Vaper’s Corner is the direct result of two entrepreneurs recognizing a consumer need, and filling it. As a pack-a-day smoker, Divan Smit’s wife was less-than-subtle when she scheduled a ‘client’ meeting for him at a vape store more than six years ago.
The message was clear: It was time to stop smoking, and to start vaping.
“I bought the device and quit smoking cigarettes that day,” he recalls. A year later, his brother-in-law and current business partner, Riaan Gerber, was given the same ultimatum when his wife found out they were expecting a baby.
“Riaan called me up and asked me to help him find the best device.” But Divan and Riaan didn’t stop there. “We like the latest and greatest things, and so we started researching what was available in the vaping market. It didn’t take us long to realise that at that stage in the vaping market in South Africa, high-quality products were not available, from devices to e-Liquids.”
Like true entrepreneurs, Divan and Riaan decided to do something about the gap they had spotted in the market, and in 2015 they launched an online store called Vaper’s Corner. It operated out of Divan’s living room, where all the newly imported stock was stacked up between the furniture.
From online to bricks and mortar
Divan and Riaan had been right – there was a gap in the market, both for top-quality products as well as for information. “Vaping was in its infancy in South Africa and people had questions. They were looking for experts who could support their transition from smoking cigarettes to vaping. The problem is that poor quality products would often put them off the whole experience, so a place where vaping could be experienced, where customers could be assisted in setting up their first device and most importantly where they could ask questions was particularly important.”
Which was why, within only a few months of launching their online store, Riaan and Divan launched their first brick and mortar store.
Less than a year later, this was followed by a second store. By this stage however, competition in the vaping market had grown.
“I’m not scared of competition. It keeps us on our toes,” says Divan. “We need to make sure that we’re better than our competitors, which is why customer service and professionalism are so important. Vaper’s Corner is also known for its variety, quality of products, not supporting clone devices and educating customers around the dangers of e-Liquids that are mixed badly.
“We rigorously test our stock before anything goes on-shelf. It’s important that our customers trust us and the integrity of our brand.”
Embrace your purpose and connect with customers
The most important thing from Divan’s perspective though, is that you have a clear purpose that your employees and customers really buy into.
“For us, our goal is to help people to stop smoking. Vaping is a great way to do that. My own personal experience has been that I feel much fitter and healthier since I started vaping. My nicotine intake has also dropped from 18mg to 3mg.”
This experience has shaped Divan and Riaan’s purpose. If you walk into a Vaper’s Corner store, one of the first things you will notice is a large, glass-topped coffin, filled with cigarette boxes. Each new customer who is committed to making the switch throws their box of cigarettes into the coffin.
“That shared purpose has worked really well for us,” says Divan. “We aren’t just a retail outlet. We’re friends. We know our customers by name. We’re walking a journey with them. For example, we won’t let a new customer walk out of our store before they’ve opened up their new device and understand exactly how everything works. We aren’t just selling a product – we’re supporting a lifestyle shift.”
This is also why Divan’s team refuses to sell to anyone who can’t produce ID, proving they are over 18, even though there is no legislation around vaping at this time.
“We want to help people to stop smoking – not encourage youth to start,” says Divan.
Supporting the customers who support you
This unwavering focus on customer care is one of the reasons why Vaper’s Corner has fully bought into the importance of loyalty and gift programmes.
“We moved over to Sureswipe when we opened our second store because the rates were better, but more importantly because we were looking for a loyalty programme that could really support our customers.”
Next to each Vaper’s Corner till is a stack of loyalty cards that are integrated into the store’s point of sale system and that link across both stores and the online portal. “Customers accumulate points when they purchase online or at either store, and they can spend their points in the same way. We want to make everything as simple as possible for our customers while we reward them.”
In Divan’s experience, Sureswipe’s customer-centric focus is as dedicated as their own. “When we first moved over to the Sureswipe system there were normal teething problems, but we were always notified of every action, big or small. If a Sureswipe representative was at one of our stores to do a repair or log a query, we were immediately informed via email, including what was done at the branch. I’ve never experienced that level of proactive interaction before.”
As a business owner, the ability to get paid is critical, and so this attention to detail – including finding solutions to ensure that stores aren’t impacted by load shedding and other unexpected issues – has cemented the relationship between Vaper’s Corner and Sureswipe.
To find out more about our Loyalty and Gift Card Programme, contact Sureswipe today , contact Sureswipe today on 0860 200 111 or click here and we’ll call you back.