It’s easy to lose focus, hope and ambition during these trying times of uncertainty. Let’s face it; we’re all facing uncharted territories. It’s now crucial to adapt, adopt new strategies, and then evolve in order to not only survive but also hopefully thrive in the near future. It won't be easy and we’ll have to learn new things, take on more challenges, and work together to pull through this.
I have a great deal of respect and appreciation for all brick-and-mortars, from the mom-and-pop shops, smaller chains, up to the massive nationwide retail chains because I have been successfully working with them for well over 10 years now and I don’t want that to change.
It’s now crucial to adapt, adopt new strategies, and then evolve in order to not only survive but also hopefully thrive in the near future.
Daily, I'm learning through various FB groups, posts, calls and messages about the many, forever changing struggles, obstacles and headaches facing stores and businesses. Respectfully I’d like to shine some light on various opportunities, ideas and sales channels you may want to establish and exploit. I find it’s always great to get an outside perspective and hopefully my input helps motivate, educate or inspire a positive change for everyone that owns, manages or works in our wonderful industry.
Without an online presence it’s difficult now more than ever for businesses to stay afloat with looming lockdowns. There are various reasons people may not have an online presence. Some were very busy and therefore content with their foot traffic, others may have been intimidated by ecommerce, lack of knowledge, and processes it takes to implement strong warehousing to back the online campaign. Plus it was never easy to find talented web designers because after all only 1 percent of the global population knows how to code. Hence creating a successful online presence was a costly setup and even costlier to maintain. But that’s old news! There are so many easy and essential tools, platforms, sites and strategies you can incorporate immediately. It won’t cost you money, but rather, time and patience. We seem to have a great deal of one and not the other, so when you embark on adopting some of these strategies, keep in mind patience is a virtue.
Stores have a great deal of sitting inventory that can be put online quickly, easily and on various successful sales platforms. The last thing anyone wants is stocking outdated products while their competitors offer new releases. Shops also have some talented salespeople possibly forced to sit at home and could use some/any income — commission them. Most of them are young or knowledgeable enough with their smartphones to put the following list to proper use:
1. It’s time to establish a website. It’s easy through new template-based sites such as Shopify. You simply upload/drag photos and type your desired content. I suggest playing a part in everything when it comes to your business — this is no different. Refer to other successful websites and see what you can learn or what can help you to better to stand out. It’s easy, fun, necessary and will show you a little research and hard work goes a long way.
2. Open or put your personal eBay accounts to work! Have trusted sales staff also open an eBay account and follow suit. Listings can easily be copied between accounts. It’s best to use aged accounts to avoid many posting limitations. Research products before you list and gauge your competition. Don’t overly undervalue products — it hurts the industry as a whole. Always include free shipping, a free gift (cheap lube sachets, etc.), and a little contact card reminding them to: leave you positive feedback or reach out if there’s an issue, a discount for their next purchase, your website, social media and contact information.
3. Avoid listing enhancements on sites like eBay and Amazon. They only allow grandfathered accounts to comfortably sell these product types. You risk shutting your eBay or Amazon shop down if you accrue enough warnings. People are definitely looking for their favorite enhancement brands so I suggest listing your enhancement products on the more lax sales sites such as Bonanza, LetGo, OfferUp, etc. All these sites offer shipping options and local pickup. Avoid selling any adult toys/products aside from herbals, lubricants and lingerie because anything they deem phallic or vulgar/sexual will be deleted.
4. Craigslist will always be a force to reckon with! This is a great place to list items, closeouts, old store fixtures, etc. Create “quarantine grab bags” and kits to help them save money and make one-stop shops. Go to the Freebies section and list “Free Condoms/Lube” as the title and advertise your business, mission and make the offer valid with curbside pickup of their order of $25 or more. People are always coasting through the “freebies page” and “for sale” page! You can advertise links to your shop, online listings, etc., to draw them to your products. Don’t overlook or undervalue the power of this particular platform.
5. Facebook Marketplace is poppin’! And even though they prohibit selling phallic/sexual products, it’s still a great place for herbals, lotions, potions and lingerie. It’s also really important to join your local FB “buy and sell” pages. You can advertise and connect with your local community. You have to be tasteful and mindful — after all, it is FB; and everyone is on FB, therefore leaving a good impression is very important.
6. Safety and sanitation are a major concern and many stores have cleverly incorporated curbside pickup showing awareness for safety and caution toward their customers and communities. It’s time to evolve your stock beyond the curbside. By that I mean stocking essentials, protective products, various masks and vital immune boosting supplements buyers can’t find at the larger retail chain stores deemed “essential.” If you start stocking hard-to-find protective items at no-gouge pricing, there’s a great chance you will draw traffic to your stores/sites. Giving away a free pair of gloves or protective mask with pickup and purchase is a great way to evolve your curbside service and inventory.
7. Take advantage of your email/contact list! Send them deals that Amazon and Walmart can't offer! Update them with your new essentials, masks, deals and kits. Email blasts work if you get the right person to design them. If you don’t have an email list, it’s time to start compiling one, it’s never too late to start. It’s always easy offering a promo/prize to attain client info. Most people are hesitant to give out their name and contact at their local sex shops until they’re incentivized.
8. Use your social media presence if you have it. If you don’t have it, build it. Everyone is on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and now Tik Tok, to waste time. This is where your foot traffic has wandered off to. They’re not far. They’re not hiding. They need content — your content.
9. Yelp and Google are overlooked powerhouses. I’ve walked into countless shops as a mystery buyer and have never been asked to post a review of my experience. Many purchase decisions and selections are based on Yelp and Google influence. Five-star reviews and photos are most powerful on these search engines.
Google is lax so anyone, anywhere, can leave your business a five-star review and feedback. Yelp is a bit tricky because they operate by insanely strict algorithms. Don’t have staff or friends and family in various cities and states posting reviews. These reviews get flagged and deleted along with other organic reviews. The key is taking advantage while the customer is there to assure it’s been completed properly and most importantly geographically synced with their smartphone to prove the validity of the review. “Check-In” offers are always great because they’re an incentivizer. Buyers often are unaware of check-in offers, so your best approach is at checkout. Tell every customer about your check-in offer (most don’t know) upon check-out. Then tell them: “It’s near impossible for us to advertise as an adult shop. Your review and check-in are essential to our business. If you could help us by posting a picture with check-in, I’d be happy to double the check-in offer.” Have shoppers leave five stars and most importantly, post a photo. Why? Because Yelp can’t delete reviews with photos.
10. This applies to everything: Take original and quality photos. Take more than just one photo. Get creative and create backgrounds/settings to make your photos unique to you. List detailed descriptions and specs. Start creating short and relevant video content — people love to learn. Remember to respect verbiage and descriptors when it comes to gender. You’d be surprised how much business you’re losing when you only refer to something as simply “his” or “hers.”
I hope this information helps and encourages you to keep fighting and pushing against the crashing waves. Sharks sink to their demise to the ocean floor when they stop swimming. This too shall pass, so just keep swimming.
Hamed Bosset-Allen is an accomplished entrepreneur who has over 15 years of brand development and marketing experience. In 2017, he founded SOS Distribution, which offers industry-exclusive brands with formulations for all genders and couples.