Marketing Your Online Vape Store (How to Promote Yourself in a Restricted Vertical)

From content marketing and SEO to social media and influencer marketing, promoting your business in a restricted vertical requires a strong online presence and an understanding of your landscape. Learn from our work marketing an e-commerce vape store and use these lessons for yourself.
Written by
Ryan Stogran
Published on
17 January 2022

Summary of Key Points:

  • Ecommerce businesses in restricted verticals—like vape stores—face unique challenges such as advertising restrictions, age verification requirements, shipment limitations, and rapidly changing regulations.
  • Despite these challenges, businesses can build a strong online presence by focusing on user-friendly design, quality product descriptions, a robust age verification system, and excellent customer service.
  • SEO is crucial for visibility in such restricted markets. Keyword research, on-page and off-page optimization, and local SEO are all vital parts of an effective SEO strategy if your business operates in a restricted or niche market.
  • Content marketing, email marketing, influencer and affiliate marketing, and social media engagement are also important for promoting your business, engaging customers, and building your brand. Working with experienced digital marketing professionals can help you plan and implement these strategies effectively and enjoy efficient long-term growth.

Developing and growing your Shopify store requires a thorough understanding of the landscape around your business. Operating in restricted verticalsparts of that landscape where you market your products or services to a select audience with unique or particular needs—often comes with unique challenges for promoting yourself effectively.

Below, our team shares some of the most important lessons we learned from working with U Vape, an ecommerce vape store and an excellent example of a Shopify store competing in a restricted vertical. Use what you learn here to help your own store stand out in a competitive market.

Challenges for eCommerce Stores in Restricted Verticals

Restricted verticals aren’t just about catering to niche markets—they’re also heavily or specifically regulated. This means you have to exercise caution in promoting yourself within them.

U Vape is a great example, since Canada has so many different laws and rules that apply to vaping. As a result, running an online vape shop like U Vape brings unique challenges, largely due to regulatory limitations on advertising and promotion. These include:

  • Advertising restrictions: Facebook, Instagram, and online platforms prohibit advertising e-cigarettes and other vaping products. This can make it difficult for businesses like U Vape to reach potential customers.
  • Age verification: Due to legal age restrictions on purchasing vape products, businesses must implement robust age verification processes on their websites. This can complicate the online buying experience by adding an extra step for potential customers, potentially impacting their user experience and subsequent engagement.
  • Shipment limitations: Some regions restrict the delivery of vape products, which can limit potential markets for the business.
  • Changing regulations: Rules and regulations around vaping are subject to change, often at short notice, which can lead to uncertainty and necessitate quick adaptations.

Best Practices for Building a Strong Online Presence in a Niche Market

Despite these challenges, a business like U Vape can still build a strong online presence by cultivating a comprehensive digital marketing strategy that functions within the constraints of their market. Here are some best practices:

Sample layouts for website to symbolize the value of good design and UX

Website Design & UX

Restricted verticals like vape shops already place extra hurdles in the way of potential customers via laws and industry regulations, so it’s vital to ensure that your site offers as smooth and streamlined an experience as possible while remaining compliant. Here are some things your site should include:

  • User-friendly design: Ensure your website is easy to navigate, visually appealing, and mobile-friendly.
  • Quality product descriptions: Detailed, accurate product descriptions can help customers make informed decisions and boost SEO.
  • Robust age verification system: Balance compliance with user experience by integrating an age verification system that is as unobtrusive as possible.
  • Excellent customer service: Offer multiple support channels, such as live chat and email, and respond promptly to queries.


SEO is crucial for businesses like U Vape, as it helps improve online visibility despite advertising restrictions. Key strategies include:

  • Keyword research: Identify and target keywords that are relevant to your products and the vaping community. Tools like Semrush are highly recommended for efficient keyword research.
  • On-page optimization: Utilize your keywords in titles and descriptions, make sure your content hierarchy contains clear and logical headers, and ensure your site is fast and mobile-friendly.
  • Off-page optimization: Work on building high-quality backlinks and encourage user-generated content and reviews.
  • Local SEO: Optimize for local search, particularly if you have a physical store, to attract customers in your area. Focusing on local markets can also help you overcome shipping limitations in your vertical, especially in the early stages of your shop’s development.
Person typing on keyboard to create digital content for promoting an e-commerce business in restricted vertical

