opinion

Why Retailers Should Double Down on Customer Service in Age of Amazon

Why Retailers Should Double Down on Customer Service in Age of Amazon

If the past year and a half has given us anything, besides a greater sense of personal hygiene, it's the understanding that community is essential.

Sometimes we forget that being around other people is one of our most fundamental human desires and at the core of many of our businesses. Adult retailers provide a space where people can come and feel free from stereotypes and judgment. They give customers the ability to explore their desires and curiosities. There are already so many stigmas and barriers surrounding sex, and our hope as retailers is to demystify taboos, break them down and make products more accessible. If we can do that for just one person, then we're doing our jobs correctly.

By improving the quality of the in-store experience, retailers can carve out a larger space for themselves in the industry.

The pandemic has only made our industry's purpose more evident. Community — it's the most logical explanation we have for our business's increased profits and the enthusiastic attitude of our customers. It's why overall sales in the adult retail industry have skyrocketed and why our chain of six stores has seen unprecedented growth. Our business model has undergone numerous changes in 20 years, but we still stock the same quality products and have store staff that mirrors the communities they serve. What has changed is the customer, along with their desire to connect, both sexually and as part of a community. In the past few months, we've seen evidence of this more than ever before.

Since the start of the pandemic, we have seen a groundswell of customers entering our NYC locations. It started slowly at first, but with decreasing COVID restrictions, we began to see more in-store customers — even more than before the pandemic began. This resurgence wasn't hard to explain. Once regulations started to lift in New York, we knew that people would be eager to undergo the in-person shopping experience again. However, it's not just the number of in-store customers that has retailers excited, but the quality of their visits. What we've witnessed is a newly heightened communal desire to browse, interact, ask questions, and have an experience.

By improving the quality of the in-store experience, retailers can carve out a larger space for themselves in the industry. We're banking on this not being a temporary desire. If the goal is to provide a more communal feeling, what can we do to make our customers feel like a part of the family?

Next, we knew we needed to up our game regarding our role in our communities and educating our customers. Hosting weekly seminars and workshops on sexuality and wellness provides an opportunity to learn and listen to the wants and needs of customers regarding sex, health and wellness, which can help you cater specifically to the communities that you serve. Positive and enthusiastic in-store experiences have kept customers returning, and almost all of our employees outsold their sales goals from the previous year. This has helped revitalize a 20-year-old brand, helping it evolve from just a retail store to a brand serving a particular and vital utility in New York City neighborhoods.

Finally, in what has been our most significant move yet, we recently closed on new locations in both downtown Brooklyn and midtown Manhattan, bringing our total number of stores to eight and into communities we’ve never been in before. It's both an inspiring and challenging time for us. The capital and workforce necessary to set up new locations is always tricky and, at times, risky. After these two stores open and have some running time, we plan to move outside New York and franchise the Romantic Depot name. It’s an exciting time for us here.

After such a taxing period for the entire world, we think now is the perfect time for companies to branch out into new communities and introduce them to the world of sexual health and wellness. It’s now more important than ever to foster relationships within communities, educate customers on new trends and products, and learn more intimately what interests customers.

Sex should be about curiosity, community, and feeling good about oneself. Instead of cowering in the face of Amazon's internet dominance, listen, learn and make changes that will make your stores pillars of community where people can explore, learn and have fun.

The methods we've employed in the past two years have helped us, but they are by no means exclusive to the Romantic Deport brand. Other brick-and-mortar adult health and wellness stores worldwide can implement these strategies to stay fresh and grow. After all, the more comfortable it becomes for customers to stop by our stores and buy some of their favorite products, the better off we'll all be in the long run.

Vanessa Ore, aka “Nessa,” has been with Romantic Depot since 2017 and is also a sexual health and wellness expert.

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