Tips for Boosting Retail Sales Through Social Media Marketing

It is not news that social media marketing is a tricky tightrope for most adult brands. In fact, it is generally presumed to be impossible. Yet some brands have figured out the right social marketing strategy to maneuver around the hurdles (aka rules and guidelines) in their way as they try to reach out to a worldwide audience.

If social marketing did not work out for you, should you give up on maintaining an active social media presence? Absolutely not. Whether your brand is online or offline, or whether you sell direct to consumers (D2C) or direct to business (B2B), your social media presence is your identity, and in most cases, it is also the face of your brand or business.

A brand is no longer a brand if it doesn’t have a social media presence. There is no easy definition of “presence,” and it does not have to equate to a huge following or having viral videos. It does, however, mean that your brand has a human who is the voice behind the brand, thus engaging other humans in the social media universe. Your following may be small or large, you may post daily, alternate days or weekly. Really, this won’t matter; what will matter is that you are alive and well, your posts come consistently, and you speak to your existing audience and invite new followers to engage.

And yes, do follow the platform’s rules. If you want to reach the most followers you can, keep in mind that you will need to be more careful in managing your content, both visual and text. If you feel you need more room to showcase 18-and-over content, then pick Twitter.

Why do you need to have a healthy social presence? Let me give you four reasons why.

Builds trust:

Ever tried shopping at a big-box store with a name sign at the entrance but nobody inside when you walk in? That’s how your potential client/customer will feel if they stop to check out your social media pages and find not much going on. That would give an impression that you are just a newbie, don’t have much of a visible customer base or may not be a legitimate brand/store. Even for offline stores that depend on walk-in customers, many shoppers check out social media before entering a store’s physical location. Most will first look you up online on maps or Google and, based on your reviews and social presence, will make a decision about whether to drive up to shop at your store.

Assists in conversion:

Never underestimate the power of indirect marketing. The magic that a few good reviews on your social media page can do is much more than a full-size, flashy neon sign that says “Best Adult Brand” outside of your store or on your website home page. Usually a new buyer (which is usually 70-80 percent of our traffic, walk-in or online) will like to know if you are a “good” and a “legitimate” store that has a good reputation. Having an active social channel that talks about products, answers questions, and occasionally puts out deals and specials is a “good sign.” And if you have followers that engage with the brand and have a good thing to say about your store, then that’s golden.

Establishes a brand voice

There are three kinds of people in this world: those who make it happen, those who watch it happen, and those who wonder what happened. Don’t be the third. Take charge of your brand voice. Your social channels will be an extension of your own personality, thinking and acumen. Having a platform to express your brand’s vision, message and your position in the rapidly growing and evolving sex-positive community is not only beneficial, but the crown on your brand. Everybody will look at it.

Expands your user base

Most stores spend anywhere between $10-20 to acquire a new customer. Will you just let them walk away after their first purchase? An average buyer will spend three or four times a year, so when you put all of your energy and effort to give them a fantastic experience in-store, why not keep it going on your brand page? Each time that you post, they’ll be reminded to return to your store. It just takes effort to get the first 1,000 followers. After that, your user base will keep growing as you become more familiar with the kind of posts of yours that they like. I’d say that at least four out of 10 of them will come back and shop again!

To maintain a healthy and active social media presence, the first step is to work towards normalizing sex. Sex sells, you don’t even have to try hard. Don’t try to sexualize your posts whether through captions, titles or images. Seriously, don’t! It will just send the potential buyer away. Avoid using imagery that includes male or female genitalia or products replicating them. This should be easy, as today’s brands have totally changed the visual appeal of products, from packaging to design to shapes and functionality. Don’t forget to give credit for using brands’ images.

Using humor on social media is good, but keep it tasteful. It’s also a good idea to grab your iPhone once in a while and speak to your followers. Record a quick video — or better, go live and answer questions once in a while.

It’s also important to stay consistent with your social media. Yep, if once a week on Saturday is your thing, then that’s cool. If you come everyday and share a new product, new function or some news about the community, that’s even better. Rain or shine, make time. The channels that show consistent content posting, and timely responses to comments, have a better chance to boost followers, engagement and conversions.

Developing a relatable voice on social media is also essential to building a brand online. Speak like a human, not like an automated machine. When you post, it should sound like a person speaking to a person.

In order to flex your brand’s engagement muscles, pick two social media channels. For most adult stores (both offline and online), I would recommend spending your energy on Facebook and Instagram. Facebook will bring you credibility and help you build a following faster (mostly between 30 and 55), while allowing you to showcase products, contests, campaigns and announcements. Plus, most of us have our personal Facebook profiles, so we can always cross-post and bring more followers from our own networks to get the wheel spinning. Instagram is going to be your catalog to showcase your strengths — your store pictures, employee of the week, your latest and greatest product showcase, and short videos about new and exciting launches. They look attractive on Instagram’s layout and you will find a good following among the platform’s audience that’s between 18 and 35 years old. They are often online and will consume good content if you share. If you can’t find original content, you can always ask and get it from your brand account managers, vendors or distributors.

