Online Adult May Reap Benefits From Holiday Shopping

Stephen Yagielowicz

LOS ANGELES — As the holiday shopping season ramps up and consumers go online to find the best deals, will some of this e-commerce frenzy spill over to adult?

That’s a question that many adult website operators would like to know the answer to.

Consider that the online adult business is a seasonally cyclical one, with the fabled “Summer Slowdown” taking its toll on revenues, as consumers seek their entertainment out-of-doors, instead of sitting in front of a computer. Winter brings the opposite effect; as the kids are back in school and their parents seek to fill those quiet times in their now empty households. This “emptiness” may also play a significant driving role behind the increased yuletide sales of adult content, products and services, such as webcam shows — as much an issue of psychology as one of “porn.”

One effective barometer of what can be expected for adult this year is the vigor of the mainstream e-commerce sector as it heads into the season of giving.

Recent reports from the U.K. indicate that overall e-commerce activity is on the rise, with the IMRG Capgemini eRetail Sales Index revealing a 14 percent increase in sales in comparison to online consumer purchases made in October of 2010. The report also cited a seven percent boost in October over online sales made in September of 2011.

The Office for National Statistics also released its latest official figures revealing that e-commerce now accounts for 9.5 percent of the U.K. retail market, showing more than a percentage of gain from its October level of 8.2 percent, which is up from the 5.4 percent seen in October of 2010.

Drilling deeper, we find that it is not just the substantial growth in raw numbers that is significant, but the types of goods and services being purchased online.

“October’s performance was at the top end of our 12 to 14 percent forecast for the fourth quarter, so on the whole the outlook is positive,” IMRG CIO Tina Spooner stated. “Low-value product sectors are continuing to boom, with accessories up 50 percent as consumers look to buy bags and belts to complement their outfits rather than replenish their wardrobes, and likewise health & beauty reached a record high 53 percent growth.”

Consider this carefully: “luxuries” are being eschewed for items that help stretch the value of existing investments, making the perceived value of discount e-commerce sites now part of “survival mode,” which indicates a broad consumer reluctance to simply toss money around — and that never bodes well for those selling to the discretionary market.

Further anecdotal evidence of the financial and emotional burdens felt by consumers can be seen in online alcohol sales, which rose by 20 percent over the past year and also increased by 27 percent over the past month. This is a two-sided sword, as it indicates both heightened worry as well as a need to release.

This “need to release” could be channeled into the adult arena, but will the prospect have the ability to pay, or is the lack of that ability part of his worries?

“The market is growing in-line with our forecast, but the picture is mixed,” stated Capgemini’s Chris Webster. “Tough economic conditions are hurting retailers in commodity markets [where] deep discounting is eroding profits.”

“In other sectors,” Webster added, “… online allows retailers to get ahead of the competition by using innovative strategies reach affluent consumers and make money even in sectors which overall are not performing well.” MD Russ Carroll notes that online lingerie sales are experiencing strong growth — up 37 percent — with cosmetics and shoes also seeing sales increases.

“Online spending has continued to perform well and we expect this to persist through to the end of 2011 as consumers look online for their Christmas shopping,” Carroll stated. “Whilst other higher ticket items have not fared so well, interest in tablets has increased considerably at 372 percent as popularity in this latest gadget stays strong amongst online shoppers.”

This then is perhaps one of the best indicators of near-future profits: lots of folks will get shiny new tablets and other connected devices this holiday season, and many of them will want to check out “the mobile porn experience.”

Will you be ready to satisfy their needs?