BURBANK, Calif — Executives and professionals from every corner of the adult industry started day two of the XBIZ Retail conference by crowding into the Marriott Burbank conference room to gain valuable knowledge on how to apply mainstream strategies to their e-commerce platforms.
The early morning seminar, moderated by Gamelink’s director of online sales, Jeff Dillon, welcomed a panel of adult pros — some of whom have transitioned from the mainstream sector themselves – that included Sex Toy Dave, Pure Passionate executive vice president of marketing Ryan Wuest, Castle Megastore social media specialist Keith Flynn and Adam & Eve’s Internet marketing director Glenn Mersereau.
Dillon kicked off the talk by asking the panel what kind of mainstream advertising should adult retailers adopt in order to stay competitive that was quickly answered by Adam & Eve’s Mersereau.
“We use radio, TV and pod casts as our big brand driver. We also have an Adam & Eve shopping show. These mainstream types of marketing have proven to be big traffic drivers for us,” Merserau said.
He added that the company also uses coupon codes to fulfill sales once the consumers come through their online doors.
Pure Passionate’s Wuest said his company is new to the adult market and doesn’t have the budget for traditional mainstream advertising but instead focuses on engaging customers through social media including Twitter and Facebook.
He cautioned however, that being on a social media site alone isn’t enough. What’s important, West said, is knowing when to have positive comments placed on the sites to take advantage of the popularity.
“It’s essential to know how many shares a comment will get on Facebook so they can be placed on the Facebook news feed. Most people will read the news feeds more than simple comments,” Wuest said.
He went on to say that the messages also need to engage with the customer and not simply be promotional. Fifty percent of the messages should be promotional, but the other 50 percent should really talk to the customer, Wuest maintained.
Castle Megastores’ Flynn agreed and said his company is not just a brand, but a friend” to the customer. “If you know about the Dunbar number research that says most people can only manage 150 friends, e-commerce retailers need to figure out how they can be one of those friends,” Flynn said.
Sex Toy Dave noted that he likes using YouTube video as a means of advertising.
“We’ve used two-minute videos that that have gotten millions of views and some that haven’t. But the exposure is so much better and free. How many followers can you get on Twitter — 100 or so? That’s not a big deal. Of course you have to be careful that your adult product doesn’t get taken down on YouTube, but it’s worth the effort,” Dave said.
Dillon also posed the idea of using customer advocates as endorsement as mainstream does.
Although most of the panelists agreed that it’s a good, feasible idea, the actual implementation of affinity and rewards programs can be difficult and in some case are simply discount programs.
Mersereau, whose background includes the performance bicycle market said Adam & Eve is exploring the idea but the key to an affinity program is to make it simple. — start with points and dollars “The danger is that it’s just another discount — watch your profits.”
Wuest, another mainstream convert to adult had another opinion and said that it’s more important to keep the buying process easy, and that then will convert to loyalty. He said this is especially with the growing mobile and tablet market. He recommended getting the customers into the door, and then talking about the product.
Melding brick and mortar with retailers’ online stores has been a tried and true practice for the mainstream and Dillon threw out the practice to the panel for their opinion.
Adam & Eve’s Mersereau said that a synergy between the two must be built, noting that the company works closely with its franchise partners when it comes to ship=to=store and integrating inventory.
Another important point was building online credit card purchasing trust. Wuest said that “trust converts” to sales and said websites need to have a “branding feel” that look as good as a quality brick and mortar store. “A customer judges an e-commerce operation based on the look of the store,” he said.
Apps that connect to Facebook, terms and conditions, FAQs and some e-commerce credibility seals are also bells and whistles that can add to a site’s trustworthiness.
But Dave was a proponent of supplying “as little friction as possible through the checkout process” as key. "Just watch what people do when they’re ready to check out — it will tell you a lot,” he suggested.
Other hot buttons discussed by the panel included the continued use of tried-and true-email marketing campaigns — with the caveat that some take time to develop — giving people a “deal” or gift with purchase as promotion and using Google analytics to “track everything.”
Dave said that he found a text link for “pussysuckers” to work better than a banner through Google’s tracker. And Mersereau added that it’s the only successful way to look at data.
Wuest noted that some webmaster software is also valuable like Panda and ClickTale, but the most important thing is to tracking customers’ habits. “Looking at numbers is fantastic, but you must look at what customers are doing, “ he said.
The show lightened up quite a bit with the always-popular 3-Minute Show Off session where exhibitors had the chance to demonstrate their products and compete for a chance to win a $3,000 advertising grand prize.
Judged by Sex Toy Dave and sexuality specialist and consultant Kim Airs, the contest included Jopen, Pipedream, Masque, We-Vibe, Beamonstar, Rodeo, Topco Sales, Fun Factory, Sportsheets, Stockroom, Wet For Her, Spartacus and Fleshdrive.