Lastly, if you spend or have been wanting to spend money on SEO marketing for your brand, I would recommend setting up and launching a Youtube channel as soon as possible. Create “how to use” videos of the various toys out there. Upload them, give them relevant titles and descriptions and add links to purchase that product from your store. It will give you a quality back-link and the channel boosts your online store’s SEO.

Let’s get good at this game. Social e-commerce is already huge in various parts of the world. Get your channel alive and thriving, so you can reap the fruits of your labor ahead.

Tips for Boosting Retail Sales Through Social Media Marketing by Raj Armani originally appeared in XBIZ

Instagram Activates Default ‘Explore’ Filter Targeting ‘Sexually Suggestive’ Posts

Last week Instagram announced the launch of a feature called “Sensitive Content Control” and set, as a default for all users, an option that prevents the app’s “Explore” feature from showing posts that the company’s algorithms and human moderators deem “sexually suggestive or violent.”

The three new options that users can now select are “Allowed” (less censored), “Limit” (censored) and “Limit Even More” (even more censored). But in order to select “Allowed,” Instagram users are now being forced to navigate through several steps to disable the default filter setting.

statement from Instagram — a Facebook company — introducing the feature claimed the company believes “people should be able to shape Instagram into the experience that they want,” which seems contradictory given that “Limit” was included as the default option for all users.

According to the company’s statement, “Sensitive Content Control” allows the user to decide how much “sensitive content” shows up in “Explore.”

The company reasserted that its controversial corporate censorship policies, which include a blanket ban on “the female nipple” — selectively not applied to celebrities and some people shown breastfeeding — are meant “to keep people safe.”

“We don’t allow hate speech, bullying and other content that might present a risk of harm to people,” the company stated.

“We also have rules about what kind of content we show you in places like ‘Explore,’” the statement continued. “We call these our Recommendation Guidelines. These guidelines were designed to help ensure that we don’t show you sensitive content from accounts you don’t follow. You can think of sensitive content as posts that don’t necessarily break our rules, but could potentially be upsetting to some people — such as posts that may be sexually suggestive or violent.”

The Sensitive Content Control feature further solidifies the corporate stance by Instagram and Facebook that all “sexually suggestive” material is in the same category as “harmful” and “violent” content.

The instructions to opt out of Instagram’s new default content censorship involve several steps and are allowed only for users over 18 years of age. First, users should go into their profile, tap the “Settings” menu and then tap “Account.” Under “Sensitive Content Control,” choose “Allow.”

As many users pointed out on social media, the default censorship of content appeared to discriminate against posts concerning sexual health, LGBTQ+ information and non-sexual posts by individuals and accounts that might have been flagged as “sexual” and thus subject to the company’s notorious (and notoriously secretive) shadowbanning protocols.

Progressive, feminist sexual health company Bellesa was one of many accounts to release a tutorial on how to override the app’s new default censorship feature.

“Instagram? Censoring sex-related content? Groundbreaking,” noted the Bellesa account.

Instagram Activates Default ‘Explore’ Filter Targeting ‘Sexually Suggestive’ Posts by Gustavo Turner originally appeared in XBIZ

How Retailers Can Leverage Distributor, Manufacturer Partnerships

One of the things I love most about my job is the interaction I get to have with our retailers and store partners. I especially love doing store visits and meeting you all in person and seeing your stores and wellness spaces. It reminds me why I love what I do, and most of that is based on the relationships cultivated within the industry.

I feel like there is more we can do to close the gap between what I see as the three beacons of our industry: manufacturer, distributor and retailer. Without all beacons being lit, there is serious missed opportunity within these partnerships. So, how do we leverage and utilize these relationships better from both a fiscal standpoint and a relationship perspective?

Manufacturers create a plethora of marketing support for their brands and items, especially new-release items or collections. Do not be afraid to ask what is available. I speak to so many store owners who wish they had more signage or want artwork with custom specs to create an impactful display. As a manufacturer, we love that! Please partner with your distributor in reaching out to us and asking for the printed marketing materials you want to have on hand.

I also work with a lot of stores that like to do their own printing for example at FedEx because they want to customize the signage. Let us customize some cool digital art for you, and you can print as many sizes or images as you want. It can be a challenge to get printed material from print source to the retailer. Ask your distributors to put you in contact with a rep that can help assist you with digital images that you can use in your stores for branding purposes. The quality of imagery and paper materials has improved significantly over the past five years — update your stores with all the newness you can get your hands on. Walking into a store that has faded posters from the ’80s makes shopping less appealing compared to walking into a store that has freshly printed materials. Keep in mind, there usually is not any cost to getting this signage; it is a matter of voicing your needs.

Social media is becoming a critical part of stores’ interaction with their customer base. Have you checked out your manufacturers’ websites to see what digital assets they have available? Manufacturers can easily create social media content for stores; usually we just need someone to ask us. We spend so much time and money on photo shoots and marketing materials — we want you to ask us for them. In fairness, distributors cannot manage all marketing aspects plus all product info for everyone. Lean on manufacturers’ assets in partnership with your distributor to get the maximum impact you can on social media. We cannot leave out one of the beacons or the partnership loses its harmony and balance.

