In my vaping experience, there are generally 3 main categories of people that use electronic cigarettes.
There are obviously exceptions and some who don’t really fit into any specific characterization, but the vast majority of e-cig users can be placed into one of these three groups:
The First Group
The people who intend to quit everything entirely. Let’s call them the Quitters. They want to quit smoking cigarettes, they intend to use e-cigs as a way to wean off nicotine, and once they are no longer chemically addicted, they intend to quit using e-cigs as well.
The Second Group
The second group of people are those who do not intend to quit, but they wish to mitigate the harmful effects (both personal and social) of smoking by replacing some or all of their traditional tobacco consumption with e-cig use. These Utilitarians use electronic cigarettes because they work, and they generally aren’t too impressed by all of the new gizmos and gadgets currently flooding the market.
The Third Group
Those are a relatively new but rapidly growing segment of the Personal Vaporizer customer base. These people are the Hobbyists, the cloud-chasers, the aficionados. They wrap their own coils, they know all of the technical specs, and they’ll usually whip out a huge e-cig that resembles either a walky-talky or a light saber.
So the three groups are the Quitters, the Utilitarians, and the Hobbyists.
It’s been interesting as an insider watching the evolution of the e-cig market over the past 5 years. When I first started, virtually every customer I had fell into the first group. Electronic Cigarettes were primarily marketed, sold, and bought as a way out of nicotine addiction, with the caveat that we couldn’t technically call it a quitting aid because the FDA on e-Liquid hadn’t approved it as such. Other smoking cessation products have a success rate of between 5%-15%, so to compete with that kind of abysmal performance was not difficult. Back then, very few people bought an eCig thinking that they would be making a life-long switch. That was never the intent.
However, many people found that quitting e-cigs can be just as difficult (and in some ways more difficult) as quitting traditional tobacco products. There is also much less social stigma surrounding e-cig use, and far fewer health concerns. In short, there is far less motivation to quit using e-cigs than there is to quit smoking cigarettes.
As the market evolved and began to mature, these conditions gave rise to the second group.
Utilitarians share a lot of the same characteristics of traditional tobacco users, or any other group of addicts for that matter. They’re loyal to their supplier (analogous to brand-loyalty amongst smokers), provided that supplier is reliable, convenient, and well-stocked. They are, after all, creatures of habit.
They generally stick to what they know works for them, meaning they’ll be reluctant to try new flavors, upgrade their device, or experiment with other companies and products. They come in on a regular basis and buy the same products every time. They don’t do it for the massive clouds of vapor. They don’t do it for all of the delicious, exotic flavors. They do it because they’re addicted to nicotine.
These life-long addicts have given rise to the third group of people, the Hobbyists. Over the past year or so this group has exploded from a tiny minority of e-cig users to a huge group of people that has come to dominate the entire market. Generally a Hobbyist is a former Utilitarian who, after using e-cigs for an extended period of time, finally decided to branch out and try new things. Boredom and curiosity seem to be the two main factors that convert a Utilitarian into a Hobbyists, and the transition usually happens gradually, resulting in some gray area between these groups. You will have some Utilitarians that actually use pretty high-powered, sophisticated mods and tanks, but only because the lower-powered devices were not enough to satisfy their addiction. Generally a Hobbyists can be identified as distinct from a Utilitarian by his enthusiasm for e-cigs, his product knowledge, and his willingness to experiment with new products and flavors. These are the guys (and girls) that know all three variations of Ohm’s law by heart. They wrap their own heating coils, they use extremely high-powered devices, they have a tackle-box full of tools, parts, bottles and batteries, they mix their own e-liquid, and above all, they blow out huge clouds of vapor. They are also distinct from the Utilitarians in their complete lack of brand or supplier loyalty. Their willingness and enthusiasm to try new products as the industry evolves also comes with a curiosity to shop around on multiple websites and in different e-cig shops.
This is the group driving virtually all of the innovation in the e-cig industry. The vast majority of new products are targeted at this group.
As an insider, it’s been very interesting watching this market evolve. If I had to estimate percentages, when I first started (June, 2010), I would say 90% of e-cig users were Quitters. After the first year, it appeared to be roughly 50% Quitters, 40% Utilitarians, and 10% Hobbyists. Now, going into my sixth year selling e-cigs, it seems like there are about 10% Quitters, 50% Utilitarians, and 40% Hobbyists. I’m sure the market will continue to change and evolve, and the suppliers who are able to stay ahead of the trends and evolve with the market are the ones that will survive. The most important part of running any business (or any other endeavor) is knowledge. In sales, you have to know your products, and you have to know your customers.