How Has “Fifty Shades of Grey” Impacted the Sex Toy Industry?

'Fifty Shades of Grey'-themed sex toys (Crushable)

‘Fifty Shades of Grey’-themed sex toys (Crushable)

With the recent “Fifty Shades of Grey” movie coming out last month (along with the requisite storm of thinkpieces), the sex toy industry is seeing an impact on the bottom line.

Different sex toy retailers are feeling an impact. “Variety” reports that Manhattan-based The Pleasure Chest was offering “Fifty Shades”-themed classes every night leading up to the movie’s premiere (though it doesn’t say for many weeks this went on).

Online retailer Adam & Eve, which holds the largest market share at 4%, has also gained a boost in sales. They’re also selling their own toy line “Scarlet Couture” pegged to the movie, in addition to the official “Fifty Shades”-inspired line.

“The Hollywood Reporter” has a piece which came out before the movie opened giving us some hard numbers. The U.K. sex toy brand Lovehoney made the line of “Fifty Shades”-inspired toys, which includes blindfolds, riding crops and feather ticklers. Demand for the “Inner Goddess” Ben Wa balls (or vaginal balls) sold out Europe in pre-orders. (Full disclosure: I was actually given a box of these when I attended a sexual health conference in January.)

THR reports that Lovehoney’s profits “tripled from $1.1 million the year before to $3.39 million by January 2014.” The “Fifty Shades” line has already sold 1.2M units worldwide, and is estimated to boost sales by 40% once the movie debuts.

If you’re looking for lingerie, Bluebella has you covered. The lingerie line has three “Fifty Shades”-inspired collections, and they anticipate a spike in sales not only from the movie, but also from Valentine’s Day.

“Inc.” also had a comprehensive article on this cultural phenomenon, and puts it in the larger context of a sea change. Market research firm IBISWorld found the following:

Between 2008 and 2013, sex toy sales in the U.S. increased by approximately 12.5 percent annually, raking in $610 million in 2013 overall.

The article notes that it’s more the smaller companies seeing a boon to their bottom line. But there’s also been a shift in who the sex toy industry’s customers are:

In 2013, women made up approximately 67 percent of U.S. industry patronage, which was a 12 percent increase from 2008.

It’ll be interesting to see if this is just a one-time sales spike, specifically in BDSM gear, or if this trend will continue, eventually making the practice almost, dare I say, vanilla.






Lingerie Company Using A/B Testing to Maximize Revenue

Adore Me model (Image via Adore Me/Facebook)

Adore Me model (Image via Adore Me/Facebook)

This is pretty awesome: Lingerie company Adore Me A/B-tests photos of their models wearing their products to ensure maximum audience engagement that translates into maximum revenue.

For those not in the know, A/B testing is an experiment with two variants, noted as A and B. (Typically, A is the control and B is the variable.) Users are split into randomized groups, so that one will see version  A and the other will see version B. (Who sees what version can sometimes change day-to-day due to the randomization.) Those who run the A/B testing are then able to see how users react to each option, and which one would be more impact for consumers over time.

(Companies can use A/B testing for basically any variable they have. For example, I used an A/B test in my last job to determine how email newsletter headlines affected click-thru rates. Control version A was the normal staid headline, while version B was more creative.)

In this “Fast Company” article that details Adore Me’s A/B testing process, writer Rebecca Greenfield details what variables the company tends to change:

“The distinctions between the pictures might include different models wearing the same set in the exact same position, or the same model in the same set in a different position, for example.”

If anything, this news reveals that analytics tools and approaches have crossed over into non-tech fields, and may soon take over more traditional processes of gathering consumer data.

It’ll also be interesting to see how sexuality stats cross over into Big Data. I feel we’re on the cusp of it right now.