Let’s talk about Tech Baby
In this post, I chat to the exciting Sari of Allure Sensuality, an on-line sex shop operating from Cape Town.
Now Sari, yours has been a versatile journey originating in Israel, then to Africa where your work began with optometry, to callanetics, and now you are using digital platforms to disrupt a different kind of wellness. Can you tell us how Allure Sensuality came about?
When we moved to South Africa, I did not practice optometry anymore but because I had done a callanetics course in Israel, and I realised quickly that there is a need here. I started to work in the industry for Health & Raquet Wellness Centres, until I opened my own studio. Callanetics is more popular with women and is an intimate experience especially when done in small groups. So, 10 years later, after working so closely with women, I was prompted to think about solutions for sexual wellness and how body image affects their sexuality. This was not an easy industry to penetrate but I managed to find an online store which also came in the brick and mortar form, where I consulted, hosting parties and events for women.
This was over a period of two years which I loved as I had missed connecting with women! When this business closed down, the owner offered to help me keep it going and that’s how Allure Sensuality was born. I had no money to invest in the business. I had nothing, but I just had to start! It had to grow organically but I had a lot of emotional support from my family and a particular friend who created our website which is a huge expense when one starts. That’s how we were born. I didn’t know much about ecommerce and I was thrown into the deep end. Allure Sensuality is all about creating a safe space for people who may be somewhat embarrassed to shop or ask about sexual products in traditional brick and mortar stores.
Human culture often advances in line with technological innovation. As Africans, we are not as open about having conversations around sensuality or better yet sexuality, do you think technology will close this divide? How has it already done so?
I do find that through our online store and e-commerce portal, lots of people ask questions, so we have live chats which helps as well as a link to my WhatsApp. The ease of communication is enhanced by these technologies as I can send prospective customers images of products and consult on the spot. This also helps customers save time and effort by receiving the correct expert information, instead of being inundated with thousands of products online, not knowing where to start shopping which can be overwhelming without anonymous consultation. We create a one on one retail experience through technology.
One of the key values of your work is “relationship building” and I suppose this does not only equate to a relationship with others but also a relationship with self. What do you think inhibits women from buying sex toys? And how do you help them overcome these fears and concerns?
The first thing, based on my personal experience as a woman, is going through marriage, giving birth, body changes and lifestyle changes to name a few. All these factors affect women in their pleasure and there are different other inhibitors that limit the conversations for women which may be cultural. Fortunately I work with women from all diverse cultural backgrounds within Southern Africa and the trends are similar. I advise women to first communicate with themselves and be comfortable exploring their bodies before expecting that from a partner.
Some of the exciting advances sex technology are said to be the 'empathy machine' and if applied to sex education it could be so transformative for young people. What are some of the upcoming technology trends that excite you?
The technological innovation that is coming up in the toys spaces is really exciting as these toys are now coming with gadgets. What’s exciting is that they are ergonomically designed for pleasure and you can operate with a remote control or an app from your phone via a Bluetooth connection and you can give control to your partner who may be in a different part of the world. The technology is bringing people closer and it’s easier for people to communicate on a technology level because of its novelty. Some of the exciting trends are toys that can connect to a website although some of them require caution.
I would imagine that an online shop enables women to overcome any shyness they might have in buying such items, but do you package them in a way that also allows for discreetness?
When we pack our products, our customers receive a personalised letter providing information about the product, inside the box. We don’t have any branding on any of our packaging for an inconspicuous customer experience. People who order from us, know what they are getting and they don’t need the branding. Our products can even be delivered to the work office without fear of it falling into the wrong hands. Customer information is on the couriers packaging.
Are you able to notice any patterns in who buys what - in terms of age, cultural background, sexual orientation, regions within Africa?
We are based in Cape Town, South Africa but we ship everywhere for our online store sales from Zimbabwe, Namibia and other parts of Africa. What is a distinct pattern is that most of our customers shop through mobile devices, so it’s important that the website be mobile friendly. The split between men and women is usually 50:50 with most of the customers ranging from the ages 30 to 50.
As someone who often facilitates workshops and delivers key notes- what parting message would you like to leave for women out there?
Communication, communication and communication! Love yourself and give yourself the pleasure. Communicate not only with yourself but with your partner.
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