The adult retail industry has undergone many changes since 1993, when GameLink was launched as a systems integration firm — and during its 26-year history, the adult ecommerce giant has made its mark with everything from DVDs to video-on-demand to sex toys. Working with manufacturers, distributors and retailers, GameLink leaders Ilan Bunimovitz and Magnus Sullivan are also bringing their expertise to the ecommerce platform GLI.services. GLI — which offers search engine optimization, catalog management, email marketing and many other services — is designed to help retailers, including brick-and-mortar stores, grow and expand their online presence. Bunimovitz and Sullivan recognize brick-and-mortar retail as a vital part of the adult industry while pushing ecommerce as something that can enhance physical stores rather than replace them. XBIZ recently sat down with Bunimovitz to discuss their goals and ambitions for GLI.services.
XBIZ: You have been in business since 1993. What are some of the most important lessons that you have learned during your 26 years?
Our primary value is that when we assume management of ecommerce, sales go up significantly.
Sullivan: You can’t change if you don’t survive, but you won’t survive if you don’t change.
XBIZ: What are some of the most important changes that GLI’s leadership has observed in adult retail in the last five or 10 years? And in what ways is GLI helping retailers to change with the times?
Sullivan: Adult retail has transformed dramatically into women- and couples-centric stores with open windows, natural light and even cafes. Companies have completely rebranded, redesigned and restocked to adapt to market changes. Filled with crafted displays, tactile surprises and an unexpected sense of play, a well-designed adult store can be an unparalleled shopping experience that forms the foundation for loyalty and trust that is impossible to replicate online. While retailers have done a great job adapting to increased acceptance of adult toys, many have struggled to incorporate a major market into their retail strategy: the online consumer. And with major online marketplaces like Amazon devouring market-share by driving prices ever-lower while retaining total control of the customer, it’s easy to see why many retailers have viewed the online space as intimidating and treated it as an after-thought at best — and more often, as competitors to their retail outlets.
Our experience, however, is that brick-and-mortar adult retailers who creatively integrate their online offerings into their retail store grow their businesses significantly. For over 20 years, we at GLI.services have worked with retailers that have successfully made this transition, incorporating the art of store design, merchandising, window displays and customer service to achieve the best possible results for in-store sales while using their online brand to capture new sales online.
XBIZ: What are some of the greatest challenges that adult retailers face when embarking on ecommerce? And in what ways is GLI.services helping retailers to meet those challenges?
Sullivan: The biggest challenge is getting retailers to realize that the online store is not an entirely separate piece, but that it’s also a powerful tool to sell more to the people that walk into their stores. Retailers are often surprised when we remind them that the online experience begins when the customer first encounters their brick-and-mortar store. This simple but radical revelation encourages them to rethink the interplay between retail and ecommerce in the overall branding, marketing and sales strategy.
XBIZ: Please describe some of the ways in which a retailer’s brick-and-mortar division and online division can complement one another.
Sullivan: Integrating digital marketing strategies are not limited to placing tablets and kiosks in the store. The core benefits of your digital retail offering — selection, customer reviews, education, information and recommendations, easy access from remote locations, and continued connection with the brand experience in the store — can be more effective when subtly folded into your existing layout.
XBIZ: What are some common misconceptions that brick-and-mortar adult retailers have about ecommerce? And in what ways does GLI.services educate them?
Sullivan: The most common positions are that: (1) they can’t compete with other online sites, so why try? (2) that the margins are much lower online than they are in the store, so why should I encourage the low-margin option? And (3): I already have a site with Shopify, WordPress or some other template-based service.
XBIZ: GLI.services has described itself as “not just an online store solution; we are a sales and marketing solution.” What are some of the things GLI.services has been doing to educate its clients from a sales/marketing standpoint?
Sullivan: Beyond the fact that we bring 26 years of online experience and a very specialized technology platform and skill set, we act as strategic partners. We help them understand how to optimize all channels — and solutions vary from business to business. Some audiences can tolerate multiple emails per day while others recoil at more than one per week. We work on email capture strategies, promotional strategies, merchandising strategies. We connect and build relationships based on our vast network of industry connections. And because we’ve been doing this for so long, we have a pretty good sense of what works where and why.
XBIZ: What are some of the things that adult retailers need to understand about Amazon’s enormous presence in the online market?
Sullivan: Amazon is not interested in building your business and brand; they are singularly focused on building Amazon. While many know that 50 percent of all ecommerce now runs through Amazon, what many don’t know is that Amazon has a near monopoly on an increasing number of verticals: 97 percent of all batteries sold are sold on Amazon, 94 percent of all men’s athletic shoes are sold on Amazon, 93 percent of all cleaning supplies, 92 percent of all golf equipment, 91 percent of all skin care products, etc. When Amazon decides to own a vertical in retail, they dominate it. But it’s not just that: they often move to introduce their own white-label line, because why get a small cut of retail when you can buy direct from manufacturers and take a much larger cut?
While this can be a daunting specter for some, we feel that retailers have a unique ability to compete against behemoths like Amazon. Retailers have a powerful foundation for new customer acquisition and retention because of their unique ability to interact with the customer. Major mainstream retail companies understand that in the age of digital aggregators, their core business is creating spaces that affect a compelling emotional response and extending that to their online business. Think Apple. Think Restoration Hardware. Think Amazon Go and their acquisition of Whole Foods. These companies are not focusing on online only; they are focusing on using real-world experiences to create brand loyalty that extends to the online environment.
XBIZ: GLI.services has worked with its share of major names in the adult industry, including PHE, Romantix and others. What are some of the things established brands have appreciated about GLI?
Sullivan: Results. Our primary value is that when we assume management of ecommerce, sales go up significantly. If that doesn’t happen, nothing else matters. But beyond that, we view all of the brands we manage as partners. We understand their brand, their business — and we dovetail strategies to work with their organizations. This takes flexibility, skill and attention.