One of the faster-growing eCommerce businesses, is how to create a buzz for your online adult toy stores and product sales. Unlike when I was writing for this industry, online adult toy stores, or how to’s and other kinky tupperware house parties have exploded and entered the mainstream over the past few years. In fact, the sex toy industry has more than tripled since 2017 and is expected to grow by 13% year-over-year by 2025.
One of the reason this mini-boom in the online adult sex toy business could be reflected in the realities of social distancing and pandemic lockdowns, or just that sex toys and adults have become more progressive and acceptable. Another factor is the interest in creating an online business in the age of entrepreneurship. This is one industry with an increase in demand and relatively few trusted retailers.
In short, more people are looking to fill retail niches. Selling adult products online is ideal because couples and singles can browse and buy anonymously. The question is how lucrative is the online sex shop industry?
The Industry Outlook for Selling Sex Toys Online
According to statistics, global online adult toy store sales are estimated at more than $55 billion annually. More than one-fourth of that market share is in the US alone. In fact, 78% of those over the age of 18 own at least one sex toy. About 80% of the adult sex toys market and stores are supported and run by women.
That’s a pretty large market, so it’s important to know how much competition you’ll have with an online sex shop.
According to the most recent information, there are more than 8,000 online adult product retailers in the US. The bulk of these businesses is brick-and-mortar shops that serve local customers.
The competition for eCommerce sex shop retailers has a higher potential for niche marketing and a lower barrier to entry. The key is to provide superior shopping experiences and selection. The adult industry as a whole is ripe for repeat business if you focus on customer service and product quality.
Setting up an Adult Toys Website in 5 Easy Steps
1. Define Your Brand
Adult toys are no longer marketed coyly as “marital aids”. With a few exceptions, sex toys appeal to adults of any gender, relationship status, and predilection. However, the best brands are marketed to appeal to a defined audience.
Rather than attempting to be the adult toy store of choice for everyone over the age of 18, you’ll gain more traction if your online business model is geared toward a specific customer persona. How you refine your core audience will inform nearly every decision you make from the inventory you carry to how and where you market your brand.
Is your sex toy store business going to cater mainly to couples, traditional or otherwise? Is your main demographic men or women? What are their ages, and what are they looking for in an adult toy?
Research indicates that most adult toys are purchased by women. Does that mean the market is oversaturated with shops that cater to this demographic? Are other adult industry niches, such as the LGBTQ+ or kink communities, being underserved?
As social attitudes change and people become more comfortable exploring their sexuality, potential markets appear and expand.
Determine your ideal audience and build a brand that speaks to them and also reflects your values and goals. What do you stand for, and how does your brand reflect that? In what ways can you relate these elements to your audience in a meaningful way?
Create a simple, but memorable, business name, logo, and identifying color scheme. Use it on your packaging, website, marketing platforms, and invoices. For example, the brand initials are weaved into a logo and two complimentary colors that reflect your brand (i.g., pastels, bold, or neutral colors).
2. Curate Your Product Line
Now that you know who your audience is, what do you have to offer them? Curating your inventory is one of the ways that you can add value and distinguish your brand from the competition. The right combination of toys and accessories will also provide opportunities to upsell and cross-sell your inventory.
For example, if your online adult toy store caters to cis-gendered couples, you could include a line of lingerie to emphasize nights of intimacy for two. However, an audience comprised of lesbian or asexual individuals might feel intimidated or uncomfortable with products that are phallic or designed to appeal to the opposite gender.
Choose and sell sex toys that are in demand by your audience, whatever their comfort level and preferences.
Ideally, your inventory should include a mix of sex toys and accessories that improve your audience’s enjoyment and use. This could be divided into three basic categories.
• Base products. Choose a selection of vibrators, massagers, and other toys that address the desires and realities of your audience.
• Clothing and accessories. This includes cosplay, merch, and other apparel that enhances the sexual experience. It also includes lubes, batteries, and accessories to help customers use your toys. If your audience is interested in kink or fetishes, what clothing and accessories will improve the experience?
• Themes, trends, and novelty items. During the pandemic, there was a huge demand for remote-activated smart toys and apps. There’s also a big market for themed sex toys and clothing, like products for those who are into unicorns, fairies, and furries. Accessories and items that promote sexual health and self-care are always in demand.
