Overhauls From the Ground Up

"I think for us, what we've been striving for the most in putting [the relaunch] together," says Jon Myers, Internet Marketing, Adam & Eve/PHE Inc., "is trying to come up with an easy-to-use Website that folks are comfortable with." is expected to relaunch "probably the first couple of weeks of October," according to Myers, and the changes are extensive.

"The change was facilitated by absolute screaming necessity," he laughs. "[We were] working with the original platform, the original software and hardware platform that we started the site with back in 1995. We've been progressively growing as a business ever since. The business is growing geometrically.

"We got to the point where we had physically outgrown the proprietary software we had; we had also - where we had our Internet service provider located - we had physically outgrown the amount of bandwidth because we had so many uniques coming into the site every month. We were pretty much up against the wall. About a year ago, we started taking bids on different vendors coming in; and we were actually looking at fairly large first-tier vendors for doing this, for doing both the programming and the hosting."

The boundaries between mainstream and adult businesses are more elastic in cyberspace than in any other medium. Adult industry professionals are often taken completely by surprise at the enthusiasm with which large vendors pursue their accounts. A company the size of Adam & Eve/PHE Inc. already has a strong reputation; still, Myers jokes, when some began "aggressively courting the programming part - in fact, they had designers on their end who were excited about working on the project," he pauses - "I'm so used to hearing the other side of it, I didn't know how to respond to that!"

As might be expected, a little competition has gone a long way in providing with the best options. "It was nice to see," Myers continues. "Actually, when it got down to the last few people before we made the decision, it was a really tough call, because they were so close. But that started, like I said, about a year ago, and we've been programming ever since. We have one firm that's doing our programming, we have a separate firm that's doing the graphic side; neither of them has worked a tremendous amount in the adult industry before."

The changes mostly consist of upgrading and expanding on the old design. "There's no membership; it's completely e-commerce," Myers says of "We have direct links within the site - it's completely retail, a lot's built around the Adam & Eve product.

"We do have star biographies which connect back to the stars' products on the site," he says. "Within the last three months we've added in streaming video, where, when you're on the product description for a specific video, you have the option of either purchasing the video, having it shipped to you, or watching it by streaming.

"Currently, it's just video. What we're doing that's going to be different in the next phase, we're actually hanging the hooks within the programming to be able to do that from Adam & Eve, to do our own streaming. It's going to be a question of what's more cost-effective: to have our partner stream out for us, or just do it ourselves."

When asked if this means a live studio, Myers says, "A live studio is part of what we're talking to people about. We would keep the regular retail/e-commerce part of the site, and add into it live video entertainment."

Other changes revolve around "adding a lot more personalization," he says. "We are able to keep track of as much information as the visitor wants us to keep track of - it's all permission-driven. There are going to be more features. We're right now looking at more things we can put on the site that are actually useful to the customers that will keep them coming back - everybody does free e-mail, and we're experimenting with ?What's the next step after that?'

"The other big thing coming up in the next version is that you would be able to go online with your [Adam & Eve] catalogue in your hand... bringing the two sales channels together, combining the catalogue with the Internet so they both sort of sell off of each other. We also have ways of adding in our retail channels as well, so we'll be tying into our retail stores."

Ultimately, the upgrade has to "focus on usability and customer retention on the sites. It's not just a matter of making it look pretty. It has to be highly useful to the consumer, very easy to navigate," Myers stresses.

Adam & Eve/PHE Inc.'s approach to beta-testing the new site promises to be novel. "We're going to be selecting some number of our best customers from our Internet mailing lists, and they'll be beta testers. We'll give them an invitation to go to a private link and actually shake down the site, ?Tell us what you think, give us your comments.'

"This isn't another variation on ?So-and-so's Smut Shack' - and I certainly hope there isn't somebody out there who's using that as a handle," the ever-gracious Myers hastens to add - "but there's a certain corporate brand image that Adam & Eve has. A fairly sizeable portion of Adam & Eve customers are women. It's possible for us to take this new site and generate a homepage which is more useful to a female market and do some specific target-marketing in that area. Whereas before we had nine companies and nine different Websites, here we have this huge Website that encompasses everything."