XBIZ 2016: E-commerce Vets Offer Valuable Tips to Thrive in Retail

Jan 13, 2016 1:47 PM PST

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — XBIZ 2016 kicked off this morning with a practical guide for succeeding in online retail with experts weighing in on the latest trends and tools for different types of e-commerce operations.

The panel featured Erik Van Riper, the director of technology for distributor Honey’s Place’s e-commerce solution Build The Store; Jeff Dillon, president of business development for eLine, parent company of GameLink; Adam & Eve Director of Business Development Bob Christian, and industry vet Kim Airs, who served as moderator. Each of the panelists possessed at least a decade of experience in online retail.

Airs began the session by surveying the crowd about their online retail businesses, revealing a diverse mix of brick and mortar retailers with an online presence, e-tailers, affiliates and affiliate program owners.  

The main topic for the seminar focused on how to retain customers and increase repeat shoppers.

“One of the great things about VOD is that if you provide a great experience, they come back,” Dillon said. “We have a high retention rate because people watch a lot of porn. For [Gamelink], we try to provide a full spectrum of adult needs from adult movies to sex toys and lingerie. The challenge that we find is with sex toys because people don’t usually keep a huge collection. The frequency of return shoppers isn’t that high but it’s definitely still there; and same as VOD if you provide a great experience, they will come back.”

Dillon says the way to encourage repeat sales of pleasure products is through “very, very targeted emails.”

“I think a lot of people focus on new customers and don’t think about the fact that an existing shopper already enjoyed their experience and trusts you,” he said. “Email marketing is key to getting those shoppers back. It’s important to keep the communication going with emails about discounts, and new, related products.”

Riper said personalization is key to email marketing.

“For us in B2B, personalization and giving them good deals is key,” he said. “It makes them feel special.”

Christian added that using email as a customer service tool also is key to boosting repeat shoppers.

“Customer service is the way to keep them coming back,” he said. “Keep them posted on their order status via email, send reminders based on what they have purchased. What we do is we’ll send them coupons for the products that they last purchased. If they had a good experience, then they will come back.”

The panelists then moved on to other “touch points” where they reach their customers. Dillon encouraged attendees to be more mindful of the opportunities to incentivize a purchase even once it has been complete — such as in purchase confirmation emails or web pages.

“We include ads in the packaging list with a product that was sold,” Christian added. “It doesn’t have to be in color or even contain any kind of graphics, it will still offer another touch point for consumers.”

The group then moved on to discuss the optimal amount of email marketing a company should maintain. Panelists agreed that the recommended amount of communication ranged from once a week to possibly every 12 days.

Reiterating the importance of personalization in email marketing, Riper said, “For us in B2B, our customers are more interested in email campaigns because they revolve around business — but personalization is still key. We target our customers based on what kind of store they have, not gender like a B2C retailer might do. That extra little bit goes a long way.”

The panelists discussed the commonness of shoppers returning to abandoned online shopping carts. For its B2B audience, Riper said that on Build the Store, about 40 percent of abandoned carts result in sales, while on the B2C, 20-30 percent of abandoned carts translate to sales.

The panelists discussed the impact of Amazon.com to their business, however noticed that there is currently an uptick in online sellers who are using the platform to reach Amazon Prime shoppers.  

“Our customers are telling us that they want to sell on Amazon but are using the Fulfillment by Amazon service,” Riper said. “So at Honey’s Place we’ve been working on trying to use it on a pallet by pallet level as a service to our customers. I believe the reason why they want to do this is because they’re noticing the prices on Amazon are going back up.”

Looking into the future, Riper discussed how Google’s self-driving cars may even serve as delivery methods for retailers of adult products.

“With self-driving vehicles, the reason why there’s such an interest is not so that we can sit in the back and play with our iPads, it’s to improve the way that people drive on the road, to the point where you can do fast deliveries,” Riper said. “All of the companies pushing for it are those that want to improve getting packages or people sent to different places. If there isn’t a person behind the wheel and it’s all controlled by computer then the efficiency is significantly improved. You’ll find as those options become more and more popular, you’ll see that they will become more available to smaller retailers such as us. One-hour deliveries will eventually become the norm for everybody.”

Panelists finished off the sessions by answering questions from the audience and advising them not to become discouraged by the competitive world of online retail.

“If you have passion and a good idea — do it,” Christian said.

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