Online smoking accessory merchants find the online sector provides good opportunities to thrive. Expanding and evolving products — like e-cigs, vapors, pipes and the like — allow them to sell different kinds of accessories to customers who enjoy tobacco.
More and more, these products are available online. The ecommerce world is a truly broad domain, as all online smoking accessory merchants discover. Bricks-and-mortar shops still exist, of course, but the new game for products like these exists online.
But here’s the rub: online smoking accessory merchants must deal with being labeled “high risk.” A key struggle is difficulty finding a payment processor or bank willing to open a merchant account for their company. No account, no card payments, no business.
Finding a merchant account provider willing and able to understand the trends, opportunities, and unique requirements of the industry — and matching them with those of the payment processing industry — keeps online smoking accessory merchants on their toes.
Let’s explore the rationale behind the issues, and a few growth tips for online smoking accessory merchants.
What’s the Big Deal With Online Smoking Accessories?
Well, as every child of the 60s gets, it’s the strict regulation of tobacco (and other smoke able plants) that makes online smoking accessory businesses “high risk” to conventional financial institutions.
In their eyes, government regulation of tobacco and tobacco products at every level (local, state, and federal) — and the risk of lawsuits over alleged harm caused by the products — prohibit them from joining forces with online smoking accessory merchants.
Keep in mind that governments (at least in North America) have always tried to protect the public from harm by regulating the manufacture, sale, and/or distribution of tobacco products. The paraphernalia used along with them are subject to regulations as well.
Financial institutions therefore take a hands-off approach with merchants in the industry. Unfortunately, online smoking accessory merchants are not exempt, but must deal with the complex situation.
Marketing to the Rescue
Even in a heavily-regulated industry, marketing riffs can rescue online smoking accessory merchants who face countless unique challenges.
One challenge affecting nearly all aspects of launching and marketing a smoking accessory business stems from the products. Some view them as “drug paraphernalia” — which are illegal in North America, unless traditionally intended or sold for use with tobacco products.
Merchants of all sorts turn to social media and online advertisements to build brand awareness and increase sales. But Facebook and Google AdWords aren’t options for online smoking accessory merchants.
Those platforms don’t allow ads promoting the use of recreational drugs (like cannabis) or the kits used with them. (Recreational use of cannabis and its associated paraphernalia remain illegal in the United States and Canada, and are therefore verboten.)
Success Through Creative Social Media Connection
Not all online smoking accessory merchants are willing to forego social media entirely, however. As an example, Sean Geng and Darby Cox (millennial entrepreneurs and SmokeCartel founders) took to social media to start a conversation with potential customers.
They offer advice, interact with customers, join conversations, and run giveaway contests using social media accounts. The strategy’s been successful, as SmokeCartel now boasts “four physical storefronts, an online store, 45 employees, and millions of dollars in annual revenue” as profiled on Forbes.com.
Sean credits their success to an “organic” use of social media, which Darby touts as “humanness.” In a heavily regulated industry, online smoking accessory merchants like these 22-year-olds must find and use what sets them apart from the competition.
Their determined, creative approach to social media usage put Sean and Darby in lockstep with the companies worldwide who spent over $23 billion on social media promotion. It’s become a valuable took to build brands, engage with customers, and sell more products.
Payment Processing — An Important Growth Hack
Social media works for some, but have you ever considered payment processing as an important part of your marketing mix? Really, we mean it. After all, online shoppers care a lot about the security of their payment experience.
Yes, secure payments are a functional necessity for your business. But they can also be a marketing benefit. The fact that you offer secure payments is a fact you can use in your marketing strategy. Show empathy for customer needs, wants, and challenges.
If a prospect’s primary “care-about” is fear of fraud, put his mind at ease by touting your willingness to invest in payment security. You don’t want him to suffer loss of important financial data (it’s such a hassle). You understand and have made security a priority.
Headline your marketing messages with security considerations to help address cart abandonment issues, and also boost conversions by streamlining checkout processes. (You’ll find more here on this “payments first methodology” that could differentiate your business.)
Working with the right payments processor — who specializes in high risk payments — may be the most important choice made by online smoking accessory merchants. The right processing relationship will simplify payment acceptance and help you increase profits.
That’s because the right specialist knows the payments industry inside-out and has domestic and foreign banking relationships he’ll leverage to help you succeed.
Choose a specialty processor who will treat you like a business partner, by sticking around to provide consultative assistance on chargebacks and fraud issues (that inevitably arise). Business partners want you to be successful, and will be there to help. Count on it.