Alibaba’s Hema supermarket has changed the way Chinese consumers buy fresh produce by linking online and offline shopping. Now, it’s looking to do the same in another, and more personal, category: sexual-wellness products.
Recognizing that meeting consumer needs means not just satisfying their stomachs, but also getting them whatever they want quickly (however intimate or private the products might be), the New Retail-driven supermarket has launched a new adult-products channel on its mobile app for users in Shanghai. The new channel, dubbed “HErmones,” allows shoppers to pick from among 700 adult products, priced from RMB 10 to 700 ($1.60 to $100), including condoms, lubricants, sex toys and pregnancy-testing products and have them delivered to their homes in as fast as 30 minutes.
The new service fits closely with Alibaba Group’s efforts to realize its new “three-kilometer ideal living community” concept. By collaborating with its affiliates—including Hema, B2C e-commerce site Tmall, bike-sharing platform Ofo and mapping-services provider AutoNavi—Alibaba is working to create communities empowered by convenient, integrated online and offline services that are driven by the Chinese e-commerce giant’s technology and infrastructure.
“Adult products used to be only a minor category on Hema. The launch of the new HErmone channel reflects our strengthening efforts in the area,” said Hu Qiugen, operations expert at Hema. “We believe Hema is able to bring our users the most-thoughtful services.”
During a three-month soft launch prior to the new channel’s official start this month, Hema found that most consumers purchasing adult products on the platform were aged 40-49, with condoms, pregnancy tests and lubricants the most-popular products. The split of HErmones users is 52 percent female and 48 percent male. German erotic products manufacturer Joydivision and You2Toys of the Netherlands had the most-popular items in the over-50 customer group.
According to a report from technology research firm Technavio, the global sex-toy market is expected to cross $29 billion by 2020, with China and Japan among the top markets driving that growth.
Changing social attitudes have led to what China’s leading sexologist, Li Yinhe, called a “sexual revolution” in her 2015 lecture to the Brookings Institution about changing sexual lifestyles in China. During her first survey in 1989, only about 15 percent of the 2,500 young people in Beijing she interviewed reported having premarital sex. In 2013, Li’s nationwide follow-up study saw that figure surpass 70%.