3. Create a Strong Online Community
Your online adult sex toy store should have a solid online community to go with it. This is an essential part of branding, but how do you go about it when the adult toy industry still makes mainstream platforms uncomfortable?
Fortunately, some platforms are less resistant to hosting adult content. For example, you can market your selection on Amazon and eBay as long as you follow their guidelines for sex toys and content.
E-Commerce platforms are a little more lenient as long as your content is labeled as adult and follows laws for the sale of such products or content in the geographic areas you’re targeting. The sale of products that are explicitly marketed as sex toys is prohibited in some countries and several US states. One workaround is to market them as “novelty Items” or gag gifts.
However, marketing any sort of adult content is still tricky on social media. All of the major social media platforms have the same basic policies about marketing adult products, but you can get around that by being creative.
To start, do not use specific device names, images of the products and packaging, or market your products as sexual enhancement. For example, don’t use ad copy or headers that specifically use words like “vibrator”, “dildo”, and other types of toys that have an explicitly sexual connotation. It’s tempting to use language like “naughty” to describe your brand, but that is not good marketing.
For one thing, adult sex toys are normal products that are used by millions of people. Naughty might attract a small segment of leads, but it’s off-putting to others who might already feel discomfort shopping for such items. It also puts the social media marketing gatekeepers on notice and could get your ads banned.
Copy that’s clinical and boring won’t do, either, although social media p[platforms do allow discussion about sexual health topics. Images of people in your demographic having fun outside the bedroom, testimonials from customers talking about how your brand improved their life, and similar marketing content that piques interest and leads customers to your eCommerce site without mentioning your products specifically work well.
You could also create an online community for your audiences, such as a Facebook group for singles, LGBTQ+, or kink enthusiasts. Build rapport within your own group, become active in the wider community for your audience, and gently – but cleverly – lead them to your sex toy website. You could also advertise on other websites and forums that cater to these communities.
Consider affiliate marketing with related brands, such as apparel companies or lube manufacturers. Try link building with adult industry influencers and authorities or guest blogging on relevant websites to build brand awareness and industry authority.
The online adult community is vast enough and open enough to create content and partner with others outside of mainstream platforms.
4. Create Content That Adds Value
The sex toy industry is about increasing sexual enjoyment, whether alone or when sharing pleasure with others. One way that you can add value to your adult store is through your content.
Is your personal story an important part of your brand? Telling it in a compelling way allows you to connect with your audience on an emotional level.
Add a blog to your website. Articles that extend your customer’s knowledge of how to experience your products address problems within your community, and product reviews all add value. Quizzes and personality tests are fun, and you can use the results to upsell, steer customers to specific products, or interest them in trying something new.
5. Emphasize Safety and Privacy
Adult toy customers are concerned about three things: increasing sexual enjoyment, product safety, and discretion. Knowing your audience will help you select products that address the first issue. But, you must also ensure that the products won’t injure your customers during use or create health problems after.
If you’re a reseller or drop shipper, choose established, reputable suppliers that have good ratings and reviews. When you’re manufacturing your own line of toys, don’t skimp on materials, design, or production.
Give your customers the option to limit identifying information beyond what’s necessary to finalize sales and shipment. Use high-risk payment processing portals and shopping cart software that offer several layers of security.
Choose a brand name that describes your business without embarrassing your customers. For example, We-Vibe is a popular brand that describes what they’re about without screaming “We sell vibrators”.
Reassure your customers that “Sex Toys Ltd” won’t appear on their credit card statements. Use an acronym of your brand name on invoices or choose something generic but on-brand, For example, “House of Fun” is a business name that appears on invoices as “HOF”, even though their domain name is “SexToy.co.nz”.
Make sure that your packaging is simple and contains no product images or descriptions on the outside. You could use your brand colors and logo on all packaging instead. If you’re reselling another company’s products, make sure that they’re shipped in unmarked boxes with discreet product labels.
Emphasize product quality, privacy, and security in your marketing.
Starting an online sex shop can be a daunting prospect. You need to get around lingering taboos that affect the willingness of some platforms to support online adult products as well as personal discomfort that makes prospective buyers shie away from buying adult toys.
Following our guide will help you navigate the sometimes tricky waters of adult-oriented eCommerce marketing and serve an emerging market.
Need some help with your digital marketing strategy? You can arrange a consultation with a marketing expert from Level 343 today.