Your distributor and manufacturer partners are an excellent source for curating training materials and in-person trainings for stores. We want to give you the information on our brands that are the most impactful, but also need your feedback on what works best for your store. COVID forced us all to get comfortable with online trainings; just because we are exiting the pandemic does not mean that we have to leave what we learned behind. If online training works best, stick with it. We do not have to let geography dictate trainings as much as we did in the past. Small stores deserve just as much knowledge and time as big stores — do not let your store size hold you up. It takes time to grow a business; trainings are a great catalyst to increase sales. It is important to keep associates fresh and motivated, and training and store visits are one of the best ways to do that.

The important thing about having harmonious relationships is the trust and balance. The trust between distributors and manufacturers is so critically important. When both partners are working in tandem, it’s such a great experience for the customer. When distributors are close with their manufacturers, it creates the opportunity for everyone to work as a group. One component cannot be left out or we lose the potential for revenue and growing our businesses together.

While we are not in the clear with COVID yet, we are a lot closer to normal than we were several months ago. Let us make the new normal look different in our partnerships and in the way we leverage them to create success for everyone.

How Retailers Can Leverage Distributor, Manufacturer Partnerships by Danielle Seerley originally appeared in XBIZ

Suggest These Sex Toy Upgrades to Customers for Added Value

I love when people talk to me about their sex toy collections!

I mean, it’s not like it comes up all the time in conversation, such as “how about this weather” or “did you see that shitty pass that was thrown during the game,” but when someone decides to open up and talk about it, I get a kick out of hearing what toys they’ve acquired over the years.

It’s even better when you both have a similar toy that was either not what you expected and didn’t do the job, or blew both your minds, so that you can sit and gossip about these items like kids back in middle school.

Beginners aside, I think that people who dabble in sex toys, as well as advanced users, end up having collections of toys that have different stages…

  1. You have your old toys that you don’t use anymore, but you keep them for a rainy day. Simply, they don’t do the trick any longer. You’ve advanced.
  2. The toys that are only touched every once in a while that give specific sensations whenever in a certain mood or with a partner.
  3. Of course, the toys you always go to because you know they never let ya down and get the job done right and fast.

As I stared at my personal overflowing collection, I started to think about how even with small things like bullets, penis accessory items, and lubricants, we can let customers know some simple ways to take care of their unused toys, and put them to good use, so they are getting the most out of the product that they paid for. To us, it may seem like a no-brainer to combine toys, but to customers, possibly not so much.

Vibrating Cock Ring

Whether a cheaper design or more expensive ring, adding a vibrating cock ring can add some excitement to ordinary sex toys. Some things customers can do…

  1. Add around the base of a prostate/anal toy for added perineum or testicle vibrations
  2. Add around the shaft of a favorite dildo for clitoral stimulation
  3. Adding a dual-action vibrating ring, with clitoral and anal stimulation, to a favorite vibrator can turn it into a triple-action toy with ease
  4. Slip the ring over the fingers as a finger vibe that can be used all over the body or to tease a partner

Penis Sleeves and Extensions

Penis sleeves and extensions don’t just have to be for the penis. You can get added texture, girth and length by adding them to toys that are already enjoyed or by amping up old toys.

  1. Add a skin-like texture to a toy that supplies great vibrations and angles, but was previously a little too hard for enjoyment, to give it a more life-like feel
  2. Add a textured sleeve to anal toys to stimulate nerve endings even more
  3. See if extra length or girth would be enjoyed by slipping an extension over a favorite toy or dildo. If enjoyed, one can graduate to a bigger size the next time they purchase.
  4. Slip a sleeve or extender over fingers during foreplay for added feels when inserting into a partner’s body

Bullet Vibes

I love bullet vibes. I think no matter what level of sex toy user one is, or what gender, a bullet can add so many sensations alone or with a partner. With that being said, not adding them to toys for additional thrills is almost absurd if you’re able! Especially waterproof bullets that can be used in one’s favorite water spot that they can get into some sexual action solo, or with a partner.

  1. Stick a bullet into the sleeve of a masturbator if it has an open end, or hold in hand under the base of the masturbator while gripping during stroking. A vibrating cock ring can also be worn during uses for extra stimulation.
  2. A dildo or plug that has a Vac-U-Lock-friendly hole can also be a great toy to add bullets to. Just stick the bullet in and feel the vibes.
  3. Whether pleasing a vagina or penis, place a bullet against the cheek to turn a wet mouth into a vibrating wet mouth. If the mouth gets tired, use the bullet to tease.

Stimulating/Warming/Cooling Lubricants

Numerous people, and I have been guilty of this myself, have explained to me how they purchase stimulating or thermal play lubricants, use them a few times, but don’t truly experiment with them. They sit there, they get funky over time, and then when the urge comes around again to give them a whirl, the consistency of the product is just not desirable. Push customers to use these lubes because great feels truly can come from this simple liquid in a bottle.

