The products of up-and-coming company SenseMaxrepresent a symbiosis of sex, design, and technology. Therefore, Dominique Lecapre, co-founder and Managing Director of the Stockholm-based company, calls them sex toy generation 3.0. And seeing what a stir these toys created at eroFame, we knew we needed to interview Dominique about SenseMax and these products.
What reasons led to the launch of SenseMax? Dominique Lecapre: One particularity about life is that you often find yourself at a crossroads. I was recently standing in front of such a crossroads. I needed to go deep into myself and decide which course would help me reach my goal. Not everybody has a goal in life, but I have one. It is something that is personal and I do not stand up in the middle of a crowd and make it a public thing. However, I can summarise it by saying that if I pass away tomorrow, I want people to remember me as someone who contributed in spreading something good around them. Starting SenseMax is a milestone on the way to reaching that goal.
As far as my background is concerned, for the past ten years, I been working for manufacturers and brands in the sex toy industry – just like most of the other team members of SenseMax. The problem we intend to solve with our products is simply to help people reach an orgasm or have more fun when being sexually active. Unfortunately, we see a lack of innovation when it comes to design and technological advancement in the sex toy industry. But we see an opportunity in the increasing impact that technology has – and will continue to have – on our intimate lives. We want to bridge this gap between tech and intimate lifestyle by creating products with a unique user experience.
What’s the guiding philosophy behind SenseMax, and which product groups do you focus on?
We strongly believe that having fun and an active sex life offers several health benefits. We also believe that sex helps you spice up life in a long-term relationship. That said, it is easy to understand our philosophy. Our main focus is to create innovative lifestyle products where sex, design, and technology go hand in hand. We want to offer an experience that not only provides a unique sensation but also opens up possibilities to improve sexual health.
As many people already know, you have been in the sex toy business for many years. What were the most important changes you have witnessed these last few years?
When I started in this industry, the everybody was focussing on the materials used in the manufacturing process, the design of the product, and ease of use of the product or its packaging. Now, hygiene is a big factor for any new product. Another big change is that the market is now crowded with sex toys that are almost similar in shape and functionality. Even the colours are identical. I think that we have lost touch with the nature of the product and how the consumer can identify with it. The is a focus on how many vibration modes a product can offer instead of what it will give the user as a benefit. There is simply an oversupply of products, and ultimately the consumer is basing his decision on pricing, simply because the products have no differentiating features.
SenseMax is bound to benefit from the fact that virtual reality is starting to reach a wider audience now. How far evolved is this technology in your opinion, and how big is its potential?
Virtual reality, also called VR, has been around for some years now, however, it only just started opening its doors to the public. Virtual reality can be divided into two categories: 360-degree videos and computer generated graphics. Both categories contribute to the establishment of VR technology, but it is the adoption of 360-degree videos by giants like Facebook and Youtube that boosts this technology. Many companies are focusing on hardware solutions for the consumer market. The Facebook-owned Oculus is a great example, but we also have HTC with Vive, Sony with their newly released Playstation VR, Samsung with Gear VR, and Google with its cardboard. Thanks to the efforts these companies undertake, and their various head mounted devices, VR technology is now being adopted faster than any previous technology.
When you look at the past decades, the huge market that is the porn industry has always been a pioneer when it came to embracing the latest technology. Knowing how important this market is, VR is already enhancing this experience. The difference now with virtual reality is that it adds a certain intimacy and interactivity that a lot of people crave, and that’s where its potential lies.
While the world is still discussing Adult 2.0, you already talk about Sex Toy Generation 3.0. What exactly does this mean and has the toy segment really progressed this far already?
Sex Toy Generation 3.0 is our own terminology to get across what we are doing and where we are going. It is also a term that we push and communicate to create our own niche. The first generation of sex toys offered commercialised products, made by men for women. The second generation of sex toys had more input from women and introduced male pleasure products, but this is also where we have this oversupply of products. This is not a place for us. So we create our own category, a new generation of sex toys, and push the technical development because we believe that offering products which are new and different is ultimately what will help us to be noticed and be successful.
Let’s talk about your products: SenseVibe boasts two vibration tips. What other features set it apart from other vibrators?
Our team consists of people who have been in the industry for years, which gave us a good idea of what the market really needs. We wanted to move away from the ubiquitous traditional vibrators and instead opted for a high-tech product that puts emphasis on great design. We noticed that a lot of vibrator users want something that wouldn’t get noticed too much. We tackled this issue by designing a charging case that is subtle in design, nice looking, and functional at the same time.
This allowed us to create a seamless vibrator that is easy to use and hygienic, and you carry it with you wherever you feel like going. These are other cool features, but what really separates us from the crowd is the pride that the owner of a SenseVibe feels when picking up the case with the product. It is comparable to picking up the case for a pair of glasses from a trendy designer.
The box also serves as a charger – a great and logical idea. Why did it take this long for someone to actually realise that idea?
The sex toy industry has always been dominated by men who created intimate products for women without really taking into consideration what was really needed. By listening to our audience, and noticing that women needed something subtle to hide their vibrator, we got the inspiration for this sleek charging box that is both nice in design and highly functional.
SenseTube is a vibrating masturbator that is compatible with VR. What can you tell us about this product?
SenseTube is a masturbator that can be used on its own or be synchronized with our SenseNow app that shows virtual reality videos. These 360-degree videos are interactively linked to the SenseTube, which means that the images will follow the exact movements you make with your hand, creating a most unique experience.
