The global sexual wellness market is projected to grow to $37.19 bn by 2022. As attitudes towards sex and sexual health start to shift, personal and intimate care products are shaping up to be the next big opportunity.
No longer the taboo it once was, sex has opened up a world of opportunity within retail. Just as important as physical and mental wellbeing, retailers outside lifestyle and traditional beauty brands are buying into products promoting sexual health and pleasure. Read about the brands influencing the market and cultural shifts driving its success.
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Four driving forces
1. #MeToo & third-wave feminism
These movements are underpinning the shifts in social attitudes towards sex and breaking down taboos. Opening conversations around women’s rights and pleasures removes the shame often associated with sex, further driving growth within this market. The post-Trump era saw an emergence of cult beauty brands such as The Lipstick Lobby and Lipslut showing their support for equality and women’s reproductive rights by taking political stances in their packaging and product campaigns
2. The growth of self-care
Alongside the aforementioned cultural shifts, the transition of self-care items from a luxury to necessity has been integral to the influx of sexual wellness products in the market. Not just restricted to toys and lubricants, items falling under this umbrella combine enjoyment with wellbeing, catering to personal care, menstruation and masturbation.
3. Netflix normalization
Sex is no longer the taboo it once was, and our content is now uncensored and unfiltered. Netflix series such as Sex Education, Big Mouth and Sex Explained wouldn’t have been commissioned ten years ago, but are now ingrained in popular culture.
4. More women are feeling themselves
According to a recent study last year, women accounted for 32% of worldwide visitors on Pornhub, up 3% YoY. Combined with the buzz around feminist porn and the rise of Femtech, the time is ripe for brands to embrace the self-love movement.
The brands and products to know
Garish colors and phallic objects traditionally dominated sexual wellness products. BDSM influences emerged during the Fifty Shades of Grey hype. Now, the market has shifted to be more female-focused with the spotlight on indie brands and products for women designed by women. These items have a softer aesthetic with Instagrammable packaging, in line with trends seen in conventional beauty products.
The breadth of this category is apparent due to the variety of wellness items currently available. Market leader Unbound blurs the lines of sex tech and fashion, specializing in wearable toys as well as lubricants and stimulation serums.
With so many sexual health items gendered, Maude has tapped into the opportunity of unisex wellness. The brand, started by Everlane alumna, stocks high quality vibrators, condoms, massage candles and scrubs all with simple and modern packaging. The Perfect V has cornered the market with its ‘Vanicure’ kit, including a vaginal luminizer. Fur, which offers an intimate ingrown hair concentrate, is also recognized as a cult brand in this space.
Many of these brands boast cruelty-free, vegan and clean beauty credentials. This market goes hand-in-hand with CBD beauty to promote relaxation, and ingredients such as cranberry and aloe vera are favored to prevent UTIs and soothe sensitive areas.
The retailers investing
Already established in this space by introducing the world to vaginal steaming, Goop’s sex shop thrives as a significant part of its wellness business. The retailer continues to gain notoriety in the industry with the recent Goop Labs Netflix series and stocking the viral candle that ‘Smells Like Vagina.’
While items promoting sex can often be tucked away on brands’ sites, Cult Beauty and Feel Unique have dedicated sexual wellness and pleasure pages. Segmented by feminine hygiene, women’s supplements and/or sex tech curated into product edits, these retailers stock cult brands such as DeoDoc, The Perfect V and Fur.
It’s not just beauty and lifestyle sites investing, mass market retailers are also buying into these items. The wellness section of Revolve’s online beauty shop consists of products from the cult brands mentioned above. In Nasty Gal’s ‘accessories’ dropdown menu sits ‘sex toys & accessories,’ a category traditionally seen at lingerie retailers. In the lead up to Valentine’s Day, Free People promoted self-love products in customer emails.
These products even trickled down to drug stores, proving their wide audience reach. At an entry-level price point, Superdrug stocked Woo Woo intimate wipes and cleansers to maintain a natural pH balance, which retail under $8/£8. Ulta has dedicated landing pages to sexual wellbeing brands. Boots recently posted a ‘self-love Sunday’ story on its Instagram, promoting the My Viv Personal Pebble Massager and HANX condoms.
Being open and transparent about sex has become synonymous with the Gen-Z cohort, which means brands will need to continue educating and engaging with this consumer to cater to their needs. The presence of sexual wellness products within fast fashion retailers is a great example of how businesses are introducing the category to the younger generation.
On the other end of the spectrum, the mid and mature customer is often overlooked within this market, highlighting opportunities for age-inclusive promotions. Inclusivity will continue to be a defining trend of 2020. Brands backing sexual wellness products will see success ensuring products are marketed towards all genders and sexual orientations.
Another focal area to note are supplements within beauty. The global industry is expected to grow 6.4% between 2018-2023. Currently, Love Wellness dominates this area with products to combat yeast infections and UTIs – leaving the market open for innovation in this category.
When To Promote
While Valentine’s Day and International Women’s Day stand out as prime times to advertise, the calendar year is full of dates to promote safe sex and wellbeing. Keep these events in mind for upcoming communications.
Dates for Retailers’ Calendars
• February 12th: International Condom Day
• February 14th: Valentine’s Day
• March 8th: International Women’s Day
• May 18th: National Orgasm Day
• May 28th: Menstrual Hygiene Day
• September 4th: World Sexual Health Day
• December 1st: World AIDs Day