  1. An old rabbit vibe can be turned into a new toy with some stimulating lube. Get the tingling sensations of the lube on the clit or deep inside, hitting the G-spot while the vibrator makes the tingling more intense. Before orgasm, turn the rabbit vibe around and have the flexible, flickering rabbit ears deliver vibrations to the outside K-spot area with the shaft hitting the spot internally.
  2. Don’t feel like taking out the more intense masturbator that’s hard to clean yet comes with all the great features, but rather just have a quickie with a simple pocket masturbator? Add warming lubricant for a more realistic feel with ease. Warming lube also adds the realism to other toys, adding additional warmth to one’s own body heat and extra slickness.
  3. While using a toy with a warming function, start off by using some cooling lubricant. Feel the cooling minty feel while working oneself up in arousal, then halfway through the masturbation session, turn on the toy’s warming function and get another sensation.
  4. Glass and metal toys of course are the best for thermal play, but start off by running your toy under hot or cold water and use the opposite thermal lubricant for double thermal feel mixed with the weight of a glass or metal toy. Hot, cold and that great feeling of fullness with a heavy toy!

Again, to us, items used in these ways may seem like a no-brainer and the basic of basics since we see and talk about them every day, however informing customers or marketing toys in these ways can be nothing but helpful. Research suggests that people who use sex toys report higher levels of sexual satisfaction. Let customers know how to get even more satisfaction out of their sex toy use and more bang for their buck with a few simple toy modifications in creative ways.

Suggest These Sex Toy Upgrades to Customers for Added Value by Chelsea McCain originally appeared in XBIZ

Working From Home Opens Up New Talent Pool for Adult Retailers

I recently heard someone bemoaning the fact that retail stores were not going to ever be the same after the pandemic and I just took that as a challenge to become better than ever. There is no doubt that the last 18 months have created a seismic shift in the retail business and regular life. While business has been great and adult retailers are selling more than ever, success brings its own stressors.

Finding good, loyal employees with the educational background and social skills level to talk to such a wide variety of customers that adult stores bring in has always been a challenge. Additionally, some employees don’t even reveal to close family where they work because of the shame factor. Even though I offer a competitive wage for the area and use a payroll company to offer benefits, it is still not considered white-collar work.

I will say, once I get someone in and trained and integrated into the crew, they do tend to last with me a long time. Nevertheless, it is a challenge to find the right mix of introverts that will sweat the details, and extroverts that will wow the customers with great customer service.

Like many of you, I have found the pandemic to be a high-water mark for our sort of retail because people are nesting and spending a lot of time alone together. Who knows when or if this trend will change? While I have increased our crew level on weekend shifts, who knows if the bottom will drop out when the vaccinations reach critical levels and we all get to go outside and play again?

To take some of the stress off of me, I have dipped my toe in the virtual work-from-home world and find a lot of things to love about it. I have gone through a personal assistant talent agency and actually have different assistants for different tasks.

Someone in Oklahoma is helping me create website content and proofreads my work before it goes live, while another assistant who’s based in Florida helps me receive inventory into my system properly. And an honorable mention goes to my online reputation management company, who slay internet trolls for me even while I am on vacation.

Some things I love about virtual workers is that once I show them my system, they don’t require as much oversight as my employees in the store. They each have their own business that they run from home and have an entrepreneurial mindset. They encourage me to be creative because it generates more billable hours for them. Time is as precious to them as it is to me. The more efficiently they can do a task, the more money they make.

I have tried multiple times to teach in-store employees to import spreadsheets using our POS system’s software, but most do not have the education to support that level of complexity. Formulas are a foreign language, and invoicing can take days at the store; however, my virtual assistant does it in hours.

Because virtual employees are able to maintain their privacy, the issue of working for an adult business is almost non-existent. As long as someone is mature enough to be comfortable with grammar-checking adult content, you can just say that you are a remote proofreader, and work from home so you can keep an eye on the kids. The social stigma is taken out of the equation.

At the end of the day, we are in the people business and adult stores will always need local talent, but the freedom to outsource some specific repetitive tasks has the potential to be a game-changer for productivity and the potential for growth.

Hopefully it will free up more time to focus on customers and ensuring that they have a great experience every time they walk through your store’s door.

I encourage you to think differently about how you can use the changing economy to help your business run better. The only thing in life that is constant is change; we may as well embrace it.

Working From Home Opens Up New Talent Pool for Adult Retailers by Tami Rose originally appeared in XBIZ

By Helping to Overcome Limitations, Sex Furniture Enables Pleasure for All

For decades, mainstream media has portrayed eroticism through a very narrow lens: whether that portrayal took place in the form of a hardcore porno, a magazine ad for adult toys, an illustrated cover for a romance novel, or something else entirely, persons depicted in a sexual manner have historically and largely been thin, young and able-bodied. As society has grown to be more accepting of recognizing and even going as far as to celebrate diversity, the adult industry too has made changes in their visual marketing to reflect this cultural shift. Nowadays, you can see a stunning array of models and erotic actors across different ethnic groups, sizes, ages and physical ability levels.

Unfortunately, the same can’t exactly be said for representation in erotic products themselves. Most sex toys and accessories aim to make sex better or more interesting for an idealized general public while certain demographics are left struggling to have sex at all. There are a myriad of factors that can make physical intimacy difficult to achieve successfully or with satisfaction, such as old age, mobility issues, fatness and height differences between partners, to name only a few. These groups, which are certainly marginalized but by no means a minority, are left having to figure things out on their own while those with lesser, minor or zero sexual hindrances receive undue preference in the adult retail marketplace.

