Becoming single for the first time in 23 years triggered a life makeover for me in 2021. I moved house, swapped out my signature ‘50s floral dresses for tailoring and pantsuits, tried to overcome my aversion to cooking (cheese boards are putty in my hands now). I started seeing bands again, swimming in the ocean and hiked a world-famous trail.

And I rediscovered the world of dating, which led to discovering the world of intimate care and sexual wellness products. That I’m even feeling confident to talk publicly about them is a sign of how much products like sex toys, lubricant and condoms have morphed in recent years from taboo or embarrassing to mainstream.

By 2026, the global sexual wellness market is expected to reach $279 billion, according to a study by Grand View Research. Why? Increased awareness and acceptance of sexual health is part of it. And people are increasingly making their physical and mental health a priority, with intimate care and sexual wellness being seen as an extension of self-care routines.

David Jones’ sexual wellness category is now two years old and flourishing, with Australian intimate brand Frenchie holding a pop-up in DJ’s flagship Sydney store on Valentine’s Day. Major retailers such as Sephora sell a range of sexual wellness brands and in late 2019, e-tailer Adore Beauty followed overseas websites including Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop in entering the sexual wellness segment and by 2022 expanded its offering with 17 products from luxe UK brand Lovehoney.

Culturally, we’re becoming a society which is more positive about sex and safe, sustainable products to help us enjoy it more. And the really interesting part for me is that while most mainstream sexual wellness brands are focusing heavily on Gen Z and Millennials, a big part of it is being driven by Gen X and Baby Boomers.

Savvy brands are realising the big opportunity here.

At age 42, Grammy winner Christina Aguilera recently became a co-founder and creative brand advisor for Playground, the US sexual wellness brand founded by two women beauty veterans which specialises in clean and vegan lubricants with names like Love Sesh, After Hours and Date Night.

Recently my friend made an appointment at Honey Birdette—founded in 2006 by two friends bemoaning the lack of class in the sexual wellness category—to educate herself about sex toys. The brand has a great service offering clearly pitched at Gen X and older, where they close the store for 30 minutes and give women a complete tour of their offerings: what it does, how it can be used, what’s most popular.

It’s a great marketing opportunity to target these cashed-up powerful consumers having their ‘awakening’, where they start to put their own needs, including sexual, back at the top of their to-do list. McCrindle reports that 21% of Australians are Baby Boomers and they hold 49% of the wealth. Yes, Boomers are still doing it, so it’s not at all surprising to see some offerings sprouting up just with this consumer in mind. Now aged 58 to 76 years, Baby Boomers were at Woodstock, remember.

The exploding category might mean that we see more offerings than Sexyland or the shame inducing R Shop down the street. Women are demanding more and finally, ever so slowly, VCs are listening and injecting money into this category—expect to see more higher end toys and retail outlets and online stores and services in the coming years.

The key message for biz owners in this category: Gen X and Baby Boomers don’t just want travel or financial and health services. They want pleasure, baby!

I was fascinated by a Mumbrella story in April that told how online sex toy retailer Wild Secrets established through research that two in three over 60s were uncomfortable using or discussing sex toys. But it also found that 53% of women over 60 and 55% of men agree sex toys can help maximise sexual pleasure.

This identified a lucrative opportunity. In response, the brand created a campaign normalising sexual pleasure for older Australians. The ‘Better With Age’ campaign leveraged the traditional media beloved by older Australians, launching with a 16-page mail order catalogue (distributed in national lifestyle villages, RSLs and golf and bowling clubs) and a 20% discount for all senior citizen cardholders.

The result? A 10% lift in website traffic, 19% increase in transactions, and 32% lift in revenue for the 65+ demographic.

Terrific marketing initiative—but for me the point is that without that data, Wild Secrets would have continued to have done what they always did and miss out on this very valuable consumer.

What it proves is the importance of research data (the same type of work I do for brands all the time to help them better understand their customer) in everyone’s biz. In the second half of 2023, knowing everything about your customer is one of the best business decisions you can make.

As Wild Secrets proved, it’s really critical to deeply understand the needs of your consumers because it might open up a slew of additional opportunities for your business. And that means research, research, research.

Okay, time to take off my Business Wingwoman hat and have some fun checking out Honey Birdette and Adore. Hmm, what do I need next?