You probably love vaping and believe that vaping is a better product than traditional smoking. But, is opening your own vape shop a good idea? Don’t jump head in first, launching your own business yet. Find out more information about building a plan for your business before you start building your inventory.
When considering opening any business, you need to educate yourself about the local market and the industry. Having your eyes wide open when starting a business venture will not only help with possible success in your business, but with being prepared for any difficulties that enter the market. As an example, are you prepared to adapt to any upcoming changes in federal law that surround vaping?
Speak with Shop Owners Outside of Your Local Area
The owner of a vape shop is required to do more than just talk to customers and know vaping products. While customer service and product knowledge are the bulk of the work, they must also know about marketing to customers, inventory control, and money management.
When you consider starting your vape shop, find those people who have already started a vape shop outside of your city or state and seek their expertise. Ensure that they understand that you are just looking for information, that way they do not feel threatened by possible competition.
It is important to find a city that is similar to the one you are considering starting a business in, so the information that you gain can but used for your business.
Ask questions such as:
- What would they have done differently if they were to start again?
- How do they attract customers?
- What have they used for marketing?
- If they allow you, ask them about their numbers and money, such as how much it cost them to start up their business. Did they choose to bootstrap the operations or receive funding help through companies like Kabbage?
Have any questions ready before visiting another vape shop, as the owner’s time should be valued.
Build Your Website
Whether you choose to open an e-commerce store or a physical location, you need an online presence to help you get the word out for your business. Customers may look for your online presence before your physical store opens for business. Having an established website can help your business get a foothold in a community.
Establishing your online presence has become easier and cheaper than ever. Take these small steps to start your website.
- Domain Name – Every online presence should start with a domain name. The domain name needs to be registered and match perfectly with your business, such as your business name. Having a website name that is not directly related to your business name will not draw in the traffic that your business needs, which wastes time and money. Register your domain name at Godaddy.com
- Consider a Hosting Plan – A hosting company owns the physical servers that store the data of your website. BlueHost is recommended as a web host. Anything that you would need to add for visual appeal or interactive graphics to your website a hosting service will be able to store that information for you.
- Consider E-commerce – some website building platforms do not always offer a platform to sell your product online. Shopify allows you start selling your products online, but it also gives you information such as shipping, what your peak time is for selling items, and how average visitors you receive on your site. It is important to have your full inventory on your site, if you want to reach the maximum amount of people.
On many websites, such as Yelp, businesses are unable to control the reviews or comments that a customer leaves. But, with your website, you are in control of the content people will see. Ensure that what people see on your website reflects your business. Having a website that is user-friendly, easy to navigate, visually attractive, and allows a user to browse a full list of your inventory will potentially place you above your competition.
What’s Your Market?
With every business plan, it is important to understand your market and who your competition is, both in the local area and online. Some of the biggest brand names and e-cigarette companies such as Blu Cigs, V2 Electronic Cigarettes, and JUUL are starting to make their way into every corner store, gas station, and grocery store around the country.
Customers are looking for vaping solutions that not only will be easy to handle, but clean and easily accessible. The key to being able to develop a successful business plan for your community is to offer products and services that are not currently available in your market. One creative business owner decided to offer home delivery of e-liquid within a certain area for a small fee.
Information that you need to know about your market are:
- Is there already an established vape shop?
- What are the e-cigarette options that are currently available in your market?
- What do other vape shops in your area specialize in?
- In what area of the city do you believe would be the best for business?
- Are there any laws around selling tobacco products that can help your business?
- Are there laws about selling nicotine products that could hurt your business? How do you intend to handle these laws?
- What are the taxes and other expenses associated with traditional smoking or smoking solutions?
- How expensive are your vaping solutions compared with traditional smoking?
Know Your Customers
It is easier to market towards your customers when you know more about them. Complete some online research to find out who are the people that are the most likely to switch to e-cigarettes. What are the age groups that you would like to serve the most?
Then, look into the local area to determine where your customer base will likely live, work, or shop. Knowing this information could help with choosing your vape shop location or placement of key adverting.
How is Your Social Media Used?
