This story is from the United Kingdom. The brand manager describes his challenges while promoting e-cigarettes and attracting vendors to the vawoo.co.uk marketplace. Selling in the vape market is not an easy task, but with this shared knowledge other merchants can avoid some common pitfalls and grow their businesses online!
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Interview with manager of vawoo.co.uk
Give us an idea of what your business is, what products you are selling, and the services you are offering?
We are Vawoo.co.uk – the first vape marketplace that connects e-cigarette manufacturers, sellers, wholesalers, and targeted customers in one place. We build trustful relationships with industry essential players, expand brand recognition for the entire vaping auditory. Today, dozens of large vape retailers are collaborating with our UK oriented marketplace, providing tens of thousands of high-quality e-cigarettes, e-liquids, and accessories. Over the past 3 years of fruitful work, we have developed an impressive customer base, earning the trust of thousands of buyers. This enables us to say rightfully that our brand name is on everyone’s lips in the vaping industry. However, nobody knows that we had to sink teeth into this project and that even these days our hands are tied.
The idea to create a unique vape platform came in 2016 to ex-smokers Alexandra and Gareth, who after years of smoking, discovered e-cigarettes and gave up their bad habit. These young ambitious people (and now our friends) came up with the idea of creating something super useful for the instantly growing vape community, so as to help thousands of smokers quit cigarettes and switch to a healthier alternative.
Having found like-minded people who were ready to work for this idea, Alexandra and Gareth started a company. And here all the fun began.
It is worth mentioning that vaping is legal. It has nothing to do with tobacco cigarettes and smoking. Moreover, it was stated by Public Health England (PHE), that vaping is 95% safer than smoking. But there’s one hitch! Unfortunately, multiple competitive research could not help in promoting e-cigarettes at all. Due to the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) a number of regulations came into force in 2016, one of which is to restrict any advertising of vaping products including TV, Radio, Social Media, Ad-words, and other search paid results. No legal marketing allowed. How are we supposed to make a name for ourselves and attract customers, if all the doors are closed?!
What are the greatest challenges you’ve faced so far and how did you overcome them?
We foresaw the difficulties in the very beginning, as already in 2017 it was clear enough that this project is going to be a damn hard task. Nevertheless, our team had the main qualities that did not allow us to surrender: ambition and commitment to success.
We started working in three main directions:
1. Vawoo marketplace building so as implementation and testing of multiple add-ons on the administration panel by means of CS-Cart.
2. Intensive word-of-mouth marketing. We wanted to make our target audience ready about the new and big project that was about to come.
3. Engaging new business partners.
Perhaps only the website building process was smooth sailing since we chose CS-Cart and were receiving a number of features as well as timely technical support from the developers. In other directions, we had to face a series of disappointments and failures.
Let us remind you that due to the specifics of our business, we could only dream of paid advertising and any effective source of promotion. Our Social media managers and marketing experts sorted out hundreds of legitimate ways to tell the audience about us, but the results were negligible. And here we faced despair for the first time.
Our despair had been systematically fueled by businesses that refused to start the collaboration with the Vawoo marketplace, which was at the development stage at that time. We were calling large and small vape manufacturers and retailers, describing considerable benefits Vawoo can bring to their company; we were offering a lifetime Free Plan with features of a paid plan for registration before the launch. However, our requests were met with a refusal, rudeness, and putting down the phone on us.
What are some unexpected benefits of owning an eCommerce business?
We launched our project in October 2018. We gained favor with 10 vaping companies that decided to sell their goods with us. This was the moment we have got a chance to change everything.
When it comes to developing new functionality for your online business, you choose Simtech Development. What are the reasons for that?
We had several hundred products listed on the platform and we were doing our best to make people know about the uniqueness of our website. In terms of the functionality of our marketplace, we had to rely on the capabilities of CS-Сart. We have acquired a number of add-ons that were successfully integrated into the system.
1) XML & CSV Import add-on made us and our business partners free from the dull manual upload of thousands of products to our marketplace. A single XML or CSV table provided by our suppliers and imported to Vawoo saved a ton of time and force. This feature is still our marketing strength when negotiating with new sellers – “We will save your precious time”!
2) Amazon Synchronization add-on allows our business partners to synchronize smoothly their products, prices, inventory, and orders in their Amazon sellers account with their new CS-Cart store on Vawoo. This feature is our great accomplishment in eCommerce, as it made both the store building process and much easier. Moreover, people selling on Amazon are no stranger to trading on marketplaces: they have no fear of opening one more store, compared to other businesses. Thus, they are more favorably disposed to collaborate with us.
3) Sales & Social Proof add-on is an effective psychological tool for us that encourages purchases by the demonstration of the high value of vape products on the marketplace and thus motivating customers to buy.
4) JSON-LD for SEO add-on helped us to organize and structure data on our store as well as to increase the searchability of our marketplace, products, or blog across the web.
5) SEO templates add-on optimized the most important metadata for our products, categories, pages, blog posts, and product images.
6) Product Bundles add-on is a powerful tool for us, which enables us to create effective marketing campaigns for the customers. They love collections of products that are sold as a single unit at a bargain price. This is a great way to motivate our customers to purchase several items instead of only one.
7) Order Statistics add-on helps us to look easily through the shopping statistics – how many orders are made, paid, and reviewed.
8) Google AMP for SEO (Accelerated Mobile Pages) add-on allows us to create mobile-optimized content for the product details pages, as based on our statistics around 80% of purchases on Vawoo are made with a mobile device. Thanks to the add-on, it takes just a couple of clicks to make our website go mobile and improve mobile performance.
9) Cart Sharing add-on helps our customers to easily request a gift by sending a link to their shopping cart to friends and family and show what they really want.
10) Affiliate and Referral add-on helps us to get our brand name mentioned. Day by day, we get new affiliate partners who reward cash for our website promotion and refer new customers.
11) Follow Vendor add-on helps us get loyal customers, who desire to receive up-to-date information about discounts, new arrivals and to get back to Vawoo for another buy.
Vawoo vape marketplace is not about hockey stick growth. It is all about experiencing adversity, struggling through it, and, ultimately, overcoming it.
How are things going at the moment with your store? Can you share the latest success case with our readers?
Finally, a couple of months ago we celebrated our first small win in B2B direction: we entered into a contract with 12 large vape companies for an annual subscription. Nowadays, our marketplace has large daily traffic and hundreds of orders per week.
What inspires and motivates you to do this business? Is there any advice you’d suggest to other business owners based on your personal experience regarding e-store development?
Maybe our achievements may seem insignificant for some of you. However, looking back at all the difficulties, restrictions, and regulations, all we have now is definitely a success. Our current achievements motivate us to work harder, pursue the goals, and gain further success.
If you are new to eCommerce and you keep on facing failure – do not despair! Keep working; look for new ways of development and advertising (you probably have more opportunities in marketing than we do). And remember that you have already taken the right step towards success – you, just like us, chose CS-Cart, which means that your business has every chance to succeed!
I hope you enjoyed the story about creating a successful vape marketplace in the U.K.! If you seek a partner to customize your CS-Cart store and are in doubt, trust the experience of the storyteller. We customize the CS-Cart stores from 2005 and can help you in building your own success story in the eCommerce environment! Our team provides everything from plugins to hosting. Long-term relationships are all about Simtech Development!