Online Retailers Discuss Top Trends

Online Retailers Discuss Top Trends
Colleen Godin

The newborn year is already shaping up to provide an explosive, though superbly unsurprising, climax to the rise of trends stemming from the last half decade. We already knew the internet has changed everything, online shopping is tops, and a business is hardly valid without a Twitter account. So what’s keeping screen-bound pleasure boutiques on their toes? The race to keep up with our increasingly digital-based lives.

“We have seen the continuation of trends that began three or four years ago,” says Glenn Mersereau, director of internet marketing for PHE Inc., which operates Adam & Eve. “Specifically, the continued prevalence of mobile commerce, the growth of the under-30 shopper, and the continued attraction to adult brands.”

Mobile optimization is imperative moving forward, and the importance of a website with mobile-first design will become even more important throughout 2018 and beyond. —Nicola Relph, AdultToyMegaStore

According to Mersereau’s data, this is the year to go all-in online.

“I expect these trends to continue, as well as the continued evolution of adult shopping into a mainstream specialty retail niche, rather than the ‘adult’ environment of the past,” he says.

If you thought mobile website optimization and a conscious social media presence were important last year, promoting that undervalued young intern to social media manager might be the best business decision of 2018.

To capture a healthy share of today’s internet retail sales, you’ve got to grab consumers by the smartphone. Online browsing trends all point in the same direction, and it doesn’t take hard numbers for most internet marketing managers to deduce that the new retail world revolves around cellular devices.

“We expect mobile browsing and sales to continue to grow and surpass desktop sales,” says Nicola Relph, owner and manager of Australia and New Zealand’s AdultToyMegaStore. “Obviously mobile optimization is imperative moving forward, and the importance of a website with mobile-first design will become even more important throughout 2018 and beyond.”

And what are consumers doing on their smartphones, besides excitedly checking the tracking information on their latest vibrator purchase? They’re — where else? — on social media. Colorful, cleanly crafted social media posts headed up by the company art department are eye-catching and essential to drawing followers, but what customers really want to see is what happens behind the scenes.

“Social media allows us to communicate our core value of transparency,” says Relph.

Today’s consumers, especially Millennials, are more likely to support businesses that are open and honest with their practices.

“We use our real names when producing content, we post photos of ourselves with products, we interact with our customers on Facebook, and we use Facebook and Instagram as tools for showing our personality as a brand,” Relph said.

Posting relatable content and responding to comments creates a feeling of community, pulling the consumer into the fun and often humorous experience of working with sex toys for a living. When clients feel like they’re a part of the show, they’re more likely to stick around to see what happens next.

“Facebook has been a focus for us, as it allows us to further engage with our customers,” says Relph. “It has allowed our customers to become part of the extended ATMS community, enjoying in the fun and laughter that ATMS team members enjoy.”

These days, though, stiff competition means covering all your marketing bases and showing up in every media form. Free sources like Instagram and Facebook are the low-hanging fruit of the advertising world, so companies like Adam & Eve aim to climb a little higher, statistics and all.

“We utilize all marketing channels that allow us to track their ability to generate sales,” explains Mersereau. “These run the gamut from online search, to television and radio, to YouTube, Pandora and even the occasional outdoor advertisement.”

Once you’ve got the customers’ attention, the key is to start a conversation and keep them talking. Considering the diverse market that attracts sex accessory buyers, all lines of communication are valuable and necessary.

“We do our best to maintain an open channel with our customers, whether it be social media, email, chat, or good old fashioned phone-based customer service,” says Mersereau. “We are proud of the fact that our customer support is still 24/7.”

From anywhere in the world, customers can be walked through the buying process with online retailers, almost mimicking the personalized face-to-face approach that happens in a brick-and-mortar setting.

According to Jessica Gordon, consumers desperately need all the help they can get. Gordon, a managing partner at online boutique retailer Luvoqa, finds that despite all the sexual health hype, most customers are still grabbing at straws when it comes to choosing the right sex toy.

“When shoppers consider buying a sex toy, they too often do so with incomplete and sometimes disjointed information,” says Gordon, whose observations paint a different outcome to the sex-ed trend.

The popularity of sex education might have taken off like a speeding rocket, she explains, but the genre is still new and not as widespread. Many consumers don’t really understand what they’re actually looking for and cannot accurately articulate their needs.

“While the sex toy space is becoming more mainstream, product knowledge does not yet abound, and this is an apparent obstacle to purchasing,” says Gordon.

Combating confusion is a two-fold approach when customers are met with a front page instead of a live person: a simple yet striking first impression, and readily available experts. Luvoqa’s website is mobile-ready, beautifully designed, and hip without an overbearingly artsy or cluttered aesthetic. Consumers come for the sex toys, stay for the visuals, and then discover the surprise of almost instant customer service.

“We offer a highly visual shopping experience and a personal touch. When it comes to customer service, shoppers are often interacting directly with me or my partner,” says Gordon. “We rely on our customer and community feedback. For us, the key to establishing our presence and customer loyalty has been to foster a community that identifies with our brand.”

For online businesses, getting personal is a core aspect of a successful mission, and online success in a crowded market place isn’t as elusive as you think.

“We give customers a reason to come back through providing a simple and pleasurable shopping experience from the moment they land on our website, to the moment they receive their parcel,” concludes Relph.

Through social media and truly interactive customer service, companies humanize and transform the otherwise lonely, one-directional web shopping experience. While we stare endlessly at our screens and fill up our website carts, it feels good to know that somewhere, someone else who cares is staring back.