Insider interview with participant and virtual and real-world adult retailer…
Shellie Yarnell, founder and brilliant mind behind the virtual-to-real-world sex toy line Crystal Delights, was one of the thousands of participants in the recent Adult Entertainment Virtual Convention held by the Red Light Center. As a vendor of both virtual and real-world adult products, her experience at the show represents that of a growing market of retailers with concepts and offerings that span two worlds. Will the AEVC and other online conventions like it soon take the place of the expensive, real-world trade shows that define the current state of adult entertainment and retail sex toy markets?
Image Source: Barbs Buzz, Crystal Delights Owner in Second Life
Bex: First and foremost, what did you think of the expo? Why did you decide to participate in the first place?
Shellie: I was excited to participate in the virtual trade show because I truly believe that it has a major place in the market of the future. With the right handling, events like these could be the trade shows of the future! A typical trade show can often costs a exhibitor in excess of $5000 for three or four days exhibiting. In the virtual environment, retailers could have long-term buyer interaction, appointment scheduling, presentations, and even the ability to offer sample products to those who are seriously interested… all for much less than it would cost to exhibit at a single, weekend-long live show.
Bex: Is there anything you think the AEVC creators could improve?
Shellie: I would have liked to have seen a couple of things done differently. I think that offering classes to the new users of virtual worlds before the conference would improve the learning curve and the overall virtual experience for those checking out the Red Light Center for the first time. I would have liked to have seen real life booths and the virtual product booth organized in separate areas within the convention. Technology has given us an amazing chance to grow our businesses in really interesting ways and events such as the Adult Trade Show could be the wave of the future.
Bex: How long had you been selling a virtual product in Second Life before you had the idea to create a “real world” product line?
Shellie: The Crystal Delights dildo was developed in Second Life in 2006, and our first real life product was launched in February 2010.
Bex: What niche did your virtual product target?
Shellie: Our virtual product targeted the adult market in Second Life. It was a digital dildo that would make your avatar orgasm.
Bex: Was there something in particular that sparked your inspiration for creating the tangible product?
Shellie: In Second Life it was a common place occurrence to see branded products being changed into digital goods for sale in the virtual world but it was much more unusual to see a digital product made into a real life product! I was at a fetish event in Boston and saw some similar products made out of stainless steel. I approached the owner and mentioned that she should make some in glass, and while she said she wasn’t interested, she suggested that I should do it myself. Just like that the Crystal Delights concept was born! Since I was working in the industry at the time, I decided to see what the possibilities might be. I contacted a glass blower with the concept of a pretty glass product that would have a sparkling Swarovski crystal in it and the first “real life” Crystal Delights products came to life.
Bex: Does your tangible product serve the same market? Is your primary client base made up of existing Second Life members who shopped with your virtual store, a completely different marketplace altogether, or have you found that your tangible products have actually brought clients over into the virtual marketplace as well?
Shellie: For the most part the tangible product is the same market, however the returns in the real world market are much greater than the virtual market for a couple of reasons. First, the market-size in virtual worlds still has not even begun to reach its overall potential. Second, the currency exchange in a virtual world is just pennies to a dollar, so sales of virtual products pay only a fraction of tangible sales. Since their introduction, our tangible products have certainly developed a following of their own and we are very happy with the success to date.One of our goals was to be able to sell a real world product using a virtual world currency. We did accomplish this goal, by creating a virtual vending system that allowed the purchase of real products from our store using Linden dollars. The currency exchange, however, creates a mindset even in many virtual world users that the number of Lindens required to purchase a high end product seems like a greater investment than the actual real-world dollars.
Bex: What were some of the unique challenges you faced in bringing a virtual product to life, that perhaps a traditional product developer would not experience?
Shellie: In a virtual world almost anything is possible – you can fly, you can be the opposite sex, you can even be an animal or an alien. When trying to develop a traditional, real life product you have to follow more traditional rules. The important thing is to stay true to your philosophies! In Second life, we had donated to charity causes regularly, so it was not a stretch that we would continue that same philosophy with our tangible products. The switch to a real-world market allowed us to develop the Colors Against Cancer campaign and launch the Crystal Causes charitable initiative. Our parent company, VirtuallyAbout LLC, believes it is our responsibility and duty to give back to those in the community that support us. Ultimately we would like to grow Crystal Causes into a full fledged charity program, pairing with industry giants in events, raising money for worthwhile adult non-profits.
Bex: What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs with virtual products they believe could make a cross-over into tangible markets?
Shellie: I would say go for it! Start small and see where it can go.You wont know unless you try and you might just have the next hit on your hands!
Crystal Delights focuses on providing hand made, erotic art glass featuring genuine Swarovski elements, vintage glass medallions and our AVN award winning Crystal Minx fox tails. We are an ethical entrepreneurial business dedicated to our vision of bringing quality luxury products to the marketplace using environmentally aware and socially conscience practices.