Since the birth of the vaping market, businesses have grown and blossomed over the time.  So much so that it has created a clear split in the customer base, online or retail vapers.  On the surface there may not be much of a difference, but investigating the idea has created some obvious differences in vapers who choose each method.  Speaking to both vapers and business owners, some very interesting points have emerged that dictate how they operate their business and how they try to help vapers.  Similarly, there is a very distinct set of reasons behind vapers choosing each method of vape shopping, so why do people choose their preferred way of vape shopping?

Retail Vapers

Going back to the start of vaping becoming accessible to people, vaping shops have existed.  The fastest growth within the UK industry and sadly the biggest casualties as well.  Vape shops appear all over the UK with both rural and high street locations and plenty of customers who want to shop there.  Companies such as The E Cig shop, The Brews Bros, UK Vape Kings and many others have all expanded into retail locations after seeing their online business boom so the brand awareness does also play a huge part in retail locations.  Businesses such as Totally Wicked have existed for a long time now as a franchise and we even have retailers such as Empire Vape Co for example as examples of personalities within the industry being born from a retail location.  What makes the vape shop thrive and why do vapers flock through their doors?

Community

This was one of the first things mentioned when speaking to retailers, the idea that customers become friends and as such, customers can feel at home within the store.  So many vapers such as myself started from the same place, a lack of knowledge and a friendly face willing to help me finally quit smoking.  Vape shops for a lot of people have become much more than just a shop, they become a safe haven for them to discuss many things, feel at home and most importantly share an interest with fellow vapers.  Much like a hobby store, vaping has become so much bigger than an anti smoking aid and a chance to go and hang out with like minded vapers is a massive pull.

Help + Advice

This is another huge draw initially to vapers and leads onto the point above.  Every smoker comes into vaping blind without knowledge or experience in what to buy, how to quit first time and how to keep going.  So the accessibility of walking into a store and being able to have a conversation about it is another massive draw for potential vapers.  As mentioned I was one of those people in the beginning and I may not have made the switch at the time without having that direct communication with someone willing to help me along the way.  So a smoker who is looking to quit can have that information first hand, be supported along their vape journey and to be able to get advice and help whenever they need it.

Convenience

This is where there is a distinct difference in vaping stores compared to online.  Online customers buy without experience whereas a retail customer can have a very hands on approach before they invest their money.  Most retailers allow vapers to try E Liquid before buying to ensure they like the flavour before they then buy some.  The closest thing to this online is buying sample packs which often may not even contain nicotine which limits their effectiveness with new vapers.  Hands on experience with a mod as well is another huge plus as many vapers will only really have one kit, 2 at the most for back up.  So being able to hold the device in your hand to get a good feel of comfort/difficulty to use is a really helpful tool for vapers.  The extension to this also is any faults can be dealt with face to face rather than through the post.  Any faults can be shown first hand rather than guessed at on the other end of a letterbox for example.  It creates trust and more importantly, excellent customer service.  Finally the convenience of being able to walk in and buy E Liquid there and then is a huge draw for retailers where ordering online is a case of waiting and buying in advance, hoping the liquids do actually turn up without an issue.  If a vaper runs out, they can simply buy there and then and be able to keep vaping compared to online who have to plan ahead.

So the draws of the retail store are pretty big, personal experience, convenience and a sense of community.  However why do vapers prefer online vape shopping in this day and age?

Online Vape Shopping

Online retailers have seen a massive boom over the past several years as they don’t require a physical location and can reach countrywide and beyond compared to a static location store.  This in turn has seen a huge rise in wholesaler businesses who can supply the websites much more efficiently than before and the end result has been a massive growth in UK business sectors. As mentioned many online stores have grew into physical locations and many websites have seen continued business for a long time now.  Why has online been so popular with vapers given the reasons for avoiding a physical store?

Price

This pretty much is the first port of call for many vapers who shop online, both lower and competitive prices between retailers. As vaping has grown into a hobby, it becomes more and more expensive to be able to keep up with impulse buys so the online store comes into fruition here.  Offering lower prices due to lack of physical overheads, it means vapers can get the benefit of this and be able to spread their money much wider than if they were vape shopping in store.  Businesses can bulk buy in larger quantities and as a result pass the savings onto the customers, with anything up to a 50% price difference compared to a vape shop.  Based on this alone you can understand why vapers choose to shop online for their products. Cheaper again is through Chinese websites who can offer a cheaper price again on UK business if you don’t mind the delivery time due to the sourcing directly. Overall there are many options for vapers who find location not an issue for their vape shopping needs.

 Product range

This is another huge aspect of online vape shopping that was highlighted to me, product choice.  A retail store can only offer products in limited quantities due to overheads and the price of overstocking products,  Therefore products such as rebuildable devices are not going to be big sellers to vapers who are just moving into quitting and starter kits, simple devices are more practical.  Speaking to a retailer, they just cannot afford to stock the latest products, only when there is demand for it within the market.  That is where online stores come into effect and allow vapers to buy products as soon as they come out.  The main focus of companies is to get their products to as many vapers as possible as quickly as possible so online stores allow this to happen.

The other side to product range is through many vapers who use devices that perhaps carry a larger price tag or are a much more niche product.  Items such as wire so coils, cotton, rebuildable devices, mechanical mods etc are all very limited products to a vape shop but online they have a lot of potential customers.  A vape shop will struggle to find a vaper experienced enough to be able to use a advanced kit but online they can stock them knowing there is a wider customer base for them to sell to.  So for a lot of vapers, the only way they can shop is through online business and therefore are limited to one over the other.

Online Community

The online community when it comes to vape shopping online is less of a direct business to customer relationship but rather a customer to customer relationship.  Many online stores carry an online presence through social media whether it be through forums or facebook for example.  So the knock on effect to this will be that vapers can discuss and hype products amongst themselves.  Announcing new products through these means combined with fellow vapers discussing directly can create a much more connected community.  Compared to face to face community, online connections can be made no matter the location and in my experience many products sell through word of mouth between vapers rather than a shop shelf.  Like minded vapers can adjust their buying habits based on this whereas in a retail store they are only faced with what is available.

Flavour of the month products

Another huge draw for vapers online is through the idea of flavour of the month products being able to be purchased quickly and cheaply.  Following on from the online community, many products seem to have a limited draw time and others a much longer draw.  A retail shop cannot adjust to these market fads but online can much easier giving the wider customer base.  So for example a new product releases, word of mouth online makes it a must buy item and online retailers can then deliver that much quicker in a shorter space of time. This is another important aspect of why vapers shop online as it then means they are buying what everyone else is using, the next big thing as it were.