Fueled by relaxed societal attitudes about sex, the popularity of E.L. James’ book series Fifty Shades of Grey and the movie of the same name, and a transformation of the adult pleasure products industry, the vibrating devices category has shown explosive growth over the past 10 years.
In 1998, the category got a boost when HBO’s Sex and the City “The Turtle and the Hare” episode featured Vibratex’s Rabbit Pearl vibrator in its plotline. The show shined a spotlight on the category, and manufacturers saw an opportunity to take the category into the mainstream. Since then, manufacturers have introduced improved products that include higher-quality silicone, enhanced motorized parts, innovative designs, and rechargeable batteries. Couples products, which are designed to be used by both men and women during foreplay and sex to enhance the sexual experience, emerge as an important segment. Some couples products feature his-and-her vibrators.
Price points increase as consumers trade up to high-quality, high-design products. Consumers enter the category with inexpensive, disposable products (vibrating rings) and become repeat customers, eventually trading up. Jimmyjane and Swedish manufacturer Lelo bring premium-quality, premium-priced, male and female personal massagers to the market. Moving away from traditional bullet-shaped products, the companies introduce sleek, non-anatomical, biomorphic-shaped products in colors like pink, purple, and gray, retailing for around $100.00. Crave, founded by a female industrial designer in 2010, launched Duet in 2012. The sleek, double-prong design vibrator plugs into a USB port and has four power levels, four vibration settings, and dual motors in the tip. Ultrazone’s line of X-Series Mini-Vibrators comes in two finishes (shiny and matte), five colors, and three sizes, and the luxury packaging allows for discreet display.
Tech-focused companies, eager to distance themselves from the stigma of old-school vibrators, use the Consumer Electronics Show as a platform to launch new products. Integrating sex toys with technology helps legitimize them for a broader base of consumers. Manufacturers emulate Apple’s strategy of launching next-generation products, and technology-crazed consumers snap up the newest, improved models. Standard Innovations introduced We-Vibe, the first c-shaped vibrator designed to fit around the pubic bone and be worn inside the vagina during sex, in 2008. By 2014, over two million units are sold. OhMiBod, co-founded by former Apple business manager Suki Dunham, introduces couples vibrators featuring Bluetooth and Wi-Fi-connectivity and remote control functions, which allows the vibrators to be controlled by a partner remotely. Jimmyjane Hello Touch fingertip vibrator, introduced in 2013, receives national media attention and wins design awards.
Sales of consumer sexual wellness products increased 4.3% from 2013 to 2014, and the categories with the highest rates of growth were OTC contraceptives, nutritional supplements for sexual enhancement, and vibrating devices. The overall market for sexual wellness products is expected to grow at double digits over the next five years, fueled by gains in these categories, as well as anticipated Rx-to-OTC switches of erectile dysfunction medications starting in 2017. To learn more about this thriving market, refer to Kline’s just-published Sexual Wellness: U.S. Market Analysis and Opportunities—a first-of-its-kind assessment of this quickly growing and highly fragmented market.