A recent trend that has been affecting sales for almost every retailer, regardless of industry, is the ongoing transition to online shopping. This trend, which is far from new, has both positive and negative aspects to which retailers have had to adapt. However, brick-and-mortar businesses that have also been in the etail game for years already have a leg up.
Well before the pandemic hit, more and more shoppers were already buying online. Add to that two years of being forced into a lifestyle of almost exclusively web-based consumption, and it should come as no surprise that it’s been difficult to convince them to revert to their pre-COVID behaviors.
Physical adult stores have been the heart of our industry for decades. For some retailers, opening a secondary, online shop feels like an unnecessary headache and a betrayal of their roots. But in an industry that’s simultaneously still taboo and extremely popular, we can’t let old traditions hold us back from the mainstream success we’ve fought hard to obtain.
As a veteran sex toy manufacturer, Maia Toys will always equally support our brick-and-mortar and online retail clients, but we’re noticing an increasing need for everyone to sell online. Physical retailers don’t need to make the big jump to the web overnight, but the ability to sell both in-store and via a website is vital to staying relevant to incoming consumer audiences.
Online Stores Are a Safer Bet During a Crisis
Anyone who doesn’t want to adapt to the undeniable popularity of online shopping will end up struggling in the long run. It’s as simple as that, and COVID provided the proof. No one could have ever imagined the entirety of the brick-and-mortar industry shutting down. To anyone with a physical store, it was a complete shock, and seemingly out of nowhere — but those with a supplemental, online business had their backup in place before they even knew they needed it.
Established online retailers gained strength and saw soaring sales during the pandemic, while smart brick-and-mortar stores adapted and opened ecommerce shops to stay successful. Having an online option keeps your “doors” open, no matter what.
Be Your Own Competition and Catch Comparison Shoppers
Someone’s going to be your competition, so it might as well be you. It doesn’t make sense not to give your store another chance at capturing the consumers who aren’t enticed by the thrill of an instant, in-hands purchase.
You’ve seen them lurking around your store, and you’ve probably tried to engage them with helpful advice, or simply rolled your eyes in silence. Yep, we’re talking about the folks with their heads buried in their phones. When they’re checking and comparing prices online while browsing your slat walls, they’re less likely to leave with something from your store. Why not give yourself a second chance at becoming the online shop they’ll choose over an in-store transaction? Get your SEO squared away, and your shop’s website will pop up on your customers’ phones even as they Google away from your retail floor.
E-Tail Caters to Shy Shoppers
Sex education is all over the internet, but that doesn’t mean every sex toy buyer is ready to discuss it with a total stranger behind a cash register. There are plenty of customers who are still way too shy to come to the counter with a vibrator or penis pump, even if they see something they really like on your shelves.
You’ll never know how many consumers you might be missing without giving them a fully private option when shopping. As we mentioned earlier, these are the folks who will be attracted to your online competition if you can’t meet them where they’re comfortable.
With today’s easy, in-site web chat options — you know, that little bubble and avatar that pops up in the right-hand corner of a website asking, “How can I help you today?” — along with active social media pages and email contact options attached to a fast-acting customer service rep, you can provide the same level of online assistance as in your store. Your customer shouldn’t have to worry about blushing bright red when asking for your help.
Boost Your SEO With Sex Ed and Marketing Content
Even if your store is teeming with in-person customers, it’s highly unlikely that these same folks won’t also head home and continue their sexual health discovery journey on Instagram, Twitter and all over the internet. Additionally, you’ll catch other online passers-by who would love your store if they had a chance to hear about it.
Offering a website gives you the chance to take advantage of today’s most popular, and often free, marketing tools. Add a sex ed and sex advice blog, a TikTok or Twitter page, throw in some Instagram influencer marketing and voila! You’ve just reached a whole new audience, including the locals who never knew your physical store existed, the youngest consumers who don’t set foot into the real world without their phones, and the folks who never buy without reassurance in the form of reviews or endorsements.
It’s important for manufacturers to help as much as possible to give e-tailers a fair shot at attracting new customers. Giving access to high-res images, as well as information that can be used on ecommerce sites, is one helpful way to give back. The more informational videos and photos a manufacturer can provide, the easier it is on the retailer, especially if this is their first website build.
Gaining a following on social media and getting your store name out there through various channels is a proven, effective way to transition to online retail. On your social media pages, you can run fun giveaways or create an online rewards program. When customers “like” your online presence, the marketing options are endless.
Everybody’s Doing It — And for Once, So Should You
Assuming you can get by without online shopping options means missing out on the one industry trend that’s never going away. If you want to truly place a huge focus on customer service, you’ve got to meet your customers where they are, and quite often, they prefer to shop online. Being responsive and helpful, both in person and on the web, can make all the difference in the world. This industry is made up of repeat customers, and the more you take care of the shopper, the more likely they will be to come back — even if that means becoming a loyal customer without ever setting foot on your brick-and-mortar floor.