As you’re likely already well aware, the 2021 omnibus spending bill signed into law by then-President Trump in December 2020 included language amounting to an all-out ban on all mail shipments of vaping products to consumers in the United States. The other three major carriers – FedEx, UPS and DHL – have all either already stopped carrying vaping products or will do so shortly.
In short, within the next few weeks, vapers in the United States will no longer have any way to have vaping products shipped to them and will have no other choice but to buy vape gear from brick-and-mortar vape shops like yours.
Although it’s certainly possible that some online vape shops will be able to contract with small couriers for local deliveries, no company has yet announced its solution for that at the time of writing. Even if some online vape shops do manage to come up with alternate delivery solutions, those solutions will likely be fairly expensive and will probably only cover addresses in major metropolitan areas.
Stripping the consumer of his or her ability to choose – particularly when that choice is to have items shipped during a global pandemic – is never a good thing, and the vape mail ban is bad, without a doubt, for public health. With that being said, the purpose of this article isn’t to bemoan something that has already happened. Instead, we will focus on what owners of brick-and-mortar vape shops can do to position themselves for success after the vape mail ban. The ban is going to change things substantially for vape shops all across America. Are you ready?
Stock Up on the Most Popular Vaping Products Now
The first thing you need to know about the vape mail ban is that, if the online vape shops are unable to find a courier that services your area, you can expect your vape shop to receive a lot more traffic within the next few weeks. Vapers in your area are going to expect to find their favorite vape juices and replacement coils locally, and if you don’t have those items in stock, they’re going to visit your competitors instead.
As of right now, it looks like the vape mail ban will not affect business-to-business shipping of vaping products and that your existing supply chains will be unaffected. It might be a while before shipping times normalize, though, because many vape shop owners don’t yet realize how much their walk-in traffic is likely to increase when the vape mail ban is enacted. They’re going to sell out of the most popular e liquids and coils quickly, and when they do, they’re all going to place orders with their distributors. That’s all going to happen at roughly the same time, so you should be stocking up now – before the rush happens.
Resist the Temptation to Raise Your Prices in the Near Term
Until now, the online vape shops have enjoyed one major advantage over the brick-and-mortar vape shops. That advantage is lower pricing, and you’ve been listening to customers complain for years about how much higher your prices are compared to the online sellers. Pretty soon, those same people will have no alternative but to buy from you, and the natural temptation might be to hike up your prices now in anticipation of that windfall.
That, however, would be the wrong course of action. You’re going to see an influx of new customers who have always purchased their vape gear online and have no particular loyalty to your shop or any of your local competitors. They’re probably going to visit all of the local vape shops before they begin buying from one place consistently, and you want your shop to be the one they choose. Therefore, you should resist the temptation to raise your prices and should instead keep them as low as you possibly can. That’s for three reasons:
- You want to create the impression that buying vape gear locally isn’t actually that much more expensive than buying online after all.
- You want to make sure that your vape shop comes out on top when people compare local prices.
- An online vape shop may eventually manage to come up with a delivery solution that serves your local area. When and if that happens, you want to make sure that you already have your customers’ loyalty.
In time, you may find that it does make business sense to raise your prices a bit after all. You may decide that it’ll be possible for you to push your margins up a bit without sacrificing your competitiveness or losing customers’ goodwill – but don’t do it right away. For now, focus on capturing as much new business as possible.
Capture Customers’ Contact Information by Any Means Necessary
As mentioned above, you can expect a lot of walk-in traffic once the vape mail ban hits. Many of the people that you’ll see will never have visited your vape shop before, and you can expect those people to visit competing shops as well before they decide who will receive the majority of their business. While those people try out the other shops in your area, you want your shop to remain at the top of their minds – and to do that, you need to capture the contact information of as many customers as possible.
If you don’t already have an email or SMS marketing solution in place, start one now. When you see the inevitable influx of new faces over the next few weeks, do whatever is necessary to capture their email addresses and/or phone numbers. Offer customers a reward – such as a random monthly drawing for a substantial gift card – in exchange for providing their contact information.
Do Everything Possible to Help Your Customers Feel Safe
The final thing to bear in mind about the vape mail ban is that many of the people who currently buy their vape gear online are doing so at least partially because they’re trying to eliminate all unnecessary trips out of the home due to COVID-19 exposure concerns. With the vape mail ban in place, they’ll have no choice but to buy from brick-and-mortar vape shops instead. Therefore, you should do everything you can to help those people feel comfortable. For example, you can post a notice detailing your procedure for cleaning and disinfecting the surfaces in your store. You might also consider offering a curbside pickup service that allows people to complete their purchases without leaving their cars.
Jason Artman is the owner and author of eCig One. A professional freelance writer and SEO consultant with more than a decade of experience, Jason works with vaping companies around the world to increase their targeted web traffic and improve their revenue.