It’s Valentine’s Day and to celebrate, people all over the world will buy lingerie and erotica online. In part, these products are easily available thanks to a German woman named Beate Uhse and her chain of sex stores.
As a girl growing up in Germany during the 1920s, Uhse dreamt of becoming a pilot. She received her pilot’s license at age 16 and became the only German female stunt pilot in the 1930s, later flying supplies during the war. After World War II, Uhse continued to break new ground by founding a business that produced and distributed information about sexuality and contraception.
Eventually named Beate Uhse, that business existed primarily as a mail-order company until 1962, when it opened one of the world’s first sex shops, selling lingerie, magazines, contraception, and other erotic products. The Hamburg-based company, which went public in 1999, became a household name in Germany, with 98 percent brand recognition.
But it fell on hard times — 2015 sales slipped 10 percent year-on-year — and declared bankruptcy in 2017. Financial investment company Robus Capital took over management of Beate Uhse in 2018 and restructured the company to compete more effectively against other specialty sex shops, as well as with Amazon.
Now the company is relaunching with the motto “be you” and modernizing its online presence to meet consumers expectations in the digital era. While Beate Uhse provided general sex education and erotica, the company’s new leadership realized it needed to provide customers with a more exciting, personal experience while shopping online.
Craig Wheeler was just announced as the new CEO at Beate Uhse. He says, “We are working toward the launch of an awesome new website experience in September 2019 that will allow us to engage with our customers, encouraging them to be themselves, enjoy their sexuality, help them understand what is available, and share with them how other feel and what their experiences are.”
According to Wheeler, Beate Uhse is returning to its roots while revamping the company to be more aligned with the current culture of sexual freedom and choice.
“The company founder was an advocate for people to be themselves, to have a right to their own view of life, and own their sexuality — essentially to be yourself,” he says. “We are updating this philosophy to reflect today’s reality of female empowerment and a vibrant LGBTQ community.”
To do this, the marketing team at Beate Uhse is creating an online customer experience that’s educational, individualized, and curates products that will help people enhance their romantic lives. The company offers nearly 20,000 products. According to Wheeler, “Our new digital strategy is to build a platform where people can gain assistance in finding the products or advice to enjoy the erotic side of their personality.”
The new Beate Uhse will do this by offering editorial stories, help guides, partnerships with external ‘sexperts,’ and personalized product finders.
In the end, the company wants to move beyond its identity as a sex toy or lingerie retailer. “We want to be viewed as educators and a trusted voice,” says Wheeler.
To achieve this, Beate Uhse needed a web platform that was sophisticated but let customers quickly and easily find information and order products. The company also required a solution that was cloud-based, offered a digitized front office, and helped ensure data privacy and security of its customers. It chose the SAP Commerce Cloud and SAP Customer Data Cloud solutions, part of the SAP Customer Experience portfolio, to help.
“We will have the best platform within our sector, it will be engaging and clever. We need a platform that would help deliver our brand vision and SAP seemed like the best choice,” Wheeler says. “The work we have already seen shows we made the right choice. With over 10,000 sex toys online, our new platform will guide people to a small selection that will suit them.”
With many digital commerce platforms in the market, Wheeler chose SAP because its customer-facing applications integrate with back-end business applications, which will help Beate Uhse simplify its IT landscape. Wheeler also says, “SAP Customer Data Cloud is the best GDPR tool I have seen yet.”
SAP partner and value-added reseller (VAR) Poet will help with the implementation.
Beate Uhse plans to use SAP solutions to grow its online presence to more than 30 countries in the next 12 months. Today the company operates in France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, the Czech Republic, and Austria.
With the new digital commerce solution in place, Beate Uhse will be better positioned to capitalize on the growing adult toy market. According to one research firm, that market will reach US$35.5 billion by 2023 from US$23.7 billion in 2017. The new strategy is already working, with the company reporting sales growth due to its restructuring, particularly from its online business.
And Wheeler has high hopes. He believes that “the flexibility of the platform and our imagination combined will allow us to take the erotic online store to the same levels of experience we have seen the fashion industry already reach.”