ANME/XBIZ Show: Experts Share Tips for Boosting Pleasure Product Sales

ANME/XBIZ Show: Experts Share Tips for Boosting Pleasure Product Sales

LOS ANGELES — From international business to adapting to new technology and how to make the most out of social media, several trends were covered during the ANME/XBIZ ecommerce panel held January 15.

Moderated by Zoë Ligon, CEO of Spectrum Boutique, the panel included Erin Sue from PinkCherry; Lulu Batista of; Chelsea McCain from Adult Empire; and Raj Armani from Imbesharam.

Armani jumped right in with statistics and challenges of selling to a country — in his case, India — that is more restrictive regarding online sales of sex toys. Starting in 2013, he had to overcome challenges in order to maintain steady traffic and sales. Sharing his numbers, he noted there are 1.3 billion Indians living in India and 70 million outside of the country. “The demand is huge,” he boasted. 

In 2011, Imbesharam partnered with Sunny Leone, the popular American adult actress of Indian descent, who joined a popular reality show in India, “Big Boss,” which added to the luster of the brand. Armani noted, “She was the best face at the time, an American person of Indian origin, who came to India. It was a great partnership and within a year, she became No. 1 in Google searches and [remained so] for seven years. That investment of partnering with her paid off and continues to.”

Of course, the topic of COVID jumped to the top and the panelists shared their experiences of dealing with the pandemic.

Sue said that she noticed little difference between PinkCherry’s Canada and U.S. warehouses. “We had a little bit of a different experience at the beginning, like ‘What do we do?’ [Keeping staff safe] was just doing the right thing.”

The lockdown drove an immense amount of traffic to both U.S. and Canadian sites.

She continued, “We adopted a 16-hour workday, instead of eight, to manage customer service, warehouse and to manage everyone’s time and distancing and manage the massive demand we had coming into the site.”

The sudden shift was a challenge to take on, with new business policies and having to make procedures seamless.

“We ship as soon as possible and we pride ourselves on it,” Sue said. “How did we do it? By amping up all departments. The increase in traffic has been exciting, but how do we maintain those customers? People have been practicing self-preservation at home and sex health and wellness played a part in that.”

Batista adapted new technology when there were suddenly no more in-home parties, and quickly shifted to doing Zoom parties as they were already booked through August.

“We got creative, used water glasses to show vibration, played a lot of different games. We became very theatrical so everyone was engaged in the presentations. More couples came together to be part of the parties because they were already home and it was a different dynamic. Couples began having conversations about what they like and coming back because they want one-on-one sessions. I find they’re getting back into foreplay and getting back to basics.”

Fulfilling orders on the other side of the world posed a dilemma for Armani. India responded to COVID by shutting down distribution for three months in 2020.

“From the end of March through June, India was completely shut down with no shipping or incoming goods, no ecommerce distribution, nothing. On the other hand, here in the U.S., we had deliveries but everything was totally closed except for essential commodities,” he sighed.

“Sales tanked to only 10% of our business and some days, we had no sales, so we decided to pre-sell with an extra discount for when we start delivering orders. That gave us a little life. We had customers who wanted to buy and knew they would wait. In July, business skyrocketed and through December, sales have averaged 100-150% more than last year. January is doing 20-24% more in terms of sales and I hope it’s the same here in U.S., because it looks like other ecommerce trends are good.”

McCain of AdultEmpire stated what everyone has imagined: video-on-demand revenue has been up. However, pleasure product fulfillment has been a challenge.

“When it comes to toys, turnaround, fill rate, just keeping that warehouse safe, it can be hard,” she said. “We’re just trying to move, move, move — yet keep safe. Just keep on pushing through. What we do have, we work with it.”

Armani discussed the value of offering sex education, sharing that his site now includes an “Ask a Sex Therapist” section where Indian doctors share sex advice on their site.

“In the beginning, we were getting a lot of questions about sex and we were an ecommerce company and we could not advise them,” he said. “In our fourth year, we realized this would go hand-in-hand as we are in a country where sex-ed is needed in all areas: rural and metro. We wanted to participate and make it part of our vision to educate our audience and give back to the community. We have a panel of four to five doctors, sometimes live, all free, and they can be contacted by email. The doctors are happy to do it and they also know their name gets out there. We’ve used our platform to also have a purpose of social initiatives and it filled a gap for us.”

The panel then shifted to social media and the ever-present censorship of sex related content.

Ligon mentioned showing a thrusting or rotating toy on Instagram has been easy but using words to describe sensations, touch and sound can be challenging.

Batista mentioned that with vibrating products, it was about getting creative with making products stand out on a screen. As a product reviewer on YouTube, she also goes on Facebook and on Instagram to discuss products and get feedback. She’s also finding new and inventive ways to show product on TikTok.

McCain mentioned that, “YouTube was good for a bit and they got a little funny. With AdultEmpire’s videos for toys, we like to keep them lighthearted and funny. So we show what a product does, put it up against the mike, against the nose, any way to get it out there. In person, you can touch and feel. That’s the hard part about online; so we rely on online reviews, and the more, the better. It’s also beneficial to have original content.”

Sue had a different suggestion on how PinkCherry markets their products. “Our expanded product descriptions have to tell a story and sell an experience," she said. "It’s not just giving keywords but painting a picture of what a toy will do for you. With that, our program has seen an immense boost.”

As for using influencers to promote their brand, first they started with Instagram and now OnlyFans is working well. “So many people are going towards the cam industry for influencers," she said.
"They talk about education and don’t shy away from these products — and we’re in such a beautiful time for people to hear what we have to say. Educate customers to make them comfortable.”

Armani spoke about how hard it is to get traffic online as it’s not like you can say, “Here’s a new toy, come and buy it."

“But if someone buys it and shares reviews and the experience of the product, that works better,” he said. “Influencers are the need of the hour and will be huge in shaping the ecommerce market.”

Elaborating on the importance of social media, the panel also discussed the value of implementing an editorial calendar to work in “May Masturbation Month” to “Anal August” and other "social media holidays" to use for marketing purposes.

The panelists concluded the session by highlighting the need for creativity when it comes social media: We would be wise and intelligent to find every loophole.

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