Vapor products more than most products on a store’s shelves seem to elicit questions. Customers want to know everything, from what is the latest device or tank to what is simply the best choice for their needs. And that is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg: In addition to new vaporizers and tanks coming to market at a breakneck pace – it is to the point that there is a hot new item every couple weeks – there are the various atomizer coils for the tanks. Many tanks use their own coils, so if you carry a variety of tanks, you need to carry a variety of coils. And these coils most often come in several resistances (ohms).

Once settled on a particular tank, for instance, customers may want to know which replacement coils are best, given their device and the style of vaping they enjoy. An important question is whether they are simply looking at vape as a way to avoid cigarettes or whether vaping is a durable interest and more like a hobby. The latter customers, the enthusiasts, tend to want more powerful devices and lower-ohm coils, and they enjoy blowing big clouds of vapor. Catering to customers’ individual preferences, giving them options and explaining the differences, is a crucial aspect in creating a shop that gives a customer a great experience rather than an okay one. Vapers who come into a shop are not necessarily looking for a quick transaction, often they are looking to talk about the latest and greatest new kit on the market, or what new flavors of juice you are going to be bringing into the shop. These customers want a different experience from the ones who come in to pick up a pack of smokes.

Understanding this difference is an important opportunity. Because vaping is largely technology, and tech changes so fast, there is always something new to talk about. If vape is a large part of your business, or if it is becoming a significantly larger part of it, your business needs employees who are knowledgeable and enthusiastic about vaping and vape technology. It is important that they are both. A knowledgeable employee who lacks enthusiasm will lose customers, as well an enthusiastic employee who has scarcely an idea of what is new on the market.
Just as it is the job of our employees to educate our customers and engage with them, often it is customers who in turn educate us. This happens quite often and naturally, and it obviates the reality that a significant portion of people out there is really enthusiastic about vaping! At one time people liked to socialize at the barber’s or the salon, today many people like to hang out at the vape shop. Many shops have a few chairs for customers to sit in, and many shops have found that holding special events such as cloud blowing competitions has had a big impact on their monthly sales figures.

While people of all stripes vape, the most vocal and enthusiastic tend to skew younger. You may find that having a younger employee or two specializing in vapor products is a profitable idea. Younger people also tend to be much more involved with social media. Younger employees will generally engage with customers on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit and other platforms without having to be directed to do so. For them it is an enjoyable aspect of the work they do. Employers who simply do not recognize its value often overlook actively communicating with customers on social media. To the younger demographic social media comes naturally.

In Part I we talked about the importance of offering premium hardware and liquids as a differentiator between your shop and the guy down the street. In order to best take advantage of bringing in premium merchandise it only makes sense that your employees are able to explain to customers the value proposition on offer. Once customers understand that your shop is the place to go for the best devices, liquids and service, they will be coming back more frequently, and as importantly they will be telling everyone they know. And what is really cool is that you will be able to track a lot of this on your social media sites. In this way you will know who are your most vocal advocates. But that is a topic for next time. Until then, focus on encouraging your team to sharpen their knowledge and stay enthusiastic. This is an exciting time to be in this cutting-edge market. SSA

Tim Roche Headshot Photo

Tim Roche founded HotVapes in January of 2010 to serve tobacco and head shops, and later vape shops, across the U.S.  HotVapes has two retail locations and remains committed to helping its wholesale and distribution customers stay on top of market trends. He can be reached at 775.468.8273, or [email protected], or visit their website at www.hotvapes.com.