INTERVIEW: Isabella, Xenses

Tulips aren’t the only lovely things coming from the Netherlands. From lingerie to sex toys and erotic art, adult retailer Xenses nearly has it all.

At the Xenses helm is (Flying?) Dutchwoman Isabella, who talks about her mission, customer base, marketing lessons, and a lot more.

BRIAN GRAY: So let’s start from the beginning, Miss Xenses. ‘Name, rank, and serial number’ as the military used to say! Who are you and what’s been your adult retailing journey so far?

ISABELLA: Miss Xenses a.k.a Isabella is a bit of a mystery and I like that not many people know who I am.  Isn’t it the not knowing that keeps it sexy? But I can confirm that I am a woman, that should do it for now 😉 Xenses is my first experience with adult retailing and that period covers about 7 years. I’ve started with no knowledge of the erotic luxury market and thought that a LELO sex toy was the most luxurious product out there. How little did I know! Xenses has grown from a main-stream adult web shop to a luxury online boutique together with my knowledge of this business.

What made you decide on the name Xenses for your business?
It was actually quite the process to find a name, I had a page filled with dozens of names in front of me, the end result of weeks, even months thinking of names. In the end I’ve chosen Xenses, a mixture of Senses and seX.

Mission statements – especially from corporate behemoths – can often be vague, boring and the reader ends up none the wiser afterwards. But I’ve got faith with you, Isabella! How would you sum up the mission of Xenses?
It’s really simple: I want to bring love and happiness to lovers all over the world with unique, hand crafted products that will inspire love and satisfy desires. And in doing so curate an amazing collection of high quality and luxurious products that will WOW my clients.

Your website offers a wide range of adult retail products, from lingerie to sex toys to erotic art. Needless to say, there’s a lot of different designers and manufacturers to deal with! Tell us more about this. Who approaches who? What criteria are in place?
Well, it happens both ways, I contact designers and they approach me as well. As it is my aim to bring mostly unique brands and products together, I search the internet for new and exciting brands that could be an addition to Xenses. I prefer hand crafted products that are unique, innovative, luxurious and of high quality. But as with everything, there needs to be a balance, I need well-known brands as well to attract clients.

You’re based in the Netherlands but thanks to the joys of the internet your customers can be from almost anywhere. What countries are your most lucrative so far? How much of your sales comes from domestic customers?
Believe it or not, but the Dutch in general are not that progressive when it comes to erotic shopping, they also do not like to spend money on luxury. After my first year only selling in the Netherlands, I’ve opened the international online boutique Xenses-shop.com and that has been a success from the start. We sell and ship all over the world from New Zealand to Japan with the US, UK, France and Germany as home for most of my clients. I would say that 60-65% of my business comes from abroad and these order amounts are also the highest.

Who is the typical Xenses customer, and what three adjectives would you want your customers to associate with your brand? Most of my clients are male, shopping for their special lady. And I hope they would say: sexy, luxurious and high quality.

A well-positioned company seeks to ‘own’ one word in the minds of consumers (i.e. Volvo and ‘safety’). What would be yours?
Personal Service. Okay that is two words, but it is something that I value and put a lot of effort in. Online shopping is per definition not personal, but I make it personal as much as I can without losing the discretion or anonymity most of my clients seek.

What has been the highlight so far in your entrepreneurial journey, and why?
I have never been an entrepreneur before Xenses, so I am thrilled to learn about this new talent of mine. The most satisfying part of my business experience however is that I receive a lot of personal feed-back from couples that have loved the shopping experience with Xenses and adore their purchase. I do get official reviews that are visible online, however most clients prefer contacting me directly.

Good marketing is important for any company, not only to thrive but just to survive. What have been your key marketing learning points and observations so far?
As a small business I do most things myself including marketing. I do work with others at times, but it has been my experience that this business is so elusive, a lot of marketing principles just do not apply. And I have spent a lot of my business capital on expert third parties finding this out. Also the fact that it is an adult business means that restrictions are in place, you cannot do what other regular companies can.

And lastly, my wide range of products can be a challenge, for example lingerie lovers do not necessarily have an interest in sex toys or bondage accessories. The challenge lies in finding a balance on social media and the right mix of products that will attract the right clients for Xenses.

What has been your biggest marketing challenge so far, and what steps are you taking / have taken to overcome it?
Running an adult company in the Netherlands means encountering many prejudices and obstacles on social media, Google and when contacting magazines and people in general. Erotic luxury is really not a well-known concept here, I have been challenging this notion from the start with high quality luxury products.

What are the most valuable things you’ve learned so far both about competing in the adult retailing industry, and as an entrepreneur?
Online visibility is everything, make sure you are found through Adwords, improve your SEO, use social media, keep innovating and find and promote your own unique concept. And stay true to yourself!

And what does the next twelve months hold in store for Xenses? The coming months are the busiest months for Xenses, there is not much time to do anything else. In spring I will have time to take a step back and take the pulse of the business and adapt my business to stay on top. What I can say is that we have brought a new brand on board for SS18 that will blow everyone’s mind 😉

Thanks Isabella! And here’s hoping Xenses continues to tempt new and existing customers alike in the Netherlands and further afield.

Yield to temptation at the Xenses website. And don’t forget to follow Xenses on Twitter and Instagram.

If you’d like to be interviewed about your entrepreneurial journey and associated marketing issues that will be interesting to the Lascivious Marketing web fraternity, then get in touch!

Until next time!