Groupon- and LivingSocial-type, just-in-time daily deal sites are growing like blue plate specials, but, until now, there has been no such Web-shopping service devoted to the most Web-savvy, most affluent, well-travelled and impulse-buying consumers: gay men. A new site, DirectMale.com, hopes to get first-mover advantage.
The Washington, D.C.-based online voucher company, which launched just under a month ago, is selling upscale goods and services featuring local and national offers from bars, clubs, restaurants, spas, salons, travel, hotels, cruises and much more.
While the Direct Male site is new, the service isn't. The 20-year-old company actually started as a direct-mail business with a 100,000-person opt-in database, where participating households got "card decks" in their mailboxes, with offers from the likes of Jim Beam Brands, the National Gay and Lesbian Travel Association, British Airways and GlaxoSmithKline.
"We are the first national player in this space," says founder and CEO Andrew Isen. "Last summer, when we began to put everything together, we thought we would do it local but the gay male market is so strong that we opted to go nationally out of the bag." He says the niche market, because of the liquidity of its population and its willingness to part with cash for the right products, has become a much-coveted segment in the last two decades. "And because gay men are brand loyal, [marketers] know the value of targeting this segment."
Isen says that rather than focus on deals-of-the-day the site will have a regular rotation of timed offers. Isen says they are much more affluent than the general market, with the gay male consumer earning nearly double the average household income with 70% more disposable income. The company says that in the U.S. there are about 12.3 million gay men over the age of 18, and 93% of them are active online consumers.
He says among products and services that are popular with gay men -- bespoke clothing that would otherwise be hard to find, skin care, and personalized household products and apparel, for example -- travel is one of the biggest. "We are offering, for example, a trip to a gay-friendly resort in Nicaragua. Travel is one of the biggest items and categories in the gay segment. And it always has been." He points out that roughly 80% of gay men have passports, which is double national average. They travel substantially more than any other niche; the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association has 3,000 members. "Today, every airline and hotel chain has gay-specific services. Winn Las Vegas, for example, has a concierge dedicated to gay clientele."
Per Isen, gay men are, per capita, on the Internet more than any other niche segment. Direct Male is mobile optimized. "The newest studies show that gay male consumers -- over 40% -- will only use mobile smart devices to make web purchases. They will only use smartphones or tablets."