The distribution of pleasure products has diversified considerably in recent years. E-commerce websites such as Babeland.com and PinkCherry.com are thriving, yet many consumers continue to patronize brick-and-mortar adult stores. The fact that e-commerce is doing so well doesn’t mean that distributors can afford to be any less supportive of in-person sales at either small mom-and-pop stores or large chains like The Pleasure Chest and Hustler Hollywood. And in 2018, pleasure product distributors will need to do everything possible to help retailers succeed with consumers.
Allison Travers, director of marketing communications for Eldorado Trading Company, said that retail education will continue to be a high priority for the Colorado-based distributor in 2018.
In the last year, we have seen a shift towards education and relationships, which we started being more cognizant of in early 2017. -Anthony Pingicer, East Coast News
“[In 2017], we saw an importance placed on education,” Travers told XBIZ. “Distributors and manufacturers have evolved beyond being suppliers concerned about product and price, but have put emphasis on adding value for their customers as well.”
According to Travers, Elevate U — Eldorado’s educational program for retailers — will continue its expansion in 2018.
“With the release of Eldorado’s own e-learning program, Elevate U, product and sexual health education were in the forefront [in 2017],” Travers observed. “We think that trend will continue to drive business in 2018.”
Travers added, “[In 2017], there was also a notable change in language used in the industry to be more inclusive and gender-neutral. This has coincided with the shift of many stores to becoming sex-positive spaces where people of any gender or sexual preference can feel comfortable. We expect that trend to continue as well. Traditional stores have started to incorporate modern technology and trends into their spaces, resulting in more boutique-like environments. The mainstreaming of the industry has been — and will continue to be — a driving force [in 2018], with products appearing in mainstream media such as magazines like Cosmo, on TV shows and in mainstream stores like Target and Walgreens.”
In 2018, Travers predicts product education programs for retailers will continue to come from manufacturers as well as distributors — and Eldorado, she said, is happy to work with manufacturers in that area.
“Retailers learn about the latest and greatest products from manufacturers as well as hear from educators about sexual health and best business practices,” Travers explained. “Also, many manufacturers like CalExotics, We-Vibe and Pipedream offer their own product education programs or platforms for retailers. Our sales team frequently collaborates with Eldorado’s manufacturer partners to support retailers with in-store trainings, product tutorials and special events.”
According to Travers, “Eldorado’s YouTube channel hosts 1,200-plus manufacturer product videos, with over 4 million views and 5,200 subscribers that retailers are free to use for both educational and marketing purposes.”
Anthony Pingicer, director of marketing for East Coast News (ECN), asserted that in 2018, distributors will need to do as much as they can to help brick-and-mortar retailers maintain a strong rapport with consumers.
“In the last year, we have seen a shift towards education and relationships, which we started being more cognizant of in early 2017,” Pingicer told XBIZ. “For ECN, it’s about being a partner to our customer, not just their distributor.”
Pingicer continued, “We are regularly trained by manufacturers on the latest and greatest items, and we pass that knowledge to our customers on a daily basis. We also host regional events throughout the year with our trusted vendor partners, where retailers can get educated on products and brands in small group settings.”
Because adult retail is so competitive, Pingicer emphasized, having an aesthetically pleasing store will be crucial in 2018.
“A warm, inviting environment is key,” Pingicer explained. “With the online buying experience being what it is today, it is very easy to buy an item and have it at your door in one or two days. But some people still like to go into a store, touch the lube, feel the vibration of a toy and try on lingerie. So, you need to have your store set up in a way where the customer does not want to leave.”
Scott H. Dantis, director of sales and marketing for Williams Trading Co., noted that its educational program, Williams Trading University, was a major focus in 2017 — and the New Jersey-based distributor will continue expanding WTU this year, according to Dantis.
“WTU is a free e-learning program available exclusively to existing and new Williams Trading Co. accounts,” Dantis told XBIZ. “Online courses are available 24 hours/7 days per week, accessed with a simple login account. Each course offers product benefits and features as well as a seminar that explains its importance to a customer, their needs and well-being. Over 60,000 course certifications have been completed across the domestic U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico.”
Dantis added, “Upon completing a course, the user takes a quiz certifying their newfound knowledge and is rewarded with a downloadable certificate. Free premiums, samples and special offers are being made by select participating vendors. This feature is an added benefit to the retailer, as their employees can try a product, become a consumer and ultimately, recommend it to their customers.”
In 2018, Dantis said, Williams Trading Co. is joining forces with Sunny Rodgers, brand manager for Pipedream Products, for Sex Ed with Sunny — a new educational program launching with 10 courses in its initial phase. Dantis stressed that even though e-commerce has grown substantially in recent years, Williams Trading Co. remains a strong supporter of brick-and-mortar retail.
“We also offer a free retail store builder web service, including a drop shipment process allowing all brick-and-mortar retailers to offer over 19,000 products for sale with drop shipment and compete with Amazon,” Dantis noted. “The retail industry is undergoing a dramatic shift: in-store foot traffic is down, online research is up, and smartphones are becoming increasingly important to the consumer’s in-store shopping journey. Adult retailers report that their customers are increasingly researching their in-store purchases online before and after they arrive. Competing today with Amazon has become an adult retailer’s headache. However, an adult brick-and-mortar retailer has advantages that the Internet can’t offer: your personal attention and product expertise and loyalty, as they know and understand their own local customers.”