Taking the vape offer up a notch

Customer experience crucial to category

THE vaping market offers huge opportunities as a revenue stream, but convenience retailers are falling shy of the mark at the moment, according to Imperial Tobacco, the firm behind vaping brand Blu.

Quoting figures produced by Nielsen, Sophie Hogg, head of next generation products (NGP) at Imperial Tobacco, said the total UK vaping market is worth over £1bn, but with so-called ‘traditional retail channels’ making up just under £160m of that figure.

And while Hogg attributed much of the success of dedicated vape stores, both on the high street and online, to growing consumer confidence in the category, she did offer an assessment of the areas where retailers could and should improve.

Providing a strong range of flavours will help retailers retain existing customers and attract new ones.

“Research conducted on behalf of Blu suggests that the main reason consumers buy an e-vapour product has to do with their previous experiences,” she said.

“Flavour and format come second and third respectively, while price is relatively low down in terms of purchase influence.

“Research also shows that traditional retail channels, including large supermarkets, independent stores, convenience stores and forecourts, rank below vape stores and online vape specialists in terms of the level of consumer experience provided when shopping for vaping products.”

Stocking a broad range of e-liquid flavours could help retailers claw back some of their market share in the vaping category.
Stocking a broad range of e-liquid flavours could help retailers claw back some of their market share in the vaping category.

In Hogg’s view, market research suggests that independent stores have some catching up to do when it comes to offering vape customers a positive experience, but she did suggested ways in which retailers could ensure they’re enjoying a larger slice of the vaping pie.

“First and foremost, retailers should ensure they offer the optimal flavour portfolio for their customer base.

“Blu recommends a wide range, including fresh flavours like Polar Mint, fruity flavours like Tropic Tonic, savoury flavours like Vanilla Crème and of course, classic Tobacco flavour.

“Providing a strong range of flavours like these, all of which and more are included in our new e-liquid line-up, complemented by the right range of nicotine strengths, will help retailers retain existing customers, attract new ones and foster their e-liquid sales revenue,” she said.

With a 45% share of the vape market in traditional stores, e-liquids should certainly be a major consideration for retailers, but there are other areas to concentrate on too.

Hogg noted that ‘closed’ vaping systems, those which use interchangeable cartridges, are still worth stocking in traditional stores.

“Closed systems still have a role to play, especially in terms of existing smokers moving into the category, as well as dualists. Closed systems represent the second-largest market share with 29%, and UK sales worth £46m,” she said.

• Don’t forget about clearomisers.

An essential component of a vaping set-up, clearomisers offer retailers a simple and effective way to upsell and drive additional sales and margin according to Imperial Tobacco. The firm suggests consumers change their clearomiser after every two bottles of e-liquid, or with every change of flavour or brand to maximise the vaping experience.