Sex was a taboo subject in China not long ago. Although it’s the largest sex toy manufacturer globally, making 70% of the world’s adult products, most of them are built for export.
However, changing social attitudes and the country’s booming e-commerce industry have made the once-sensitive topic a profitable business in China.
While Chinese people are still a little conservative when it comes to purchasing sex toys, e-commerce could help to avoid the embarrassing moments at bricks-and-mortar stores. Moreover, a rising number of online retailers are putting more focus on product quality to begin tapping the growing middle class.
China sales of adult products though B2C platforms has jumped from 73.6% YOY to 3.38 billion RMB in 2014, and this figure is expected to climb at a combined annual growth of around 58% in the future three years, according to a report by research institute Analysys. So in the spirit of that growth, here are some of the e-retailers who are tackling China’s sex toy industry;
Chunshuitang, an early entrant to the adult product market, was founded by Lin Degang back in 2003 when China’s e-commerce industry had just begun to take off.
The twelve-year-old company has undergone several transformations since its inception. Since last year, Chunshuitang has begun designing and developing products in-house, ranging from traditional sex toys to smart hardware. The company’s iball, a smart device which incorporates a kegel ball and connects to mobile devices, becomes quite popular among women for post-natal recovery. This month, the firm launched a group of ten smart hardware including a virtual reality masturbation cup and vibrators that can be connected to smartphone apps.
In addition to the launch of the adult health community, Chunshuitang is planning to cooperate with hotels and hospitals for user engagement. It also borrowed the marketing strategy of Alibaba’s Nov. 11 Singles Day campaign, and created a “69 sales day” on June 9th.
After receiving a 30 million RMB A round in 2011, the startup just completed an 80 million RMB Series B funding in March this year at a valuation of around 600 million RMB. Upon release of the funding news, Lin announced the plan for a domestic IPO in 2017.
Taqu (Touch), formerly known as Xingjiabi, is an adult product m-commerce app, selling everything from sexy underwear to handcuffs from third-party manufacturers. A strict product selection mechanism is adopted to ensure high price-to-quality ratio. Founded in 2012, the app boasted more than 20 million users as of the end of last year.
The company’s founder Huang Tiancai once disclosed in an interview that the company is starting to record profits with annual sales in 2014 breaking 100 million RMB. The company closed a series A round of 50 million RMB last year from Fortune Capital.
Founded in 1997, X.com.cn is an e-commerce site that sells sex products. Different from competitors, X.com.cn has a wide physical presence across the country through a licensing. It now claimed over 850 offline chain stores nationwide.
Other e-commerce startups who have eyes on the booming market include Qicaigu, Aizhigu, Taohwu, Qicaig, Xmeise.
In addition to vertical B2C platforms dedicated to this sector, comprehensive e-commerce sites like JD, Yihaodian and Taobao, as well as healthcare services are also important channels that allow users to purchase reliable adult products in a more convenient manner.
While promotions of sex-related goods on mainstream media like TV and newspapers are still forbidden in China, the rising social and digital media become main channels for the adult product companies to promote their products. Condom maker Durex has been very successful with its online marketing in China through a series of localized strategies.
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