2016 Outlook: Marketing Online, In-Store Experience Set to Drive Retail Sales

Alex Henderson

Distributors play a vital role in the marketing of sex toys, pleasure products and adult videos. Whether the products being offered are floggers, vibrators, latex corsets or MILF/cougar videos, getting a product from Point A to Point B is crucial. And for 2016, one can expect to see a variety of digital and brick-and-mortar activity from distributors.

Fifteen years ago, some people in the adult entertainment industry believed that there needed to be a strict separation of digital marketing and physical marketing. But these days, the two are undeniably interconnected. Sex toys are sold both online and in brick-and-mortar adult stores, and adult videos are either distributed digitally online or sold as DVDs to the diehard fans who still crave that format.

Body-safe materials are going to be one of the bigger trends in 2016. Another trend we are seeing is the increasing number of ‘affordable luxury’ items from the various manufacturers. —Inga Van Riper, Honey’s Place

Scott Dantis, director of sales and marketing for Williams Trading Co., asserted that in 2016, it will be crucial for adult companies to understand the ways in which digital and brick-and-mortar marketing can interact successfully. Dantis told XBIZ: “We see that the biggest challenge in the adult brick-and-mortar retail store is a phenomenon called showrooming. That is, a consumer walks into your store and is price-comparing items on their smartphone while shopping. Adult retailers should embrace this, as they have a consumer that has reached the purchase decision by shopping online and is ready to make the purchase with the proper guidance on the floor.”

Dantis continued: “In order for brick-and-mortar retailers to compete with showrooming, the in-store purchase experience must be offered by a knowledgeable salesperson. With technology today, we can reach a sales rep on the floor with an Android phone, iPhone or tablet, or on the PC. Our goal is to provide a path for the sales rep to get trained on any device 24/7.”

According to Dantis, the fact that sex toy customers have become so tech-savvy does not mean that they will abandon brick-and-mortar stores in 2016. “Consumers prefer to shop in a local retail store and trust our partners,” Dantis observed. “Additionally, they want to touch, feel and experience the item.”

Inga Van Riper, brand manager for Honey’s Place, predicted that in 2016, brick-and-mortal sex shops will continue to evolve in a couples-friendly fashion and will become even more Internet-minded. Van Riper told XBIZ: “When I first started at Honey’s Place in 2011, there was an uncertainty among brick-and-mortar adult video and sex toy shops. A number of them closed down and went out of business. However, I noticed that a number of these stores evolved from male-focused stores and were redesigned to be more inviting for both couples and women. Many of these stores also realized the importance of having an online presence. With today’s market, it is another way for people to be aware of your business and also, to increase revenue and foot traffic.”

Van Riper emphasized that sex toy consumers will be very quality-conscious in 2016. “We are noticing that more and more consumers are more aware of the materials that are in today’s pleasure products,” Van Riper explained. “Body-safe materials are going to be one of the bigger trends in 2016. Another trend we are seeing is the increasing number of ‘affordable luxury’ items from the various manufacturers.”

Naudia Moore, press liaison for Bizarre Video and a representative for Nobu Toys, predicted that BDSM will be great for both sex toy distributors and adult video distributors in 2016. “There are so many exciting categories that have flourished in the adult industry in the past 5-10 years,” Moore told XBIZ. “One particular category, which is one of my ultimate favorites, is fetish/role play/ BDSM. The adult industry has, of course, embraced this type of sexuality for years; however, since the ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ book series and movie have completely taken off in society, the idea of the lifestyle is becoming more mainstream and accepted. The demand for this kind of entertainment and content has been steadily growing, as the worldwide audience has become more curious and exploratory towards this type of content. I believe the fetish category in adult film will soak it up and take advantage of this taboo sensuality, and Bizarre Video is especially working to fulfill these fantasies for the public.”

Moore noted that in 2016, there is no reason why video-oriented adult companies cannot market sex toys as well — and she cited Bizarre as a prime example, saying, “Vendors and consumers alike can expect a total makeover with Bizarre Video. We are extremely excited to announce that our newly revamped and updated website,, will be released in early 2016 and will offer VOD video options, streaming video, membership content, never-before-released content from U.S. and European fetish producers, and much more. The new year will also see the launch of two lines of custom-made, high-quality fetish gear and sex toys. The first will be the Bizarre Video leather line of top-tier fetish products, and the second will be an exclusive Bonnie Rotten-endorsed line of toys debuting with five products branded by the popular porn star herself. We will also be updating and expanding our distribution of the Nobu Toys line, of which we have handled U.S. marketing for over three years now.”

In 2016, Moore said, distributors will need to understand the ways in which brick-and-mortar adult stores have evolved. “Although the DVD market has declined in recent years due to technology, the market for shopping in adult stores is still out there,” Moore observed. “The evolution of various toys and the ability to personally pick your own toys in retail locations has increased with the (demand) of the public. The impression of who shops at adult stores is no longer your typical old ‘pervy’ man. Now, it is people of all ages, sexes and sexual orientations who come in and are welcomed with excellent customer service and freedom to shop without judgment. Certain categories such as BDSM are now embraced and even have their own sections in the typical adult store; however, more stores specific to the lifestyle are evolving and will continue to increase in 2016.”