No matter what your personal feelings are about Covid, one thing is sure, it has changed the landscape of the Cigar & Tobacco Industry. The pandemic has accelerated an existing trend of consumers doing more shopping online rather than shopping at traditional brick-and-mortar businesses. A recent study completed by The United Nations Conference on Trade & Development titled ‘Covid-19 and E-Commerce’ found that more than half of consumers agree that they are shopping online more now than they ever had before.

Knowing this shift, many Tobacco & Cigar Retailers have shifted to a hybrid or full e-commerce business model. Simply offering products online is one thing, but providing a great consumer experience and driving sales is another challenge altogether.

So you’ve built out an e-commerce store, but how do you get consumers to find it, and how do you keep them coming back in the future? We’ll discuss several tips and tricks that will help you attract new customers,  provide an exceptional online shopping experience, and show you how to keep those customers engaged to drive repeat business.

  1. On & Off-Site Blogging – Many customers have questions such as, “What’s the proper way to cut and light a cigar?” or “what is the best way to store a cigar?” By hosting a blog, you can answer common questions customers have, which accomplishes several things. It provides a good user experience, attracts new website visitors, and engages customers to return for future blog articles. Ensure you have a good balance of helpful information that answers common questions and articles that promote your products.
  2. Use Social Media to Promote Your Blog – You can use social media for marketing a blog about cigars, but you can’t advertise the products directly. By marketing a blog through social media, you can drive in new customers who learn about your business and are likely to shop your online store. You can also encourage visitors to subscribe to your blog or newsletter, which provides another way to keep them engaged. You can also sell products through email marketing and promote them in your newsletter.
  3. Offer a Newsletter – Cigar connoisseurs enjoy keeping up on the latest trends, new products, and how various cigars are made. Including a featured product in each newsletter allows you to educate readers about how it’s made, where and how the tobacco is grown and cured, the flavor profiles, and the best spirits to pair them with. A newsletter not only helps promote your products and brand, it also helps keep your brand top of mind so your customers think of you the next time they want to purchase a cigar.
  4. Create a Loyalty Program – A cigar of the week or month membership or loyalty discount is a great way to drive recurring revenue and customer loyalty. Your loyalty program should also include branded items as gifts or rewards, which serve as a thank you and also keep your brand top of mind when the customer sees or uses the branded item(s).
  5. Create a ‘Refer a Friend’ Program – Word of mouth is the most powerful form of advertising, and if you reward your customers with a free gift or a coupon for their referrals, they are more likely to tell their friends about your service.
  6. Make Products and Web Pages Shareable – By having a simple share button, customers can share a product or page of your website with their friends via email or social media. While you can’t advertise tobacco sales on social media, your customers can promote your products, increasing sales and brand awareness.
  7. Provide All Product Details – Each product you offer should include details of the flavor profile, strength, style, and size of the product, including both circumference and length. Nothing is more frustrating than receiving an online order only to discover that the product is not what you expected. A great way to show the size is to display images of each product’s actual size for both the length and circumference.
  8. Fast Order Fulfillment – One of the features that consumers love about shopping on Amazon is Prime Shipping because they can receive their products quickly. While it may be difficult for you to compete with Amazon on logistics, it’s vital that you do what you can to ensure a speedy process from ordering to delivery.
  9. Use Retargeting Methods – While you can’t sell products directly on social media platforms like Facebook, you can retarget website visitors to promote your blog or newsletter. This helps keep your brand top of mind with people who have visited your website, and once someone subscribes to your newsletter or blog, you can then promote products through your newsletter or email marketing efforts.
  10. Integrate a CRM – A good Customer Relationship Management software will easily integrate with your website. When someone places an order, subscribes to a newsletter, completes a form-fill, or some other action on your website, you can immediately capture the consumers’ information and store it. More importantly, you can have email drip campaigns automatically triggered based on the consumer’s actions. This allows you to provide the consumer with information relevant to them immediately and keep them engaged with future emails that the consumer has shown an interest in.

While these tips will undoubtedly help your e-commerce cigar business be more successful, there are many aspects to providing a great customer experience. One critical component that e-commerce merchants rely upon is a dependable merchant processing solution. Unfortunately, some merchants have had the unpleasant experience of having their merchant processing account suddenly frozen or terminated. One common reason for this is that the merchant processor was not aware that the merchant account would be used to sell cigar and tobacco products.

An easy way to avoid this mistake is to find a merchant processing solution designed specifically for the tobacco and cigar industry. Premium Tobacco Payment Processing(PTP) is one such example that is designed explicitly for the cigar industry. As a Premium Cigar Association(PCA) partner, Premium Tobacco Payment Processing (PTP) is proud to offer PCA members the lowest processing rates for the industry, with rates and fees guaranteed never to increase. If you are ready to change processors or would like a free audit of your existing processor, call Premium Tobacco Payment Processing at (321) 972-9838.