If you’re thinking of starting an online vape shop today, you’ve picked a difficult time to do so because “intense” doesn’t begin to describe the level of competition you’ll face. You’ll be competing with literally hundreds of other online vape shops, and potential buyers will never notice you unless you can manage to differentiate your business in some way. In the vaping industry – as in most industries – strong branding is the key to making your business stand out.
Branding isn’t just a matter of stamping your logo on every page of your website; it’s about creating an overall shopping experience that makes your online vape shop stand out from the competition. Here’s how to do it.
Create Your Own Products or Seek Out the Unusual
One of the problems with most online vape shops is the fact that there’s nothing fundamentally unique about the products that they sell. Many of them don’t even stock products in their own warehouses; they just link their websites up with drop shippers who handle the stocking and order fulfilment for them.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with using a drop shipper for order fulfilment, but you’re likely to end up disappointed if your primary reason for doing so is the fact that using a drop shipper seems like it would be hugely profitable with little effort involved on your part. In a way, using a drop shipper successfully actually requires more effort because you’re selling exactly the same assortment of products as dozens of other merchants who are all linked with the same drop shipper – and they all have head starts on you.
So, how do you differentiate your product selection? One way is by combining your existing selection of drop-shipped products with a selection of special products that you stock in your own warehouse. Look for ways in which you can unearth unusual vape gear that your competitors don’t have. Here are a few examples to help get your creativity going.
- You can seek out unusual mods and sub-ohm tanks from lesser-known manufacturers in China. Every other online vape shop already carries the full range of SMOK gear, but there are many other manufacturers that your competitors may not know about.
- You can commission a local artist to design unique skins and wraps for popular vaping devices.
- You can make your store a one-stop shop for every part and accessory available from a popular vaping manufacturer. People always need replacement parts such as drip tips and glass enclosures for tanks, but many vape shops do not stock those parts.
The biggest names in the vaping industry – companies like V2 Cigs UK – have gotten to where they are by creating and marketing their own branded products. If you can develop a pod system, vaporizer or other product under your own brand name, you’ll instantly have a product that isn’t available anywhere else. Developing a new device is costly, though, so it’s really only an option if you have significant capital available. If you can’t do that, developing your own e-liquid range is a less costly alternative; the industry is full of white-label manufacturers who can develop, bottle and label the e-liquid for you at a reasonable cost.
Curate Interesting Product Bundles
When consumers shop for products, they enjoy feeling like they’re being taken on a journey. That’s why, for example, a furniture store will have product displays set up like real living areas. The goal is to get customers to visualize themselves using that furniture at home. You can tell a story in the vaping industry as well, and that’s something none of your competitors are doing. Try curating interesting product bundles such as the most satisfying tobacco e-liquids, the coldest menthol e-liquids or the tastiest dessert e-liquids. Create limited-edition bundles for the holidays. There’s plenty of room in the vaping industry for truly creative marketing.
Get Creative With Your Loyalty Program
One of the best ways to stand out from your competitors is by doing something completely different with your loyalty program. Most of your competitors are using popular e-commerce platforms like Shopify, and they’re also using the loyalty programs included with those platforms. Customers accrue loyalty points, and they can periodically exchange those points for small discounts. There’s nothing fun about that type of loyalty program, and most customers never think about it. If you really want to encourage loyalty, you need to do something different and create a loyalty program that will excite your customers and encourage active participation.
Here are a few ways in which you can create a loyalty program that’s truly fun for your customers.
- Allow customers to exchange their loyalty points for free products. A new accessory or a free “mystery bottle” of e-liquid is much more fun than an insignificant discount.
- Give extra loyalty points to customers when they post product reviews or share pictures of your products on social media.
- Create a tiered reward program in which customers can unlock additional discounts or gain access to private sales by buying more frequently.
- Change the design of your website to make the loyalty program more prominent. Pizza Hut and Dominos, for example, both display accrued loyalty points at the top of the page when customers log in, and both websites have prominent buttons encouraging customers to exchange their points for free food. If your customers don’t see their reward points until they reach the checkout page, they won’t get excited about your loyalty program.
Make Your Website Stand Out
If you want to differentiate your online vape shop from the competition, the last thing that you should do is use the same default Shopify website theme that everyone else is using. You’ve probably visited many online vape shops; haven’t you noticed that almost all of them look exactly the same? Clean website design is important, but you’re not going to differentiate your online vape shop if your website looks the same as everyone else’s. There will be development expenses involved in creating a website that’s truly your own, but it’s a one-time cost for a website that will probably earn more money in the long run.
Here are two additional points that you should consider when developing your online vape shop.
- Website speed is a crucial part of the user experience. Users will abandon a website that doesn’t load quickly, and that’s not just bad for your business – it’s also bad for SEO. Google uses page speed as a ranking factor because they want their ranking algorithm to favour faster websites.
- Your website needs to provide a great experience for mobile device users. You will lose revenue if your site isn’t fast and easy to navigate on mobile phones.