Content Marketing

Content marketing is vital for promoting businesses in restricted verticals, because it can help you combat misinformation or controversy surrounding your industry and help qualify leads. For a business like U Vape, focus on:

  • Educational content: Generate value by addressing common customer queries and providing useful information. We did this for U Vape by reviewing popular vape devices, creating detailed FAQs, and answering questions about the safety and legality of vaping in different circumstances.
  • Diverse formats: Use blogs, videos, infographics, and more to cater to different user preferences. For example, blog posts are great for FAQs, whereas video reviews are an excellent way to engage audiences.
  • Platform choices: Publish on platforms where your target audience spends time, while ensuring you adhere to all platform rules and regulations. Since so many social media platforms do not permit advertising vape products, we focused on creating organic content for U Vape so that their audience would come to them.

Email Marketing and CRM

Email marketing and CRM allows you to forge more personalized relationships with members of your audience, including potential customers and existing ones. Here are some steps to try:

  • Segment Your Audience: Break down your customer base into different segments based on factors like purchasing behavior, age, location, or product interests. This allows for more targeted and relevant communication.
  • Personalize Your Content: Utilize CRM data to personalize your emails. Address customers by their name, recommend products based on their past purchases, or offer special deals on their birthdays or anniversaries.
  • Automate Email Campaigns: Set up automated email campaigns for specific triggers, like welcome emails for new subscribers, follow-ups after purchase, or re-engagement emails for inactive customers.
  • Monitor and Analyze: Keep track of key metrics like open rates, click-through rates, and conversions to understand what's working and what's not. Regularly test and optimize your emails based on these insights.
Woman shouting out of mobile device on blue background to symbolize influencer marketing

Influencer and Affiliate Marketing

Working with influencers and affiliates can provide valuable social proof and help reach potential customers despite advertising restrictions. However, influencer marketing for certain products and services in Canada is illegal—including vape devices—so you’ll need to make sure influencer marketing is allowed in your restricted vertical before you go down this road.

Products that influencer marketing is not allowed for in Canada include tobacco products, vape products, cannabis products, prescription drugs, and alcohol. Various legislation pertaining to these industries (the Tobacco and Vaping Products Act, Canada’s Food and Drugs Act, the Cannabis Act, etc.) places restrictions on using influencers to promote the sale or use of these products.

However, assuming you don’t sell a product that influencer marketing is prohibited for, here are a few things you can try:

  • Identify Relevant Influencers: Find influencers who align with your brand values and have a following that matches your target audience. Make sure the platforms they use to reach their audience will also allow them to promote your products and services.
  • Establish Authentic Partnerships: Work with influencers who can genuinely endorse your products. Authenticity resonates with audiences and leads to better engagement and trust.
  • Set Up an Affiliate Program: Implement an affiliate program where influencers or other affiliates earn a commission for every sale they refer. This can incentivize them to promote your products more actively.
  • Track Performance: Monitor the performance of your influencer and affiliate marketing campaigns. Use unique tracking codes for each influencer to understand who is driving the most traffic and sales.

Social Media Engagement

Active social media engagement is a key tool for brand building and gathering customer feedback. Even if you can't advertise directly, you can still foster a sense of community and offer valuable content to your followers. Consider these strategies:

  • Create Valuable Content: Publish content that educates, entertains, or inspires your followers. This can help build a community and encourage engagement.
  • Engage with Your Audience: Respond to comments, messages, and reviews promptly. Regularly ask for your audience's opinions or feedback to show that you value their input.
  • Run Contests or Giveaways: These can increase engagement and reach, and they can also be a fun way for followers to interact with your brand.
  • Monitor Social Media Metrics: Keep track of likes, shares, comments, and other forms of engagement to understand what type of content resonates with your audience. Use these insights to refine your social media strategy.

Rising to the Top of Your Restricted Vertical

U Vape is an excellent example of a Shopify store we helped to overcome the specific challenges of their niche market, but the principles above can apply to ecommerce businesses in restricted verticals of all kinds. Whether your store sells workout supplements, hemp products, cryptocurrency services, or anything else that caters to a defined market with specific regulations, you should be able to use what you’ve learned here to improve your angle of attack.

To find out what kinds of growth strategies we’d recommend for your Shopify store, contact RS Creativ and tell us a bit more about your business. Our team can help you understand where you’re positioned in your landscape, identify what your unique needs are, and create strategies you can bank on for reliable long-term results.


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