In a classic case of going where the money is, one of the newest entrants into the online deal space is focusing on gay men, a demographic known for high levels of disposable income.
DirectMale.com, which debuted on June 18, puts a variety of discount offers in front of a self-reported gay male audience. The site differs from others in the discount deal space in several key ways: First, offerings are keyed toward a specific consumer group. And second, offerings are kept on it for longer than a day, with some being available for several weeks.
Deals include offers for food (fresh seafood), fashion (custom-made suits), travel (cruises and vacation packages) and skincare. Discounts on a random sampling of items ranged from 38% to 66%.
While Direct Male focuses on the gay male market, all are welcome to partake of its deals. But content is geared toward its niche audience—an demographic which, according to founder and CEO Andrew A. Isen, is 89% more likely purchase a product or service marketed especially to it.
"You are dealing with a savvy, educated consumer who is an early adopter, and who views himself as a trendsetter," Isen says. "The shopping habits aren't different, but reaching a gay consumer in a space designed for him with goods and services that enhance the quality of his life is the difference."
Direct Male is generating impressions and site visitors by advertising with gay media firm Here Media, whose properties include Advocate.com, Out.Com and Gay.com. Direct Male is also using compiled databases to approach consumers who might be interested in its offerings. For now, its offers and advertising efforts are focusing on the national market, although within the next six months it will start focusing more locally on top-tier metro markets.
There are subtleties to connecting with the gay male. Some are obvious, such as not featuring a man and a woman in a gay-themed marketplace. Others are less so, such as using the right terminology. There are certain words straight men use to refer to each other that gay men wouldn't, Isen says.
Above all, don't talk down to this audience. "Don't assume that by slapping a rainbow a rainbow [on an offer] it makes it gay," Isen says. "It's overused and sometimes it's used improperly. It's seen as pandering."
Perhaps the best way to become attuned to the market's sensitivities is to hire a marketing consulting firm such as Direct Male's sister company, WinMark Concepts. "Niche marketing has been our specialty for the last 20-something years," Isen says. "The gay niche has proved to be the most lucrative niche marketing in the country."
The site's mission of appealing to the gay male market is reflected in many small details. Even the background, a dark leather pattern, was chosen because of its masculinity and ability to enhance product visuals. From a navigation standpoint, Isen decided to go with mouseover features that generate pop-ups, which eliminates the need for scrolling.
"People do not want to scroll," he says. "People are bombarded by things that are almost all scrolls and there is a saturation in behavior."
For marketers willing to reach out to this market, the rewards can be significant. The higher income levels seen by gay men lead to increased sophistication at younger ages, according to Isen. Because of this, they can be migrated up to higher-quality offerings earlier than straight consumers.
"In 2012, marketers not targeting the gay male segment are derelict in their responsibilities and in effect are losing income for their employers," Isen says.