“A love doll is much more than just a means of physical gratification.”

A sex doll is usually not something you just buy. You make your decision after careful consideration, and not just because of the price but also because there are so many ways to customise dolls and inject your own, personal preferences. Most sex doll owners don’t just want a sex toy – they want an emotional connection with the doll as well, says Ralph Belger, owner and head of itrado GmbH, the company running the website Realdoll24.de. In our interview, Ralph tells us about his online shop and his mission to support the erotic retail trade with his sex doll knowledge.

Realdoll24 is an (online) shop for sex dolls. Before we go into greater detail, would you tell us a bit about yourself?
Ralph Belger: I am the owner and CEO of itrado GmbH, the parent company of the Realdoll24 brand. Me and my team are running the company from Potsdam, and apart from our online shop, we also have a warehouse here, including a logistics department and a showroom.

When did you start Realdoll24, and what was your motivation?
The Realdoll24 brand has been around for seven years. Back then, I was looking to get into a market with lots of potential for growth, and the adult industry turned out to be the perfect choice. Now, we have a b2c shop, a b2b shop, and you can find our products in bricks and mortar stores.

A sex doll is rather expensive, especially when compared to other erotic products. Why are your customers willing to spend that much money on a doll? What makes these products so appealing?
A love doll is much more than just a means of physical, sexual gratification. Our lifelike dolls serve as partners and companions in the everyday life of our customers. And due to the high level of customisation, we can cater to almost any personal wish or preference.

Realdoll24 create elaborate photo stories to present their dolls

How would you describe the corporate philosophy of Realdoll24?
Our goal is to take a sophisticated, serious approach to the sex doll category. We want to create acceptance and remove the old taboos. Our product range is polarising, we know that. Therefore, it is all the more important to emphasise the fascination and the beauty of lifelike dolls. We take our customers’ needs and wishes very seriously, and we would never reduce their passion for dolls to mere sexual lust.

Realdoll24 is not just an online shop. You also have a showroom in Potsdam. What awaits your customers when they visit you there?
The fascinating realism of our dolls is best experienced when you come face to face with them. So we opened a showroom with a wide selection of our most popular models. Also, if you order online, it can sometimes be hard to really gauge the size, to decide on a skin tone, or to pick between TPE and silicone. In our showroom, we can give you in-depth advice and help you create the doll of your dreams.

Is there a waiting period, or all dolls in your shop ready for shipping?
Yes, we have models for our more impatient customers that are ready for shipping right away. Moreover, we have express models with extra quick delivery. As for the customisable models in the premium segment, those are made to specification which means it takes a little longer to create and ship them.

How exactly can the customers change and define the look of a Realdoll24 sex doll?
We have developed a love doll configurator that takes our customers through the entire range of customisation options, one step at a time. From experience, we know that the first choice customers make usually pertains to the body proportions, so that is also the first step of the configurator. After that, we move from head to toe, and you can customise pretty much everything, from hair colour and hair style to fingernails and toe nails – even what kind of pubic hair you want.

In the Realdoll24 showroom in Potsdam, customers get to see the dolls up close and personal

Realdoll24.de also has a section titled “Sexy Photo Stories.” What can you tell us about those? Why do you to such lengths to present your sex dolls in appealing ways?
Our customers love dressing up their dolls, role playing with them, and acting out their sexual lifestyle with them. Our photo stories serve as inspiration to our customers, showing them what kinds of adventures they can experience with a love doll.

As for the elaborate scenarios we create for our photo stories, those have been heavily influenced by the input of Florentine Winter. She is a sexual lifestyle blogger who has been a prominent figure in the German erotic scene for a long time. She adds an exciting female perspective to the photo stories.

Apart from the b2c store, you also work with other retailers. What are the advantages of being your own wholesaler?
Realdoll24 is the brand that caters to the consumers, but itrado GmbH is also a wholesaler for customers in the retail trade. We cover everything, from supplier management to quality control to customs procedures and logistics.

We provide retailers with an easy, risk-free way of getting started in this product segment, offering quality products and a partnership based on reliability. We have established rock-solid business connections with our suppliers, and we are in contact with them on a regular basis. This enables us to take care of everything for our retail customers, from communication to shipping.

What kinds of services do you offer to retailers?
Our customers in the retail segment appreciate the wide range of products we offer. We also make it a point to stay away from minimum order quantities. We want retailers to be able to place a small order to get an impression of our service and an idea of demand among their customers. We also have special marketing and discount campaigns throughout the year, which are very popular with our retailers.

Does it even make sense to offer sex dolls in brick and mortar stores? After all, they are very expensive, and they take up a lot of space …
In brick and mortar stores, sex dolls mostly serve as eye catchers that get customers to explore other areas of the sales floor. Also, they have proven to be highly popular as mannequins.
Of course, love dolls are not the kind of product you just pick up at the store and then take home. They do not make for great impulse purchase products. But customers can place their orders and customise their doll with the help of the retailers, and we will then send the doll to their home address.

Would you agree that we are seeing a sex doll boom in the market right now. And if you do, what is your explanation for this steep increase in popularity?
The market for male-oriented erotic products is not that big. Consequently, there is great interest in new and innovative things – such as realistic, lifelike love dolls. I absolutely agree with your assessment. We definitely see more people – also couples – discovering this segment.

As for the reasons: A lot of it has probably to do with public exposure. You see sex dolls in the media or at erotic trade shows like Venus in Berlin.

The technology in the doll segment is evolving at breakneck pace. Now, we even have dolls that can speak and boast artificial intelligence. What is your opinion on the “robotisation” of sex dolls? And what other developments do you expect to see in the future?
There are many – predominantly Asian – producers who are currently experimenting with features such as voice control, similar to the technology used in smartphones or smart speakers. However, these concepts are still far from being perfected, and they wouldn’t live up to the standards of European consumers. Therefore, we have decided to stay away from those features for the time being.
But there are other innovations we find very interesting, such as heating elements inside the doll’s body. They warm up the material to make the love doll feel even more real and human.

What plans do you have in the pipeline for Realdoll24?
We want to focus more on establishing our brand and creating a sensual experience that is also appealing to women. This target audience has been largely neglected in the doll segment so far. Of course, it is very challenging to find the right balance here, the right way to present the over-stylised physical aspects of a love doll to a female audience in an appealing, inviting fashion. But we’re getting there.