SenseTube was not only created to help reach sexual fulfilment, but also as a product that can be beneficial for your sexual health. We believe that virtual reality technology can help those with sexual anxiety, or serve as a product that can help delay premature ejaculation, using specific techniques.
“What our products offer the retailers in our industry is the possibility to reach a new, growing group of customers, the tech-savvy ones, the gamers and the screenagers.”
There are already several products that seem similar to SenseTube. What sets your product apart from the competition? Yes, there are some competitors providing masturbators. Quite often, these masturbators will have a vagina-like aspect. We did not opt for that level of design. That’s the first thing that us apart from them. We want our male sex toys to achieve the same level of acceptance the vibrator is now having among the female audience. We think that having a product that looks like a vagina will not contribute to that.
What really sets us apart from the competition with the SenseTube is that we have what we call our Sense Ecosystem. Sense Ecosystem is a complete platform that includes both, the masturbator (SenseTube), as well as a mobile app that displays virtual reality content and some VR goggles (Sense VR). All products and devices in our Ecosystem are interactively synchronized, meaning that the person or couple in the video will respond to the movements you make in real life as well.
Sense VR, together with SenseTube and the SenseTube app, enables users to immerse themselves in interactive VR content. Could you further expand on that? What are the technical requirements?
One popular way to watch VR content is to use the processor power and display performance of a smart phone. It is a cost saving solution for the end user as most of us already have a smart phone. In our case, this means that the person who wants to take advantage of our Sense Ecosystem will only need a smart phone. No need to buy an expensive head mounted device. With our solution, the phone is then inserted into our headset (Sense VR); you then can interact with the media using the mobile app in our ecosystem and let the immersive experience take place. Our Ecosystem also allows you to go one step further and interact with the content using the SenseTube.
What about compatible content? Is there a lot of content that supports your system?
Let me point out again that the SenseTube can be used as a stand-alone product. Compatibility with the Sense Ecosystem is the added value we offer. When it comes to content, we will provide two types of content. One is based on computer graphics. Let’s call it animated imagery. The other type of content is based on 360-degree video. As for the animated imagery, we are currently creating multiple videos where it is possible to change between different couples, sex positions, locations, and angles.
For the content based on 360-degree video, real people will perform the sexual acts. This is something that many visitors asked about after we presented the SenseTube at eroFame. Producing such content is not part of our original business model. However, we are now in contact with some partners to initiate the process of getting this done. In the future, we plan on updating our library of animated imagery and 360-degree videos on a regular basis.
How do the products you offer fit together?
We currently have the SenseVibe vibrators and our interactively synchronised Sense Ecosystem which includes the SenseTube masturbator, SenseNow app, and Sense VR goggles. In the future, we would like to include SenseVibe in our Ecosystem as well.
What feedback did you receive when you presented your products at eroFame?
The feedback at eroFame exceeded our expectations. The SenseVibe was perceived as an innovative vibrator with an equally innovative charging case. The SenseTube and our Sense Ecosystem were the first immersive experience for many visitors. The content became like a game for them and both men and women simply enjoyed it. It was quite funny to see women waving a male masturbator in the air trying to interact with the adult content displayed in the VR goggles.
You definitely offer some interesting products but as we all know, this is only half the battle. What distribution strategy will you bring to bear?
Although technologically advanced, these products still remain sex toys and need to be retailed in the appropriate retail channels. Other channels have shown interest as well, but I know from experience how tough it can be trying to go mainstream.
What our products offer the retailers in our industry is the possibility to reach a new, growing group of customers, the tech-savvy ones, the gamers and the screenagers. The screenagers are those young people growing up surrounded by screens, computers, and mobile phones. The first screenager generation has now reached adult age and they are the new customers for our industry. We need to come up with products that match their technological expectations.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of working with distributors, compared to the pros and cons of working with retailers directly?
We are a B2B2C company. In order to reach the end consumer, our products need to be exposed in various retail outlets. We have the possibility to prospect those retail outlets directly, but you need a big, dedicated sales force to do that. Furthermore, we want to act on a global market, which would require an even bigger sales force. That said, we can easily see that distributor has an important place in the supply chain. The distribution companies have knowledge of their local markets and have contacts there. This is a real time saver for us.
The question for me is not whether or not we should use distributors but rather how visible we want our products to be and what kind of experience we want to provide. I am a fervent believer that companies opting for a modern marketing strategy like going omni-channel are the real winners. With an omni-channel marketing strategy, all channels we use will lead to greater product visibility and a better customer experience, and that is what really matters in the end.
What criteria do you apply when selecting your business partners?
For retailers, we need to work with people that can create an experience for the client, this is especially true for the SenseTube. Virtually Reality is not a hard sell once you unleash its potential. For that to happen, the best way is to test VR. So, our partners in retail need to be more proactive once the consumer enters the shop. They need to become experience providers.
As for the distributors, there is one word that can help us to categorise their performance – this word is also proactivity. Let me illustrate the performance of a distributor this way. Some distributors will push boxes full of products on a wagon once a customer contacts the company to place an order. They will then deliver the order and follow it up with great service. Some other distributors will chase the customer to make him place the order and then deliver it, certainly with a great service, too. Which one do you think I prefer? A distributor is generally perceived as an outsourced sales force and logistics partner.
It is a tough job if you want to please the company you represent. If I had to enter that business I would definitely try to innovate the business model by focusing more on the service management system. I would probably go more into brand management in order to add value to my services.
What plans and goals will SenseMax pursue in the upcoming months?
Being a start-up, we are faced with all the challenges that are associated with that. Our plan is to overcome those challenges, create long-lasting relationships with our partners, deliver outstanding products, and please the fans.