The solution to many of these woes lies not within sex “toys” as we’ve come to think of them, but positioning props. Sex-positioning enhancers can assist couples in achieving the ideal angle for intimacy regardless of what limitations may be at play. Positioning shapes alleviate a wide range of sexual barriers; they can position bodies in a way that creates a tighter fit and allows for deeper penetration, act as a fulcrum for easier thrusting, and elevate the pelvis to mitigate sore necks while performing oral, thereby increasing stamina, too.

When I first started working at Liberator, I thought the aforementioned benefits were mostly marketing fluff; a list of proposed uses meant to sell fancy novelty cushions to those with money to burn. “Why not just put a regular pillow under your ass when you need a little boost?” was my stance on the matter. It wasn’t until I read a fan-submitted story for Liberator’s “Lusty Lit” contest that the purpose (or more accurately, one of the many purposes) of positioning aids became apparent to me.

The story, aptly titled “Perfectly Positioned,” begins with the narrator absentmindedly telling her husband, who uses a wheelchair, that she misses a particular sex act that the couple are unable to carry out together. This admission sparks a discussion on fantasies and fulfillment, which leads the pair to purchase a Liberator positioning product and they’re able to put their previously discussed fantasies into action.

When I finished reading this contest entry, things finally clicked for me. I was then able to recognize that my able-bodied privilege had been clouding my judgment and that while I have the luxury of achieving sexual intimacy without any aid, others may require special angles and support found in erotic wedges and sex furniture to accomplish what I can without.

When it comes to sexual intimacy aids, the line between “erotic accessory” and “medical treatment” can sometimes get blurry, but sex wedges differ from the purely medical retail category by marrying fun and function. Not only do they resolve common physical intimacy issues, but they also allow for more creativity in the bedroom, a welcome advantage that any type of consumer can appreciate.

While there’s, of course, nothing wrong with wanting to enhance people’s sex lives, there needs to be a greater effort in making sex more accessible in the first place for consumers who don’t fit the mold of what we’ve been conditioned to believe is “normal.” By diversifying your product offerings to include sexual enhancement products that can double as sexual aids, you not only diversify your customer base but you make the world a more sex-positive place.

By Helping to Overcome Limitations, Sex Furniture Enables Pleasure for All by Jen Schwartz originally appeared in XBIZ

Rope Bondage Tips, Tricks and Benefits for Users

I love rope! Rope bondage has been described as gateway kink. Many love experimenting with bondage and sex without playing with pain. Sexual positions can be more comfortable when adding rope bondage to take weight off some spots or add support to others. Rope itself can be a form of sexy accessory. Every pleasure product shop should have some rope for bondage available, and should consider rope bondage classes to bring in more customers.

The only thing better than rope for bondage is a lot of rope for bondage. First-time couples showing up for a bondage class with one small bundle of expensive jute rope can be sad. Bondage newbies are going to have better experiences and be more enthusiastic with at least three to four 30-foot-long bundles of well-priced, user-friendly rope. Working with rope is addictive, and newbs will gravitate towards more expensive rope as they experiment and accessorize.

Braided cotton is the most affordable. Beginners love it because braided cotton is inexpensive, comes in pretty colors, and is easy to find on the internet. It is very forgiving and soft. Those qualities are great, but braided cotton is not safe for suspension. Once you add weight, braided cotton will stretch, cutting off circulation and causing other problems. Only use braided for floor work or where weight will not be added. Like other ropes with natural materials, cotton has a slight tooth to the material, which means knots don’t have to be super tight to hold, just hitched properly. This is important to know because we’ve seen knots on braided cotton so tight, they had to be cut to undo the tie.

Avoid any braided rope with a solid core. We’ve seen braided ropes with plastic, wire, and even lead cores. That’s not safe for bondage and the rope will begin to self-destruct with use.

I prefer to recommend braided multi-filament polypropylene (MFP) synthetic rope for beginners. MFP is a better value, has a great look, is easy to clean and is user-friendly. Unlike braided cotton, MFP can be used for suspension. Beginners and advanced riggers love that unlike with more expensive twisted ropes, MFP doesn’t unravel. Beginners have the advantage that they can get their rope-handling skills down with MFP, like pulling the rope through a tie instead of pushing it through. Advanced bondage enthusiasts love the colors and the low maintenance of the material. Due to the sexy, smooth surface of MFP, an extra hitch or knot may be necessary to lock down your tie, which is easy.

If there’s a bratty escape artist in a couple looking to buy rope, suggest the MFP or braided cotton. The aspiring Houdini may be sexy, but they’re better off picking through a MFP than a more expensive rope while trying to wiggle loose.

There is a twisted cotton and synthetic blend I like to work with. This rope is super soft. For those who love to play in the club scene, it is available in black light reactive colors. This gives it an awesome look in the dark! This blended rope is still not advised for suspension and weight, but is still great for floor work, decorative harnesses, predicament bondage and looks badass when used for a rope corset.

Hemp rope is very popular with advanced players and there are a lot of requests for it. The material is perfect for suspension, and very durable when handled correctly.

However, natural fiber hemp can cause allergic reactions in people who have hay fever and pollen allergies. Hemp is awesome for those who can use it. If you stock it, ask those requesting it if they’ve played with it before and if they’re allergic to pollen or get hay fever.

