(Note: This story appears in the April 2022 issue of SE Magazine)
WOW Tech proves innovation is the collaborative effort high tide that raises the whole adult retail industry.
For a glimpse of how the WOW Tech Group (now part of Lovehoney Group) values innovation, consider WOW Tech was founded in 2018 as a merger between Womanizer Group from Germany and Standard Innovation from Canada.
In fact, the company’s own website touts the two companies as owing their success to “the enterprise and innovation of their founding couples.”
WOW Tech boasts such renowned brands including We-Vibe, Womanizer, pjur, ROMP and Arcwave.
“Innovation is human ingenuity — it’s creativity, ideas, and problem-solving,” says Simon Smith, vice president of business development Americas. “But it hardly ever happens the way one thinks it does. It’s not a spark or a lightbulb that’s simply turned on. Innovation is a slog.
“Innovation requires practices and processes to structure, organize, and encourage it,” adds Smith. “It’s expensive and risky. It’s not a business for the faint-hearted, but it’s our way of doing business. Innovation is the DNA of WOW Tech — innovation is what we love.”
For retailers, this makeup means WOW Tech helps deliver new and returning customers and drive sales. As Smith contends, innovation drives consumer demand across all consumer goods particularly in established product categories.
“We are all in the business of adult novelty,” he says. “Customers want something new, a toy that excites them, turns them on, gets them to explore something different with their partner.”
That, in a nutshell, is the WOW Tech business model: delivering retailers products to inspire customers and the bottom line because innovation spurs repeat spending.
“We invest in innovation,” says Smith. “We’re committed to bringing new products to market that deliver new customers to retailers’ doors and deliver sales — you have our word and our record.”
A PREMIUM on R&D
The champions of innovation could arguably be the R&D teams, and WOW Tech is no exception.
While R&D may be the first domino that falls resulting in product development, Smith points out the whole team is a crucial component.
“Our entire team gets behind upcoming product offerings early on and provides input into the development steps along the way,” he says. “Over recent years the team’s energy was particularly focused on bringing the Arcwave Ion and the Womanizer PREMIUM eco to market.”
“Innovation is human ingenuity — it’s creativity, ideas, and problem-solving. But it hardly ever happens the way one thinks it does. It’s not a spark or a lightbulb that’s simply turned on. Innovation is a slog.” — Simon Smith
The Arcwave Ion, marketed as the first Pleasure Air stroker on the market, began in 2017 with research into male sexual stimulation. This research led to a better understanding of the Pacinian pleasure receptors that are located in the frenulum.
“We learned that men could achieve a different and often more intense orgasm by stimulating these receptors,” says Smith. “This revelation was mind-blowing.”
From there, WOW Tech was able to develop a specialized version of Pleasure Air to stimulate the frenulum.
“In many ways, that was just the beginning of the innovation path,” says Smith. “We had many challenges ahead that would engage our entire team.”
While the team may have acquired knowledge, it still needed a product design that was enticing to potential customers.
“We needed a new brand that elevated the conversation about men’s masturbation and took a contemporary view of masculinity,” adds Smith. “Every step along the way, the WOW Tech team was looking to innovate – bringing retailers a men’s product that looked unlike any other, a modern and fresh brand, and a launch campaign the market had never seen before.”
When Arcwave Ion launched in September 2020 — three-plus years after it was originally dreamt up — more than 10,000 units moved in two weeks. It wasn’t just unpleased users clamoring for Ion; the industry took notice as well. Ion won a Red Dot Design Award in Product Design in Person Care — Wellness and Beauty, with the jury saying “The design of Arcwave Ion combines a vigorous appearance with advanced technical features that give erotic experiences a new twist.”
PREMIUM eco shares a similar development story: although in this case, it wasn’t necessarily solving a market segment question as much as a whole-market question.
“How could we bring consumers the greenest Pleasure Air toy ever created,” pondered Smith, who says it was a multi-year process consummating PREMIUM eco.
Since sustainability was top of mind in devising PREMIUM eco, WOW Tech needed to look at materials and Smith says the team knew it needed an alternative to ABS, a common thermoplastic.
“After a deep dive into materials science, we settled on Biolene, a bioplastic made from renewable raw materials — mostly corn starch,” says Smith. “It not only reduces the impact of producing PREMIUM eco, but it also reduces waste since it’s 100% biodegradable and recyclable.”
The innovation didn’t stop there as WOW Tech had its sights set on even loftier sustainability goals.
“We knew that regardless of materials used, too many consumer electronic products end up in landfills or are not disposed of correctly,” says Smith.
PREMIUM eco would become WOW Tech’s first product with a lithium-ion battery that is rechargeable and replaceable — allowing consumers to replace the battery instead of the entire device. They also made it so PREMIUM eco can be fully disassembled into individual parts to allow for recycling and proper disposal of the components. To finish up, WOW Tech ensured the packaging was 100% plastic-free for ease of recycling, and for every PREMIUM eco sold, the company would plant a tree in partnership with One Tree Planted, a 501 charity with a mission to help global reforestation efforts.
For any doubts about how sincere WOW Tech is about its role in innovation, consider the numbers: $6 million committed in 2021 to R&D with a pledge to increase that total; more than 100 full-time employees focused on R&D — nearly 35% of the WOW Tech staff.
“Our R&D team is not only engineers and product designers, we have a dedicated innovation group that focuses on understanding the science of sexual stimulation and the interplay with technology,” says Smith, pointing out the company has partnered with Berlin’s Charité University Hospital & Research Institute to create The Pleasure Fund — an investment of over $250,000 to study women’s sexual health, well-being and pleasure.
Our R&D team is not only engineers and product designers, we have a dedicated innovation group that focuses on understanding the science of sexual stimulation and the interplay with technology. — Simon Smith
On average, Smith says it takes anywhere from two to five years to develop a new product.
“This dedication allows WOW Tech to deliver superior, new and exciting products to market,” he adds. “Much of this investment is invisible to our partners, but it’s genuinely the fuel that powers our innovation engine. There is plenty of proof that innovation increases our industry’s market size, raises consumer price expectations, and sparks innovation from competing manufacturers. Our industry needs bold investments in innovation, and we’re prepared to deliver on that and hope other manufacturers join us.”
For more information, visit wowtech.com.