“The biggest advantage e-commerce has: the willingness to quickly adapt to new consumer wishes.“

The MEIN KONDOM (my condom) online shop has been providing customers with a wide and varied range of products and professional service since its launch in 2015. The shop is part of CPR GmbH, the biggest condom producer in Europe. Michael Kesselring, managing partner of CPR, and Marco Gehlken, head of marketing and distribution of the company, tell us more about their activities and the e-commerce market for condoms.

When did MEIN KONDOM go online? What made you say: Yes, we should explore this new channel of distribution for our condoms?
Michael Kesselring: We took the MEIN KONDOM shop online in December of 2015, and in our first year of business, 2016, there was still a lot to learn and adjust. The core of the shop was – and still is – the MEIN KONDOM BOX, which allows the consumers to put together their own condom range. Of course, this mix and match approach only really works in an online shop, and that’s why we decided for the e-commerce segment.

What sets MEIN KONDOM apart from other online shops for condoms. What is your business philosophy?
Marco Gehlken: As mentioned above, the heart of the shop is the MEIN KONDOM BOX feature. You can put together a box of 30 condoms, choosing from our entire range, selecting which ones you like and how many of those you want. We also have a 20-condom or 40-condom fill-er-up option. Our boxes are a great opportunity for ‘condom beginners’ to test different products and condom types easily and cheaply. And finding the right condom is very important, especially with regard to the size. Moreover, we offer a ‘Test Set’, containing a selection of the most commonly used condom types for inexperienced users. There is no easier way to get your footing, and at a very low price to boot. But of course, our box is also perfect for connoisseurs who want to pick what they need and want from our range to be perfectly equipped for every occasion. Our goal is to further add to that concept and find new ways to optimise the box.

Of course, we also offer a large selection of all the relevant brands and products. As for the features of the shop, we are particularly proud of our easy-to-use ‘condom finder’ filter option. This way, every user can get an overview of the product range, and they find what they are looking for in no time.

The technical aspects of the shop meet the latest standards, and we are constantly improving the site. We feel that responsive design for all devices, a variety of payment methods, and frequent quality tests by Trusted Shop are necessities for a modern online shop. Another important element of our business philosophy: We always want to be up to date, we never rest on our laurels. I know, that sounds very dramatic – but it perfectly encapsulates our mission statement.

The centrepiece of the MEIN KONDOM online shop: The MEIN KONDOM BOX which allows users to put together their own selection of condoms

Is it correct that MEIN KONDOM has already won several rewards?
Michael Kesselring: Correct. Right in our first year, we won the Sales Performance Award in the E/M commerce category from the Quadriga University of Applied Sciences. So early in the game, that was a huge deal for us, a great reward for our hard work, and a big inspiration going forward.

Who is the target audience you cater to with MEIN KONDOM?
Marco Gehlken: Basically, our target audience is EVERY condom buyer who shops online or who wants to put together their own, individual condom selection. The majority of our customers are between 20 and 40 years old.

How do you pick the products for your online shop? Which standards do they have to meet to be added to the MEIN KONDOM range?
Marco Gehlken: That is easily explained: They have to live up to condom norm ISO 4074, the sales standard for condoms in Germany and Austria, our current distribution territory. We carry all the relevant brands, but we also give new products a shot; just recently, we added condoms of the CHATEAU DU COQ brand, with prosecco flavour – a wonderful product! It is very important for us to offer a wider range of products. We want every customer to find what they are looking for at MEIN KONDOM.

Why did you decide to offer a product line by the same name as the shop? What distinguishes MEIN KONDOM condoms from the third-party brands in your range?
Marco Gehlken: The MEIN KONDOM brand represents a combination of qualities that we haven’t seen in this form before: A well-rounded range, containing all the big condom categories, made in Germany, vegan and produced from fair trade latex, with modern design and a fitting brand name. Basically the all-you-ever-need collection – which is also why the name MEIN KONDOM was so perfect.

When industry members talk about sex toys, they’ll often argue that the internet is the perfect sales channel for this type of product. But what about condoms?
Michael Kesselring: There is some truth to that – except when you need condoms right now … then, you’re obviously better served going to the closest supermarket, drug store, or gas station. There is a wider range of condoms than ever before. We carry roughly 300 different products – you can’t really display that kind of variety in a brick and mortar store. And sadly, walk-in stores usually go with the classics instead of paying attention to the new concepts that the consumers are interested in. Things like sustainability, fair trade, and vegan products don’t really factor in when brick and mortar retailers fill their condom shelves. That may be the biggest advantage e-commerce has: the willingness to quickly adapt to new consumer wishes.

The MEIN KONDOM brand is produced in Germany, vegan, and made from fair-trade latex

How do your customers choose the condoms they buy? Are they looking at the price? The brand? Or do they rely on your suggestions?
Marco Gehlken: Providing advice to our customers is very important to us, and we will continue to put more emphasis on that aspect. Fewer and fewer customers are impressed by strong or well-known brands; instead, they are looking at the quality of the product. Quality is the key element. Even the price is secondary compared to that.

Apart from products, you also offer the customers of MEIN KONDOM information and advice about condoms, sexuality, etc. Why is this service aspect so important to you?
Marco Gehlken: We don’t just want to be a condom shop, we want to be a ‘condom platform.’ At MEIN KONDOM, you get the product, you get answers to all of your questions, and hopefully, you also get the reassurance to leave insecurities and doubts behind. Our shop is all about competent advice – and obviously, SEO and content marketing also play an important role.

The e-commerce segment is fiercely competitive, and a handful of big companies are hogging the biggest market shares. What does a modern online shop have to offer to win over and bind customers in this environment?
Michael Kesselring: This is an extremely complex topic and I won’t even attempt to break it down into a few sentences. Workshops, congresses, and other events usually need days or weeks to get the relevant information across. So, all I will say is that you must never stand still, you must continuously work on your shop, you need a competent team around you (on the content side and on the technical side), and you always have to keep your eyes open. There is a basic business truth that has been valid long before e-commerce, and that will probably be valid as long as people try to sell things to other people: ‘Know your customers. Offer them what they want and what makes the purchasing decision easier for them.’

What are your plans for the future of MEIN KONDOM? How will you continue to work on your shop?
Marco Gehlken: There are already a lot of plans for the future, small and big plans alike, the goal being to stay up to date and always remain a (small) step ahead of the competition. We are constantly fine-tuning our strategy to respond to changes in the market, in the e-commerce infrastructure, in modern technology. That is all I can say right now. After all, we don’t want to spoil any surprises, do we?