As the vaping industry grows, more vape and smoke shops continue to crop up, flooding the market with the newest pens, mods, and e-liquids available. With competition heating up, it can be difficult to remain ahead of the pack. You may have gotten in on the action at the right time, but that’s just half the battle. For your business to thrive, you’ll need to boost sales, draw new customers in, and increase retention. The products may be great, but they won’t move themselves, so we’ve laid out a few tips to keep those customers coming back for more.

Social Media is Your Friend
It might seem obvious, but the number of businesses that don’t invest their time and resources into social media is surprising. When learning about a new shop, the first thing that discerning consumers will do is check for a website and evaluate social media presence. If neither of these are well-curated, potential customers will be turned off and look to other businesses. A successful smoke shop will need to maintain at least Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts, but should also look to services like Snapchat and Pinterest. All these platforms are free and widely used. Through high quality pictures and trending hashtags, you’ll have new ways to communicate with your customers and show potential ones what you’re all about.

As much as most of us try to fight it, social media isn’t going away, and it increasingly becomes the method by which consumers choose to interact with businesses. If a person has a question, instead of picking up the phone, they’ll tweet about it. If they have a complaint, you can bet they’re sharing it with their friends on Facebook. As such, many social media platforms have begun to cater themselves to businesses and provide analytical tools to track social interactions. Each platform offers its own services to help businesses grow their audiences, roll out marketing campaigns, and keep an eye on likes and followers. If managing platforms individually becomes daunting, social listening services such as Hootsuite allow you to manage all your accounts from one dashboard, as well as automate posts across your channels. By using analytics effectively, you’ll know just how far your reach extends and learn how you can stretch it further.

Peep the Competition
When you’re not keeping an eye on your digital presence, it’s time to look within your own neighborhood. You’re likely not the only smoke shop in your area, so take a moment to analyze the competition. What successes have other businesses had, and how can you get in on that action? A smart shop will examine the businesses around them, see what tactics are employed to boost the brands, and then adapt those tactics to make them their own. This isn’t copying advertising or marketing ideas. It’s looking at the industry, identifying trends in customer engagement, and aligning practices with industry leaders. The successful smoke shop will determine how they can learn from other businesses and improve on their competitors’ successes.

Customer Retention Programs
Among the business practices that a shop might adopt is customer retention programs. When shopping, it’s not uncommon to be asked for your phone number or email for special offers. Many customers will decline, but the information that is collected can be used to send out special promotions.

Once you’ve made the sale, the next step is keeping the customers coming back. You could assume that the “old-fashioned way” is good enough: friendly service coupled with great rapport. This attitude certainly makes the sale pleasant, but it doesn’t always incentivize your customers to return, especially when you’ve got a competitor just a few blocks away. Instead of hoping that personal interactions are enough, funnel the contact information you’ve gathered into an easy SMS text service that will allow you to send promotion alerts directly to your customers’ phones. The next time you want to offer a “buy one, get one” special or “spend $X to get $X off” sale, shoot a text to your customers, and you’ll start to see more familiar faces.

In addition to incentivization programs, you can also implement loyalty rewards. A simple method is offering punch cards. These programs work best with smaller items, like e-juice, or at specific dollar intervals. For every bottle of juice purchased or for every $25 spent, a customer may receive a hole punch. Once the card is filled, they’ll get a pre-determined reward, such as a discount or a free item. If punch cards aren’t your style, you could choose to offer rewards in return for product and store reviews. When a customer purchases your merchandise, they may have the option of receiving a small discount for leaving a Google or Facebook review. Once they’ve shown you their posted review, you could apply the discount to their current sale. Reviews such as these will not only benefit the customer, but will also boost your social media rankings and encourage further business.
Design and Function
When you first started out, you undoubtedly had a vision in mind for what your store would be. Perhaps you wanted to showcase different vaporizers and mods, or maybe you wanted to specialize in e-liquid. Whether or not you achieved that goal, it could be time to take another look at the design and purpose of your storefront.

In addition to bringing new and repeat customers in, you’ll want to encourage them to spend more time in your shop. One way to achieve this is to take your shop from retail space to vape lounge. By providing your customers with the space to relax and try out their new purchases, you’ll cultivate an atmosphere that encourages additional sales. The more time that your customers spend in your shop, the more likely they are to purchase items. Such a space affords your customers the opportunity to bring their friends, granting you referrals who might also purchase your products.

To create a space that will entice customers to remain, consider the design of your shop. Instead of just walk-up counters, try to incorporate comfortable waiting areas. While your store’s interior will be informed by its overall size, offering stylish seating areas with couches, tables, and chairs will generate a more welcoming vibe. These areas can also double as a place where vapers can read up on industry news or test new merchandise. Additionally, when you’re coming up with your store’s design, pay attention to the current trends. Your personal style is important, since your shop should represent you, but also design with the customer in mind. If the current aesthetic is sleek and modern, you’ll want to incorporate those elements into your space. At the end of the day, the more visually appealing your store, the more customers will want to come in.

Taking your smoke or vape shop to the next level is not always easy. The market continues to expand, and with crackdowns in regulation, coasting on plateauing sales numbers will not be an option. While you don’t have to follow all these recommendations, it’ll be worth your time to adapt to change and pursue more aggressive strategies. Boosting your sales will likely take some investment, but you’ll see the return when those profits start to roll in. SVBS

Edward Koury is the Marketing Director at Ooze Inc, the premier innovator in the vaporizer and accessories market. Native to Michigan, Edward received his Bachelors degree in Organizational Communications, with a minor in Journalism and a Master’s degree in Marketing. He has been writing for over 10 years and enjoys freelancing to a wide variety of publications. You may contact Edward at [email protected] or visit the Ooze website,