Six Things Every Vape Shop Owner Should Know
There’s a vape boon on Main Street.
In just a few short years, the young industry has spawned countless opportunities, even millionaires.
It appears a new vape shop is opening every week. Vape shops are the fastest-growing point-of-sale system category for NCR Silver. Oxford Dictionaries even declared “vape” the word of the year in 2014.
Estimates put the vaping and e-cig market at $3.5 billion. By 2018, it could top $10 billion, according to multiple industry predictions.
Eventually, opines vape consultant and author Norm Bour, it could surpass tobacco sales.
“People in this industry have passion,” says Bour, author of ‘Vapreneur: Your Guide to Mastering the Vape Space.’ “It’s an amazing industry — very positive, very upbeat. Young kids are becoming millionaires, somewhat like the dot-com era a decade ago. They enjoy the rapidly-changing climate.”
Bour is founder of VapeMentors, a consultancy focused on the e-cigarette industry. He’s also founder and host of Vape Radio, addressing issues affecting the industry. In addition, he writes for VAPE News and Tobacco News and speaks at vaping conventions nationwide.
He recently shared his uncommon advice for vape shop owners, and wannabe owners, with The Sidewalk.
Bour says there are two main things that set a vape shop apart. Service and product.
1. A vape shop’s Holy Grail
With a customer base having more options, vape shop owners would be wise to go above and beyond with service.
“You should understand you’re dealing with a fickle market place,” Bour says. “Customer service is the Holy Grail. As a result, loyalty options are very popular.”
Engagement is key. There are tech tools, integrated within the NCR Silver POS, for example, that offer loyalty and email offers to get them coming back.
Owners should also get to know their customers, offering advice and tips on new products.
2. All about flavor
One of the key differentiators is whether or not vape shops have the newest — and most popular — flavored e-liquids.
Asking how many flavors are available is like asking how many flavors of candy are available. It’s virtually infinite.
“CinCity,” advertises one manufacturer, is “reminiscent of your favorite cinnamon cereal. This complex flavor is infused with the perfect amount of graham cracker, cinnamon and milk.” Graham crackers!
“Cosmic Fog Milk & Honey,” advertises another, “will have you floating away on rich clouds of vapor” and is “as mellow as a warm spring evening.”
Bour estimates that there are up to 7,000 e-liquid manufacturers. Plus, many vape shop owners make their own. Fruit and dessert varieties, he says, are the most popular.
3. Vape demographics
There’s a fairly black and white difference between the generations when it comes to vaping. Knowing these differences can help improve sales and marketing.
Millenials dominate the scene. He estimates 60 percent of vapers fit this category.
“For Milenials, it’s more of a social scene,” Bour says. “A high number of them are vaping to quit smoking. But most are enjoying it in a social environment.”
For Gen Xers, kids are a big driver.
“Gen Xers are mostly reformed smokers,” he says. “A lot of them are new parents and don’t want to expose their children to second-hand smoke.”
For Baby Boomers, necessity is the mother of invention.
“Cigarettes are starting to catch up with Baby Boomers,” Bour says. “They realize more time is behind them than ahead. They’ve likely been unsuccesful with other alternatives so they decided to give vaping a try.”
4. Regulatory burdens
Given how new the industry is, you’re bound to run into some hassles with regulators along the way — much in the same way food trucks have…only worse. That’s because there are a lot of misconceptions, including the idea that e-cigs have tobacco in them. (Some products do come with nicotine as a stop-smoking aid.)
Indiana, for example, has a proposed law that would prevent the sale of nicotine products if they were made out of the state, Bour says. Cook County (Chicago) has also been tough on the industry, he notes. In addition, bans on vaping in so-called “public spaces” are increasingly common.
“It’s gotten better,” Bour says. “There are only a very few cities that don’t have vape shops. But before you do anything, you have to contact your local permit dept to find out the permit policy. Sometimes, they ask you to get permit that is a step toward alcohol and tobacco. I had a client in one Florida city who was told to pay $6,500 just to go through the approval process. The challenge is vaping is often put in the same bucket as tobacco.”
5. Vape advertising options
Some vape shops will be unpleasantly surprised when they learn that Google and Facebook bans vape and e-cig advertising. Since Google is so important, this fact can create a huge hurdle for a business trying to get noticed online.
The good news? You can still join Facebook forums, and have a Facebook page. (But even then, Facebook may get in the way concerning the type of content you post — make sure you read the social networking site’s guidelines).
Bour recommends participating in online chat rooms, such as the E-Cigarette Forum. He advises against advertising in general-purpose publications, favoring, instead, vape-specific online properties to cater to your niche audience.
6. Public perception of vaping
In areas where it’s extremely popular — the South in general, and Florida in particular, Bour says — the public may have a better understanding.
But still, he says, “seven out of 10 people have no idea what a vape shop even is.” As a result, vape shop owners would be wise to take it on themselves to educate the public via any forum they have at their disposal.
“Many people don’t realize vape products don’t contain tobacco,” Bour says. “And while vaping is increasingly becoming mainstream, the industry still faces an image problem from a regulatory, advertising, public perception and media perspective. The industry is always under fire. Nonetheless, if you have a good idea, you can compete with a couple thousand dollars and a lot of passion.”
Are you in the vape industry? The NCR Small Business team will be at Vapor Expo International show June 17 in Rosemont, IL. Come by and say “Hi.”
Related post: One vape shop’s journey to NCR Silver