“I predict that the trend toward high-quality, affordable items will drive new business.”
Sex toy consumers are more informed than ever – or not, according to Managing Partner Jessica Gordon of Luvoqa.com. This sex toy entrepreneur knows her customers are seeking more than a simple purchase, but she thinks they’re not as sex-educated as the industry might assume. Luvoqa is a classy joint for conscious consumers. This online retailer only sells the most body-safe products that cater to all gender identities and sexual preferences – and they’re not afraid to turn you away if you’re happier with a cheap-o, mass-marketed vibrator. Gordon says the luxury toy market is evolving to include lower price points and higher quality that have gradually become standard across even the biggest name manufacturers. So what’s next for e-retail? The importance of organic social media followers, which Gordon later explains, and the disappearance of sex toys that can’t promise more than an ‘okay’ orgasm.
How has online adult shopping evolved in the past year?
Jessica Gordon: This past year seems to have been one of mergers and financing in retail, which, interestingly, are inverse trends. Among large-size retailers, the playing field got smaller when Good Vibrations bought Babeland. Meanwhile, among small and medium-size retailers, financing through venture capital is slowly increasing and expanding possibilities. Most notably, Unbound moved from the seed to venture round of funding. It’s exciting for me to see traditional private equity begin to embrace the intimate product space.
What new trends do you predict will drive business in the coming years?
I predict that the trend toward high-quality, affordable items will drive new business. The make and material gap is closing between price points, which is a boon for shoppers. While the sex toy space is becoming more mainstream, product knowledge does not yet abound and this is an apparent obstacle to purchasing. If I were to give a survey to 100 people, soliciting their opinion on the quality of speakers or headphones or some other consumer technology, it’s likely that opinions would fall within a certain range and be based on knowledge that comes from years of open, widespread conversation about said technology.
If I did the same for sex toys, though, I estimate that opinions on quality would vary widely, and perhaps wildly, because the conversation being had is not as open or widespread, even if it is progressing rapidly. When shoppers consider buying a sex toy, they too often do so with incomplete and sometimes disjointed information. In the minds of many shoppers, there are too many questions left unanswered to justify the purchase of a $200 item. This is especially true for first-time shoppers and beginner users.
Fortunately, brands are starting to design and produce high-quality items at more affordable price points, such as the Blush Novelties Hop Jessica Rabbit (rabbit vibrator) and Sola Cue (G-Spot vibrator). Both of these items are made from body safe silicone, have USB-rechargeable batteries, and are waterproof, all features that were once reserved for luxury items. They are also both under $100. I estimate that this closing of the quality gap, more than any other factor this coming year, will help advance product knowledge and ultimately drive business.
How does your brand stand out among other online adult stores?
LUVOQA sells body safe sex toys for everyone. We are meticulous about material safety, but it is the ‘everyone’ piece that I think really makes LUVOQA stand out as a brand. No matter a shopper’s identity, preferences, or socio-politico-economic affiliation or status, we strive to be a store from which they would feel comfortable buying. Humans are sexual beings, and we want to offer everybody, without exception, the opportunity to explore, discover, and enjoy sex toys.
“Humans are sexual beings, and we want to offer everybody, without exception, the opportunity to explore, discover, and enjoy sex toys.”
What has been key to establishing your presence and customer loyalty?
For us, the key to establishing our presence and customer loyalty has been to foster a community that identifies with our brand, all the while knowing that not everyone will. If a shopper identifies with our mission of enhancing everyone’s pleasure through body safe sex toys, the highly visual shopping experience we offer, and the personal touch we provide when it comes to customer service (shoppers are often interacting directly with me or my partner), then LUVOQA is a great fit for them. If a shopper is seeking an inventory of thousands upon thousands of items or to support a specific cause through their purchasing, we fully support this, but we know that we may not be the best fit for them. We tend to focus our efforts on qualified leads, engaged shoppers, and customers.
Discuss the selection of products that your site offers. What determines your product selection? How does customer feedback influence your selection?
We only carry products that are body safe. That is, we only carry sex toys that are non-toxic and have a low degree of porosity (e.g., silicone) or no porosity (e.g., annealed glass, reinforced ceramic with a glaze finish, stainless steel, ABS plastic, and wood with a nonporous finish). As you probably know, porosity is a measure of the void or empty spaces in a material. The more porous an item’s material, the more places there are for bacteria to hide and reproduce. Sex toys made from materials with a high degree of porosity (e.g., jelly, PVC/Sil-a-Gel, TPE/TPR, and rubber/elastomer) are more difficult to clean and sanitize after use, which can present a health risk to users.
Once we know that a product is body safe, we ask ourselves a question that we deem key, ‘Does this product fulfill its promise to the customer?’ Naturally, this is where we rely on customer and community feedback. If a sex toy fulfills its promise, we stock it and keep it in inventory. However, if a sex toy is promising great orgasms each time, every time, yet the community reports that it is only delivering okay orgasms some of the time, we’re likely to drop it—if we even carry it to begin with.
How do you connect and engage with customers? What social media and marketing methods drive sales online?
I touched upon this in a previous question when I was sharing how we establish customer loyalty through community building. To this end, social media channels have proven themselves valuable, particularly the pursuit of organic followers. To take Twitter as an example, we have found that organic followers increase engagement and impressions because these followers are interested in our brand and the products we offer, and they will retweet, reply to, and interact with our posted content. This has made a positive difference for us.