In “American Idol” fashion, the field hawked their wares that included everything from glass dildos, to dissolvable semen-taste strips, to a device that turns the whole body into an electric vibrator.
Scored on a point system from 1-10, most of the demos proved to do well, with none scoring lower than a 13.
Contest attendees were treated to an informative, and often humorous look at some of the leading product manufacturers and distributors in the business who showed some new products along with traditional favorites.
One favorite from Rodeo was underwear that supported dildos without the typically annoying problem of droopy strap-ons. Topco also caught the crowd’s attention with its high-end “cyber-skin” products for men and women and its clever use of social media and video as sales aids.
Another was Stockroom’s Power Tripper device that turned the user’s entire body into an electro-vibrator that allows partners to get buzzed just by touching.
Judge Kim Airs said, “It’s great to see the products and how they’re presented. The attendees got a lot out of it. They would normally just pass the exhibit booths but this venue let the products shine and the presenters had a captive audience.”
After some lively judging, laughs, applause and a few groans, Topco Sales was voted the winner with the most points and took home the $3,000 XBIZ advertising prize.
Two “mystery” prizes were also awarded for second and third place to Rodeo and Jopen respectively.
Day two of the Retail show also played host to a constant stream of exhibitor floor attendance, with a number of guests happy to be able to see products up close and to be able to talk business with company decision makers.
Although primarily a retail product-based show, the venue did include some adult video production companies that took to the floor to bolster their retail exposure and press the flesh with adult colleagues.
Heatwave Video President and CEO Gabor Szabo said he has been going to shows for the last 22 years for a number of reasons, mostly to support the industry but was delighted to be able to support the retail segment at this year’s XBIZ show.
And Mile High Media’s vice president John Blitt said his company attended the show because of the uniqueness of its product line and felt it was a great place to showcase.
“We really like the fact that this show brings together the people who matter in the industry all in one place. I was even happier to see that this year’s show had more traffic than last year's. It’s a great sign that this segment is growing," Blitt said.
Throughout XBIZ Retail’s exhibition area, new product unveilings continued on day two. Fleshlight unveiled the new lightweight Flight device, a countertop display of texture samples and new brick-and-mortar retailer-friendly hanging packaging.
“It’s something that retailers have been asking for,” Fleshlight’s Rebecca Howe said. “We’ve gotten a great response – the show’s been great for us.”
Baci Lingerie showcased its eyelash collection, displays and marketing material.
“The show is better than I expected – it’s extremely productive,” Baci Lingerie’s Scott Funaro said. “Everybody loved the eyelashes and our ‘shop within a shop’ concept.”
Elbow Grease’s Jennifer said that many visitors to the company’s booth were there to check out the latest from the established company.
“We’ve been in the industry for over 30 years,” she said, “and people were excited to see our latest formulations."
In its 25th year in business, Spartacus Leather exhibited with a new look and new products.
“We thought it was time to bring some ‘cool’ to the industry,” Spartacus’ Sesha Brown said. “We got tons of good response at the show.”
Komar Company, which is based in Baltimore, is a distributor that’s been in business for 50 years.
“The show’s been a pretty good success,” Komar’s Mark Foreman said. “We took a chance coming out here and it didn’t disappoint. We made new contacts and saw a lot of faces that before were only voices.”
CB-6000 caused buzz throughout the show with a new chastity device with attached anal plug. CB-6000’s Nikki Yates said that the show allowed the company to share its rich history with industry newcomers.
“The show’s been great,” Yates said. “I loved the chance to get to talk to people we know in the industry and introduce ourselves to new faces.”
The grand finale seminar of XBIZ Retail featured a roundtable of industry pros that discussed the challenges in the evolving retail marketplace while offering solutions. Among the challenges that retailers face today is lower in-store traffic due to online retail and higher MSRPs.
Panelist Hustler Hollywood’s Theresa Flynt and moderator Mark Franks of Castle Megastore agreed that while there were less visitors to their respective retail locations, sales of big-ticket items increased.
There are many factors contributing to higher prices – and much of it relates to the oversaturation of the market. Dreamgirl International’s Christopher Scharff noted that the increase of competition is giving way to high-tech products and marketing innovation.
Despite the oversaturated market, distributors Honey’s Place’s Bonnie Feingold and Eldorado Trading’s Larry Garland agreed that the vast amount of product for sale is presenting limitless opportunities for retailers to succeed.
“At this point there could be three adult retailers on the same street and each one would be completely unique,” Feingold said.
The conclusion of the show’s final seminar also marked the announcement of iPad giveaway winner. Edward Thomas from Bakersfield, Calif.-based 69Fanatasies was the lucky draw.
“I’m very excited to take home the Apple iPad,” he said. “Thank you, XBIZ. I thoroughly enjoyed myself at the show – I learned a lot and met a lot of people.”