company gets more back in return. All you have to do to make interactivity work for you is pay attention.
“You need to identify what your customers want to be successful,” he said. “It’s easy to let your business become something else than what your consumer needs without (continually) drilling down and finding out what they want.”
Online business is constantly evolving, therefore allowing surfer interaction with you and your product could be the next step to take. It may require time and money to get it running right, but if the result is better conversion ratios, longer recurring members, benefits to search engine optimization or new business ideas for you to explore, it will be well worth the effort. Let the surfer be heard!