Lubricant seems to be one of the categories that evokes the most passion from retail associates. Everyone has a favorite brand, formula, flavor, bottle, consistency, sales rep or packaging style. It is a long list, but that list is the reason we see so much diversity on retail shelves and in online stores. There also seems to be a clear division over certain ingredients such as glycerin or parabens, and FDA approval. I personally like to think of myself as Switzerland, and considering this is an opinion piece, I hope that makes me a fair assessor, but more importantly, makes you stop and think of how you look at selling lubricants moving forward.
It took a few years to figure out what the most relatable way to talk to consumers about lubricant was, but once I did the conversation became so much easier. To me lube is like hair care or skincare products that are fun to shop for and a shopping concept almost anyone can relate to right away. I also love using these categories as an example, because instead of singling out a favorite formula, you usually purchase multiple products or a range of skincare items. Can you imagine the revenue in your store if you doubled your lube sales because you were selling items customized as a skincare experience and not a solution? Why not sell a water-based, silicone-based, a CBD option and toy cleaner to every customer? Ingredients are not your enemy — just tools to help you become more effective in helping a customer find the right product for them.
When you get your hair done and they upsell product the conversation is about how that product enhances your current lifestyle or lifestyle goals. For example, if you just got your hair colored, you will most likely purchase product to protect that investment. Maybe you loved the way your hair felt so much when you were done at the salon and just want to replicate the products your stylist used, so you can recreate that experience at home. Whatever the end process looks like, we have all fallen victim to a salon or cosmetic store upsell and came out with way more product than we needed. Lube shopping should be the same way!
Our bodies and the skin we are in do not feel the same way every day. The weather changes, we travel, we change products, our hormones change, we have stress, we under-hydrate, we survive during a pandemic, whatever the variables and changes around us are, our bodies adapt and react. We purchase our skincare products based on these conditions; lube is not that different. Your store and lubricant section are no less than a salon, cosmetic store, or the aisles of Target or Bath & Body Works. By taking a similar sales approach to mass market in personal grooming categories, you are approaching the end consumer in a way that assimilates your product to established household favorites. Help your customers build a lube assortment that accommodates their life as it fluctuates. Don’t fall in the habit of helping customers choose what not to buy based on personal preferences.
When a friend approaches me about lube, I usually do a simple redirect of the conversation to what other types of body products they are already using. It helps reduce any tension if there was apprehension around asking, and it also gives me a good idea of what type of shopper this person is and what type of product they use. Both are important for two reasons — I am not going to treat a seasoned product user the same way I would treat someone buying their first bottle of lube and I can also get an idea of some of their other skin-care preferences. To help remove the stigma around using lube, you need to normalize shopping for it.
Instead of spending your time on chemistry, spend it on the upsell. Give options based on real-life scenarios, not a one-time shopping experience. Illustrate to the customer why this product can make a seamless transition into their everyday wellness routine. Customers’ preferences on what feels or works best will likely shift daily, give them products to be fluid with their mood needs and changes.
Why not have some arousal gel or flavored lube on hand for fun occasions like date night? Have a CBD base for all the healing and wellness properties it has when your body needs a boost. Summertime and travel tend to make skin dryer, have a bottle of aloe lube in the fridge as an option for some cool playtime. If you travel a lot, put together a fun “Love on the Go” lube kit. Ask yourself does your lube station look like a pharmacy or does it look like a more modern shopping experience?
As someone who started in lubes and continues to sell lube, I feel like we get entrapped in this self-imposed idea that our job is to find the right formula for everyone. We get so caught up learning to be experts that we lose a bit of the humanity needed to separate ourselves from our competitors. We can be the best of both worlds to our shoppers, and that gives us an advantage mass market will never have.