Part of staying connected to your customers is utilizing social media. The best way to use social media to your advantage is to have an account just for your business on the various platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. However, not all social media platforms are created equal. Find the platforms that reach your customers the best and build a profile on just those platforms.
Once you established a customer base, make it worth the customer’s time and efforts to post about your business on their personal social media. Word of mouth is a powerful marking tool, so have your customers submit pictures or postings for raffles or prize drawings.
For your business, choose a few social media options and manage them to the best of your abilities, responding to reviews quickly, if needed. Responding quickly lets people know that they are being heard. Social media is a great avenue to get feedback about your business; customers can tell you ways that could improve your business and what they love.
Build a Blog to Help Your Customers
Some company websites allow for the users to have a blog. Post blog articles on your website that are entertaining, informative, and valuable to your customers. Connect these blog articles on your social media platforms to spread the word about vaping by driving people towards your website and business.
Writing a blog post will allow you to include specific keywords that enable people who are searching to find your shop online better. Keywords such as vaping, e-liquid, vaporizer, and your town’s name allows search engines to drill down to what the user wants most.
Adding specific content for internet searches is a technique called Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Search Engines will typically look at the first 65 characters of a post or headline to determine if your blog post matches what the user is searching.
What Products Would You Like to Carry?
Some vape shops have started manufacturing and selling their own e-liquid brand, not only could these shops take a risk by not meeting federal regulations, but could leave behind some customers because of brand loyalty.
Stocking the correct amount and flavors of e-liquid could be another challenge for small business owners. E-liquid comes in a wide variety of flavors and nicotine strength, appealing to your customers’ tastes and preferences could prove very expensive.
As an example, just one e-liquid brand may require that you purchase at least 10 bottles of a certain flavor and nicotine strength to get the wholesale price. If you would like to carry a flavor line of ten flavors at four different nicotine strengths, then you may be looking at purchasing 400 bottles of e-liquid just for that one line. If you wish to carry the best brands, then you are a looking at a sizable investment.
For specific product lines, consider who will be your customers. Are they people who are current smokers and are looking for an alternative? Have they already started out with e-cigarettes and are looking to upgrade their equipment to get the best vaping experience? Knowing this type of demographic information will allow you to have the products in stock to best meet their needs.
Think about the Future of Your Business
When you are still in the brainstorming phase, you need to consider which brand names you would like to carry. Due to the volatility that sits in the e-cigarette space, whether it is because of potential federal regulations or customers thinking that e-cigarettes are just a fad, it is important to pick brand names that are up to the challenge of keeping up with customer choices and federal regulations.
Not only do you need to think about the startup costs of a vape shop business such as product lines and location rent, but you need to consider costs when you become more established in the community. This may include financing for new products or services. If you are looking for a line of credit for your business needs, you may want to consider Kabbage; they provide an online line of credit for small businesses.
Have an Environment that can Attract Customers
If you would like to make the leap of having a physical location for your vapor shop, then understand the rule of location, location, location. Your vape shop needs to be in a location that has foot traffic, parking, and in a neighborhood with a good reputation. Once you find an area of your city that fits the needs of your vape shop, look at your budget and determine how much rent that you can afford.
Appearance is everything
- The front door of your business can say a lot about it. Do not clutter up the windows with posters or place bars over the windows.
- Ensure that your business is clean and well-lit
- Have an open and comfortable layout
- Your product should be well organized and displayed without clutter
- Consider having a designated space to work on heating elements or coils.
Those people who frequently use e-cigarettes see them as a cleaner and more socially acceptable alternative to traditional cigarettes. As a business owner, it is in your best interest to cater to the ideas of being cleaner and socially acceptable.
When customers feel more comfortable and safe in your vape shop, they will spend more time there, affecting your bottom line positively. Some members of the general public see vape shops as dirty; you may be able to compete with established vape shops in your community simply by providing customers an upstanding and inviting place to visit.
Starting a Vape Shop: Our Final Review
As you grow in your own business, you will find the strategies that work best for you. You may choose to do most of your marketing for your vape shop online or through local resources, such as newspapers and radio ads. If you value your customers and provide them a better service than your competitors, then you may succeed with your vape shop.