Twisted jute rope is often considered the gold standard in bondage. Master class bondage experts love jute, and I love it too! You’ll see jute in most of the erotic bondage photography out there. The material is natural and has the traditional look for bondage. Jute is strong and is frequently used for suspension.

I love a particular colored jute that has been conditioned to be softer than usual. The maker has a conductive version for use with a violet wand. While this rope is higher in price, it is worth every penny and the bondage bunnies agree!

Source your hemp and jute carefully. Jute for bondage has to be properly washed and conditioned before it is suitable for tying a partner. Cheap jute that hasn’t been conditioned may also contain pesticides because bugs love it. Some cheap jute is being marketed online as hemp. Know the differences and the sources before offering hemp and jute to customers.

Hemp and jute are not recommended for beginning players. These ropes are quality investments. Jute and hemp need tender loving care to last. Since these ropes are twisted, improper handling and cleaning can cause the ropes to unravel, and the damage can’t be undone. Tossing a bag of jute rope in a washing machine will destroy it. There are some who don’t wash these ropes at all, making them very personal items. Including care instructions with rope is always a smart move.

When stocking rope, don’t forget the accessories! Popular accessories include anal “hooks,” and violet wand kits for conductive rope. There’s also the typical upsell potential of beginners’ kink items like paddles, butt plugs and nipple clamps.

One final accessory my peers and I stock when touring events are paramedic-grade safety scissors. If something goes wrong, it’s not always necessary to cut the rope, but every rope bondage lover’s gear bag should have a durable pair of safety scissors that can cut through any rope.

There are potential rope bondage lovers every day; many are daunted by pricey rope, fancy techniques and complex ties. While we offer great books on bondage, one little secret is much of the bondage you’ll see is actually macramé techniques. Inexpensive macramé craft books are a good start for newbies.

When selling rope for bondage, don’t forget to point out that rope is a great fetish fashion accessory. While a lot of latex and fetish gear can be prohibitively expensive for curious fetishists, rope is an inexpensive alternative that turns heads. There are a number of easy-to- learn decorative rope harnesses that look great over a bodysuit.

If you’re running a brick-and-mortar store and haven’t tried rope bondage, we recommend learning more. It’s great fun, and you get to know more about your product. Consider reaching out to a local club on Fetlife.com to see if some of their rope enthusiasts would like to offer classes or workshops at a spot in your store. This makes for a great way to sell rope and additional gear.

Rope bondage is easy to start and a lifetime of kinky fun to master. Don’t miss out on this enjoyable way to grow your customer base, sell more products, and have a lot of fun.

Rope Bondage Tips, Tricks and Benefits for Users by Anne B. originally appeared in XBIZ

How to Support the Rainbow Community Year-Round

It’s no secret that we live in very divisive times, especially concerning topics that range from sexual orientation to gender identity and beyond. However, the pleasure products manufacturing industry continues to make essential strides in the right direction toward the inclusion of everyone.

I want to recognize the beautiful “rainbow community” with my contribution to this month’s publication. My good friend — and movie producer/director — Israel Luna coined the term “rainbow community” as a comprehensive way to include anyone who identifies within the varied spectrum of LGBTQI+. As we head into June, widely celebrated as Pride month around the world, there is much to think about in regards to LGBTQI+ representation in our industry.

For context, let me begin by explaining how I came to be part of this illustrious industry. My career path has been a winding one, full of pit-stop positions commonly found within the confines of the overly structured and monotonous daily grind that is “corporate America.” While I enjoyed my time on the figurative hamster wheel, I must admit that I never truly felt at home in most parts of that world. When the opportunity to come onboard with Sliquid presented itself I had zero hesitation to dive in headfirst. I knew the company and the industry was going to be a freeing space where I could be myself, as well as a place where my perspective on sexuality, and life in general, would be accepted and celebrated.

Jumping back a couple of decades, I have been a customer of the pleasure products industry since I was of the age to walk into an adult boutique, proudly flash my ID, and wander around the racks discovering hidden desires I didn’t even know I had at the time. I have always been drawn to the sexier, grittier things in life. As one does by nature, I gravitated towards products that were produced by and for men like me … as in gay men … in case you’re wondering. This is not to say that I exclusively sought out gay or gay-friendly brands and products but, because I could identify with the content and imagery they were delivering, I was in! Was their marketing brilliant? Not particularly. Was it successful and necessary? Absolutely. Time has progressed, as has my age, and now I have the privilege of being part of the content creation that I identified with in my younger years and still do to this day.

From almost any standpoint, trends are great for business. If you can latch onto a trend, preferably at the head-start of its upswing, then your brand is sure to reap the benefits of being on top of what’s hot at the moment. What is NOT a trend, however, is gay culture and the needs and desires of the LGBTQI+ community. In fact, I would go so far as to say that gay culture has always been about bucking the trends and blazing its own trail.

When it comes to intimate items that address the rainbow community, gay-themed offerings are certainly nothing new. Plenty of products have come and gone over the years leaving a solid foundation of groundwork that companies past and present have laid to create today’s LGBTQI+ marketplace. For instance, with that foundation, we have seen more visibility given to the sexual health and wellness of our trans brothers and sisters with new, innovative products being released every year. The industry is always working to make sure gay men, lesbian women, bi-sexual persons and everyone in between have a product or brand that they see themselves in.

