While the vape category continues evolving, it remains popular with legal-age adult users seeking an alternative to traditional tobacco. Understanding the vape consumer presents opportunities for convenience stores to drive sales through strategic cross-promotions.
Vape products have faced increased FDA scrutiny in recent years regarding flavors and marketing practices. However, the category persists with loyal users aged 18+ who enjoy vapes like e-cigarettes as a substitute for cigarettes.
CivicScience research reveals 12% of U.S. adults use vaping products daily to weekly, with 9% being occasional users. By analyzing traits and behaviors of frequent vapers, convenience stores can better connect with these customers.
Here are 5 key insights on vape consumers and how convenience stores can better connect with them:
1. Vape Users Are Much More Likely to Use the Amazon Shopping App
Research shows that individuals who vape on a regular basis are almost 3 times as likely to utilize the Amazon shopping app compared to those who don’t vape. For convenience stores, this highlights a chance to bring in more foot traffic by becoming an Amazon Hub location.
The Amazon Hub program enables retailers to offer package pickup and return services for Amazon customers in their area. By installing Amazon lockers, counters or other retail solutions in larger format stores, retailers can attract vape buyers who are already frequently shopping on Amazon. Providing a convenient Amazon pickup point helps drive people into your store, potentially leading to additional impulse purchases.
2. Almost Half of Vape Customers Are Vegetarian
Here’s a fascinating finding from the data – approximately 47% of vape users identify as vegetarian, compared to just 4% of non-vape users. For convenience stores with a strong foodservice program, this insight is invaluable. Having vegetarian menu options and items marketed specifically to appeal to the preferences of vape customers can be a highly effective strategy.
Even converting a small percentage of your vape shoppers into occasional foodservice customers could have a noticeable impact on food sales and profitability. If you have the tools to engage vape buyers through loyalty programs and mobile apps, use them to solicit input on new products they’d like to see. Small tweaks to your foodservice lineup informed directly by your customers can go a long way.
3. Vape Users Are Highly Influenced by Social Media for Food Choices
The data also revealed that over 60% of people who regularly use vape products say social media impacts what food items they buy. This is substantially higher than non-vape users. For convenience store marketers, this presents an opportunity to utilize social media and digital engagement like mobile apps to promote your foodservice offerings to vape consumers.
You can run social media specials and targeted digital coupons and then analyze the redemption data to rapidly refine your messaging and deals. If a social media promo for a new vegan sandwich takes off with your vape buyers, you quickly have tangible evidence that resonates with that demographic. Continually optimizing food promotions based on real-time customer feedback provides a major edge for convenience stores in appealing to vape enthusiasts.
4. Vape Customers Closely Follow Professional Sports
The numbers indicate that close to 40% of vape product users say they follow the NBA extremely closely, far higher than non-users. For convenience retailers, this reveals an opportunity to connect with vape shoppers through sports-related products and merchandising strategies.
For example, considerations would be allocating additional shelf space for branded NBA hats and apparel that would appeal to vape enthusiasts if your product mix allows it. Developing promotions and advertisements tailored around major NBA events or athletes can also be effective.
Professional sports partnerships between leagues like the NBA and beverage brands further allow for relevant co-branded merchandising options in-store to catch the eye of your vape customers. Even creatively merchandising snacks and beverages in a sporting theme at checkout can lead to impulse sales you may have otherwise missed.
5. Vape Buyers Are Less Focused on Brands’ Social Stances
The analysis indicates people who regularly use vape products place less emphasis on a brand’s stance on controversial social issues compared to non-users. While supporting selected charities and causes is viewed positively, retailers should be cautious of alienating vape customers by taking positions perceived as highly political.
For example, prominently advertising corporate activism on issues like climate change or immigration could potentially turn away vape buyers focused more on product selection and pricing. Not all consumers view social causes through the same lens. Keeping the focus on competitive pricing and merchandise selection often makes the most sense for convenience store retailers looking to maximize sales among all customer demographics, including the vape crowd.
Converting Vape Customers to Increase Overall Spend
These insights into the traits and behaviors of vape consumers uncover tangible opportunities to drive additional sales from your e-cigarette customers. The key is translating the insights into concrete actions. Even modest shifts in how you engage and merchandise to vape shoppers can positively impact basket size and profitability.
Be open to testing new foodservice products informed by vape user preferences. Optimize your promotional mix across categories like snacks and beverages for your vape audience. Expertly curated product assortments and store designs that provide relevant offerings catering to vape enthusiasts can incrementally bolster sales over time.
The vape consumer today looks different than even 12 months ago. Ongoing regulation means further changes are imminent. But arming yourself with data-driven insights on your customers empowers you to adapt quickly to what is inevitably a moving target. Keep learning about your vape buyers through surveys, social media and customer loyalty program data. Let their preferences and behaviors guide your assortment, promotions and store strategies to unlock sustainable growth.
Elie Y. Katz is the president and CEO of National Retail Solutions (NRS).