Vaping is one of the most rapidly adopted trends in the cannabis industry. In fact, Oxford Dictionaries chose the term “vape” as its 2014 Word of the Year due to its seemingly sudden and rampant popularity in the tobacco industry. The reasons for widening adoption across industry lines often boil down to quality of experience, health benefits and convenience. Health benefits, in particular, are a major driving force in the market.
Whereas smoke contains carcinogens, carbon monoxides, and other toxins, vaping works to heat dried cannabis to a temperature just below combustion so that the cannabinoids are converted into a vapor that can be inhaled without any of the aforementioned harmful components being consumed. Meanwhile, the experiential value of vaping is somewhat subjective. There are those who resist the method of consumption as well as its value, as evidenced by recent articles published in The Cannabist and Metro.
But for those who don’t mind the word “vape” or the association of being too mainstream to be cool, the value is also experiential—many consumers who enjoy the method of inhalation cite better-maintained flavors and more potency. Despite resistance to the culture of vaping, there is no denying that the market is growing to accommodate demand.
For leading manufacturers and retailers in this space, the keys to gaining competitive advantage include appealing to this widening customer base and educating them about the product. They can do so via modern design, a strong customer focus and the utilization of smart technology.
Although the act of vaping has been proven a much healthier alternative to smoking, all vaporization systems are not created equally. Some manufacturers use a ceramic or aluminum heating element. Ceramic, being the most popular design industry-wide, can withstand high temperatures and therefore has low boiling points, but savvy consumers realize that the quality of the ceramic can vary greatly, and being labeled ceramic may only imply a ceramic mix. Aluminum, as used by top companies such as Volcano, may be more precise as the metal responds quicker to temperature changes, but there are worries over potential health risks, such as a debatable risk of Alzheimer’s associated with aluminum exposure.
Glass is somewhat more expensive, but also comes with noted value. VapeXhale’s Cloud EVO has earned a lot of kudos for its all-glass design. VapeXhale’s CEO Seibo Shen explained “Rather than using off-the-shelf products, our vaporizers are made from the ground up, and each piece is customized.” The company’s all-glass heating element is a major differentiator. Many reviewers boast its ability to provide users the precise heat and moisture conditions for optimal vaporization. Because the company’s all-glass vapor path is facilitated by patent-protected technology, it is truly a leading edge product. The design is said to provide optimal experience by delivering a potent vaping experience without accompanying irritation.
Another best practice in this market is to address the various and growing segments, rather than only catering to pre-existing target audiences. VapeXhale is keen to this and adapts its marketing strategy as well as its continued R&D accordingly. Based on its ongoing, in-house brainstorming and regular collection of customer feedback, the company looks carefully at demographic segments and preferences expressed in order to highlight the most desirable features that will reach the widest customer base.
Companies benefit from realizing that vaping customers span demographics and should make it a point to be in constant communication with customers. Further, it is important to be upfront about the offering. “In the beginning, words such as aromatherapy and herbal had to be used in our industry,” Seibo said, recalling the manner in which emerging cannabis companies would hide behind the moniker of alternative health and wellness alone. “But we can be vocal. We are upfront in reaching customers and not hiding what we do.”
This sort of transparency is needed in the industry, as gaining legitimacy is something every emerging participant will benefit from. It is up to companies to exhibit a desire to grow, not out of the industry but along with it.
Demand has increased, and Seibo sees the value of integrating a variety of different technologies into business practices. “All vaporizers are going to be connected devices,” Seibo said, explaining the potential vaporizers have to collect data in order to best serve the end user. Not only can technology assist design in order to provide the smoothest hit, it can even anticipate the user’s unique desires. Noting various capabilities, such as lock screens and GPS-friendly adjustments, Seibo explained that he encourages his team to think in terms of innovation in the industry. Accordingly, he has secured patents.
VapeXhale is positioning itself as a technology company within the cannabis industry because it realizes the technology convergence that is not only occurring but approaching. The response from analysts has been positive, as the company secured the ArcView Group‘s nod to the tune of $10,000 for Best Pitch Award at its Investor Pitch Forum on January 27, 2015.
Prior to VapeXhale, Seibo worked at Silicon Valley companies including Jigsaw, Successfactors, E2open and Yammer. His strong tech background enables him to see the potential in the growing industry. The maturing tech industry and emerging cannabis industry create a synergy that is leading to exciting opportunities.
The vaping market is growing fast, but companies must show adaptability now in order to survive tomorrow’s marketplace. Promoting the health benefits of vaping is still a strong position, but pretty soon this will be a given and companies will have to work to develop the top user-friendly designs and tech competencies for their products. Those that take a proactive position now are going to make a lasting mark.