A brand does not have to be a gay “owned and operated” business to be part of the movement toward inclusivity. They also don’t have to be solely or predominantly gay-focused in their company identity either. What is important is that all companies try to infuse aspects of the gay sexual experience into their brand’s ethos. I love seeing a company that thoughtfully creates products, content and partnerships that speak to a wide range of identities and, specifically, that doesn’t wait to roll them out just during Pride month. Sure, the community appreciates the shout-out and gesture, but sustained visibility comes from continuous brand representation all year round, whether that be through marketing, R&D, or internally via hiring queer creatives for their input.

With the rise of gay representation in mainstream media, the saying “we’re here, we’re queer and we’re not going anywhere” has never held more weight. Adding to this pivotal time in gay culture is the 50th year anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, which marks the start of the gay rights movement by black, transgender and drag performers in New York City’s Greenwich Village. Our industry has a wonderfully diverse crop of progressive businesses that are loud and proud in their attentiveness of LGBTQI+ person’s health, wellness and pleasure needs. As long as businesses, such as yours, continue to champion the acceptance of the gay community then I think the relationship of our industry and gay culture will continue to have a successful and profitable future ahead. To all my LGBTQI+ friends and family out there, and to our allies and businesses that support us, Happy PRIDE Month!

How to Support the Rainbow Community Year-Round by Erik Vasquez originally appeared in XBIZ

How to Boost Sales During a Retail Slow Period

Have your sales hit a dry patch? This is normally the case during this time of year when shoppers have exhausted their holiday-through-Valentine’s-Day gift funds. Many are already focusing their budgets on vacations and planning family trips with the kids. Most are not planning on any type of gift spending or personal indulgences. Which brings us to an important topic — what can you, as a retailer, do to drive sales during this commonly low-sales period? Here are five suggestions to help.

  1. Use this slow period wisely.

Spend a portion of your time now to streamline your ordering processes. Often, ordering products can include several people, numerous approvals, and a lot of time. An order received on Monday morning can take up to three or four days to process and ship once it has gone through your current process.

Now is the time to hone in on possible time delays in your ordering process and try ways to speed things up by having a smart system in place.

Tip: Send out a survey to your customers asking for what their ordering frustrations are and their suggestions for improvement.

  1. Arm your customers with what they need to succeed.

When sales are down, across the board, everyone suffers. One of the best ways to grow your own sales is to identify reasons why consumers would need to purchase your products and then put together a targeted sales and marketing plan to address those concerns.

Arming your own customers with valuable information and solving their problems can help them make purchases now that they normally would wait on. Additionally, feeding this problem-solving information to consumers via strategic social and email content can pull purchasers toward your products.

Tip: Try pull versus push marketing. Instead of using all your resources to push your marketing/sales materials out, it can be more effective to pull consumers toward your products with timely content that educates and solves their concerns.

  1. Content marketing can be a powerful tool.

While they used to be called blogs, they’ve been honed into keen sales tools with strategic content and are now called editorials and online magazines. Guest writers and wellness topics grace these pages that are now SEO-heavy and curated to drive specific responses from readers.

A study by the Halverson Group found that “blog” posts have a lifespan of 700 days. These online written resources can be used to drive sales for years after they’re published and promoted.

Tip: Use the right type of keywords (branded, generic, transactional, etc.) that match your buyers’ journey in content articles in order to increase your Google search rankings and promote link-sharing and re-posting.

  1. Invest in videos.

This is why videos are valuable for your business:

  • 73 percent more visitors who watch product videos will buy.
  • 71 percent of consumers think video explains products better.
  • 58 percent of shoppers think companies with product videos can be trusted.
  • Among retailers recently surveyed about business video usage, 81 percent saw an increase in sales and 53 percent said customer service question calls were reduced.

Nowadays, videos can be filmed from your phone, making it easy to create content at a moment’s notice. And, keep in mind, 85 percent of Facebook users watch videos with the sound off so there may not be a need to even speak.

Tip: Be creative with the types of videos that your business offers. There’s no need to stick to one type of video format. Consider these options: Vlogs, video interviews, tutorial videos, videos of presentations, product demos, product reviews, video testimonials and video ads.

  1. Use this time to get strategically social.

It seems as though every time you turn around another social platform has appeared. Yes, it can be frustrating to build that Facebook store only to find ads blocked or web traffic not increasing. However, using social platforms to drive sales can still work —if you consider your buyer.

Step 1: Take time to determine who your buyer is.

Step 2: Focus your efforts on the social platform that your buyer uses.

If your buyer is on Pinterest but you’re concentrating on your Instagram feed, then you won’t get the sales return that you’re looking for. For Facebook, their biggest demographic group is between the ages of 25 and 34 — which wouldn’t be effective if you’re looking to connect with menopausal women.

Tip: When thinking of that problem-solving information for your customers, keep their demographics in mind so that your content can be placed on the best social platform.

Wrap Up

Overall, there are smart ways to help your customers and increase your sales during the slow months of 2021. Sometimes a cohesive action plan is all that’s needed to make a big difference.

