Asked about the key challenges of operating in the Adult sector, Jeff Rodman, marketing director of sex toy retailer The Xandria Collection (), says “Continuing to expand into the mainstream marketing channels remains a challenge when your company is labeled as an 'Adult' entity. It’s a negative that those of us in the industry find a constant frustration, though the Adult industry does afford the fun factor”.
A customer base of over 2.5 million suggests Xandria has well and truly defied any stigma associated with being an Adult industry operator. With a 30-year history as a catalog and Web-centric sex toy retailer of vibrators, dildos, sexy lingerie, and fetish wear, the company has recently made the transition from mail order operation to online sex toy retailer, having provided an affiliate program for webmasters for the last year.
“We started as a couples-oriented catalog company and our ideas were, and still are, continuing to evolve around that market. We proudly provide safe, high quality products to all tastes and pleasures. In the past few years, however, those couples have come to represent just about all segments of society,” Rodman says.
“From customer service and sales to media management, few venues allow for the conversation to be frank about sex and sex toys, and also allow us to get paid for it,” he says. “Xandria is still viewed as one of the pioneers of the Adult toy retailing industry in that our advertising continues to be seen in the mainstream media. This is a definite positive.”
“2004 marks our thirtieth year of continuing to mail our products; it also marks the first year of operating an affiliate program. Our specialty is really our consistency in customer satisfaction. We continue to bring a variety of quality sex toys and provide superior customer service.”
Asked about his company’s key attributes, Rodman cites Xandria’s liberal return policies in the industry. “Our products are tested for quality of workmanship and durability, thus creating few returns. However, in the event that a customer is dissatisfied, we will provide a replacement, credit, or refund, no questions asked.”
“Thirty years in business brings with it buying power, customer demand knowledge, and all the necessary expertise to deliver the product. We have established a reputation of trust with the public, and, with our three-way guarantee of confidentiality, quality, and satisfaction you’ll have confidence when recommending our products to your audience,” Rodman says. “We do not give, rent, nor sell our customers' names, or any other personal information, to any third party,” he adds. “Our triple guarantee has stood the test of time; that is, we guarantee the customers' right to privacy, quality, and satisfaction.”
Xandria’s affiliate program sees the customer access product from Xandria.com, or through online affiliate stores. Xandria provides the shopping cart, checkout, and merchant accounts; they also service the customer account, ship the products to each customer, and manage any returns.
Every sale generated by a click-through from an affiliate site is recorded, and the affiliate can earn a commission on each sale. Once details regarding a buying customer are sent and return through a bookmark, or with an affiliate code in their Xandria.com cookie, affiliates are paid commissions on those sales.
Xandria.com's SexSells! affiliates receive a percentage of all sales, on all products from traffic that originates at their site. Commissions are paid on a sliding scale, based on gross sales per month. Ten percent commission is paid on monthly sales up to $499, while over $500 in sales lands 20 percent commission.
Xandria also provides customers with several different HTML links, banners, and pages to drive traffic to either Xandria.com, or an affiliate store. They assign affiliates code to the customer cookie so affiliates can continue to earn commission from customer re-orders. Affiliates also gain access to an affiliate account page that displays the number of orders and sales they’ve sent. They also receive banners, links, and other marketing information. On a monthly basis, commission checks are sent.
In a technical context, Xandria.com supplies its affiliates with buttons, banners and HTML links that lead directly to Xandria.com and with specially "tagged" URLs that identify the affiliate's site. Affiliates place these links and the specially tagged URLs behind these links on their Web site(s).
Xandria's technology consists primarily of proprietary applications developed in-house, while also using some Microsoft technology for the backend. Rodman says the company’s biggest technical challenge is keeping up with the level of demand for customization, both for innovative marketing ideas and for greater functionality.
“We plan to commit more resources to tracking customer response to print ads, including catalogs and magazines. Viewer activity will also be monitored more closely on affiliate stores to help with conversions, and to give each affiliate better information regarding their own traffic,” he says.
Asked about the future direction of Xandria, Rodman cites the development of the company’s affiliate program as a turning point. “With the rollout of our SexSells! affiliate program, we have brought our expertise to the Web; we recognize that others in our industry have been there for some time.”
“With a thriving catalog business, Xandria took its time to produce a program that would provide everything reasonable to the consumer and webmaster, while also making that program scalable for future applications. Thus, we look forward to enormous growth in this sector. The continued multiple channel approach is set well to provide us growing revenues which in turn will allow us to bring easy to use turnkey stores to webmasters and site owners.”
Asked about future marketing strategy, Rodman cites milestones typical of any industry path, including ease of entry, service and price competition, and consolidation for survivors as significant to Xandrias market position “Currently, we are in that first phase, thus, many new ways of getting the message to the target are being tested: email pushes, print publications, Web site promotions, conference and seminar exposure, and direct sales force solicitation for affiliate programs.
“Until the last person gives up their magazine, there is still value in the print medium. Rodman says. “However, the future holds out for the speed and ease of electronic media winning the day. Today, the most obvious cost-efficient path to growth is Web exposure.”
Rodman believes current market expansion strategies, such as traffic generators and email list pushers will eventually give way to pay-per-view clips and thumbnail gallery posts being sponsored by affiliate programs. “If traffic is king, and it seems to be the golden chalice well into the future, we should see the effort to go outside the not-limitless 'Adult industry' sites for more and more traffic referrals.”
Asked if he sees online retail as challenging existing brick-and-mortar sales, Rodman says, it depends on the size of a company. “Do your stores still stand alone profitably? Does a company have a small number of stores serving a local community well, or do they have a network of branded, profitable storefronts that could be jeopardized by all-Internet sales?”
Rodman adds, “If a corporation wishes to keep store fronts, be prepared to have a two-tiered measurement system, two expense streams, and two different management approaches. Xandria relates to this type of division in that we have mainstream and Adult print advertising for a catalog effort, and another separate expense and target realm for the Internet. We are merging those, so that all calls to action point to the Web purchase with less reliance on the 800 number or mail order.”
Beyond the realm of retail, Xandria’s comprehensive Web site offers not just an online retail portal, but a plethora of information that is guaranteed to inform and educate. An affiliate newsletter provides clients with tips and techniques regarding established promotions and marketing strategies, while Xandria’s alphabetical and searchable educational services, including “Ask Xandria” provide users with insight into everything you wanted to know about sex, sex toys, and other adult material.
There’s even an erotic fiction link.Xandria-Pillowbook is a forum for users to share hot, sexy, and outrageous stories including Adult erotica, exotica, erotic reviews, and erotic fiction written by men, women, couples, heterosexuals, bisexuals, and gays. There’s also a history of sex toys, and a newsletter with sex news and informative feature articles promoting a healthy sex life. The site also offers the latest headlines on human sexuality in Sex Flash, and interviews with noted experts on human sexuality and various deals and discounts.