Use the next few months to put effective ordering/shipping systems in place, push resources and pull consumers toward your products, and add valuable content marketing to your arsenal. You’ll be surprised how profitable this slow season can be.

How to Boost Sales During a Retail Slow Period by Sunny Rodgers, PhD., originally appeared in XBIZ

A Look at the Shape of the Lingerie Market Today

“In every era, lingerie changes to support the fashionable figure of that day,” writes author Cora Harrington in her book “In Intimate Detail.” In this age of diversity, the lingerie industry has certainly witnessed a sea of change over the past few years and is expected to hit $325 billion by 2025, according to a report on Edited.com. From flattering silhouettes with comfort to a greater emphasis placed on breaking barriers with inclusivity and sustainable materials.

Following this, we will uncover the current state of the lucrative lingerie market, its opportunities and how to reach the demands of consumers.

Comfort Is the New Sexy

The comfortable lingerie revolution has been prevalent for a number of years now, as the definition of sexy has shifted to what makes the woman feel good, rather than how she is perceived from the (often male) gaze of others. This trend now seeps from every crevice of the fashion market — especially as coronavirus lockdown orders resulted in a mass reassessment of what we wear, as we seek out comfort while being at home.

Subsequently, current lingerie trends center around softer form product lines which flatter the natural silhouette of the female body in lieu of wired, padded undergarments. “Women want comfortable, and unrestrictive lingerie built for all women; which doesn’t compromise aesthetic or even eroticism,” says Lovehoney’s head of lingerie design, Heather Mercer. “Traditionally, women had two options when it came to lingerie. Comfort pieces that were often frumpy and outdated in design, and then, sexier styles bought to please someone else. For too long, women have been encouraged to wear lingerie within these two spheres. As the conversation around female empowerment has grown, lingerie designers such as ourselves have used their creative control to fill the gap between frumpy and sexy. They started to create pieces for the everyday woman which really celebrate the female body and don’t fit into either of these traditional spheres.”

Provocative Purchases

We’ve all heard the reports surrounding the pandemic-induced sex boom. Not only has sexual activity increased, but so has the quality — backed up by the 54 percent of Americans who reported becoming more sexually adventurous in a recently commissioned Lovehoney lockdown sex survey. Car sex, roleplay and sex games were just some of the activities that participants highlighted, with many also reaching for fetish lingerie to up the kink.

One explanation for this is that with all of this extra time couples have spent together, deeper connections have been built, paving the way for intimacy outside of typical comfort zones and extra levels of creativity.

For many, female empowerment is all about choice and being free to live your life as you choose. So multitudes of people are still buying sexy lingerie which they hope will turn on their partner.

Erotic Lingerie Hits the Mainstream

As sexy lingerie and more erotic styles have risen in popularity over the years, mainstream retailers have fully embraced them. From PVC styles dotted across popular fashion brands to crotchless panties at Walmart — erotic lingerie has officially hit the mainstream, with new players joining this space every day.

A positive for this powerful presence of sexy lingerie is that a halo effect is being created. It can serve great introduction for people into the category, who may not have necessarily considered investing in their sex lives before. This can lead to an increased appetite for more “out there” styles, as well as purchasing sex toys.

Inclusivity

The lingerie fashion industry was once associated with long-limbed models, but has the tide turned for good? In Vogue’s January 2021 issue, the article titled “New Year, New World” featured “plus-size” model Paloma Elsesser on the cover looking both parts sensual and confident. In the previous month’s issue, British singer Harry Styles was featured on the cover modeling a glamorous dress. This “New World” being referred to is the evolution towards the beginning of a journey towards celebrating human diversity at a broader level.

Parallel to this, various lingerie brands have undergone a noticeable shift in the last five years in terms of their attitude towards diversity, cultivating a more welcoming approach to bodies of varying shapes and sizes. From the iconic Savage X Fenty shows taking representation to magnificent levels, to the ongoing messages of body-positivity seen from other brands in the industry through their imagery and campaigns.

A recent survey of 5,000 people by Lovehoney revealed that two-thirds of women feel more body confident than they did five years ago. More than half of women (54 percent) said the thought of seeing body diversity in fashion campaigns made them feel better about themselves.

Sustainability

As with most categories, sustainability and ethical materials will remain pivotal with the mounting pressure from younger audiences, who are typically more vocal about these issues. For lingerie brands, strides have been made. Innovations from bamboo fabrics, plant-based natural dyes and lingerie incorporating ocean waste materials are all visible in today’s market.

This spring Lovehoney will introduce a lingerie in collaboration with a company that removes waste plastic from our oceans, such as fishing nets, then repurposes them into sexy stockings — literally fishnets from fishnets!

It would seem that the lingerie space is almost as varied as women themselves. People choose what they wear based on their daily routines, but a key element for their choices is how it illuminates their body-confidence and well-being.

While outdated notions still exist around lingerie, the definition of sexy has definitely evolved and attitudes in the lingerie industry are changing fast. Women feel more represented now than they did five years ago through brand messages of self-love and models that speak directly to them. It’s forecasted that this trend will grow, and for good reason.

A Look at the Shape of the Lingerie Market Today by Sabrina Earnshaw originally appeared in XBIZ