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How Entrepreneurs in New Zealand Found Opportunity by Looking Abroad

by Sarah Williams
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Every day, thousands of people around the world launch new businesses and try their luck at becoming entrepreneurs. No new business owner enters an industry without preexisting competition, and those who succeed do so because they find ways to market their businesses more effectively than the competition or because they find opportunities in places their competitors have overlooked. Either way, success as a new business owner requires some serious outside-the-box thinking – and sometimes, learning to think differently as a business owner requires a bit of inspiration from the successes of others.

Have you ever considered the possibility that people in your home country might not turn out to be your most important customer base? That’s exactly what has happened with New Zealand vape shops like Premium Vape NZ. Through an unusual set of legal regulations and loopholes, people who vape in Australia have virtually no options for buying e-liquid – a requirement for vaping – domestically. Australians can, however, import e-liquid from abroad. The most logical source for imported e-liquid is Australia’s next-door neighbor, New Zealand. Clever New Zealand vape shop owners have structured their entire businesses not around serving vapers in New Zealand, but around shipping e-liquid to the much larger population of vapers in Australia. 

This is the story of how the unusual business model of the New Zealand vaping industry came together. You can find situations that mirror this unique set of circumstances in virtually every industry in every country. As you read this article, consider how you could apply these principles to the industry in which you do business.

What Is Vaping?

Vaping is the act of using an e-cigarette or other product to vaporize a liquid called e-liquid for inhaling. Most people who vape do so as a means of quitting smoking, and to facilitate smoking cessation, most e-liquid contains nicotine. In most nations in which vaping is legal, e-liquid and other vaping products are sold under the same restrictions and requirements as tobacco products. 

What Is Unique About Vaping in Australia?

The Australian vaping industry is an unusual case. In Australia, vaping products – and the act of vaping – are both legal. Liquid nicotine, though, isn’t; it’s a controlled substance that can’t be bought and sold in the same way as tobacco products. Nicotine-free e-liquid is legal in Australia; it’s the only form of e-liquid that Australians can buy without jumping through legal hoops. It is extremely difficult, however, to quit smoking with nicotine-free e-liquid. Most people who vape want e-liquid with nicotine – and that’s where the legal hoops come in.

What Options Do Australians Have for Buying Nicotine E-Liquid?

Liquid nicotine may be a controlled substance in Australia, but it’s also a substance with recognized therapeutic value. Australians can therefore obtain it by prescription. Obtaining a prescribed controlled substance, however, means that a pharmacy needs to dispense that substance. Pharmacies in Australia aren’t stocked with shelves full of e-liquid, though, so Australians need to have their nicotine e-liquid made at compounding pharmacies that have the raw ingredients – along with the liquid nicotine – in stock. The resulting product isn’t particularly pleasurable to use because it doesn’t come in the wide variety of flavors available for commercial e-liquids. 

There is, however, another option. Australian law also recognizes the fact that some controlled substances with therapeutic value may not always be easy to find domestically. The fact that a doctor can write a prescription for nicotine e-liquid doesn’t mean that all compounding pharmacies will necessarily have the ingredients. For that reason, Australians with valid nicotine prescriptions can also import e-liquid from abroad for personal use. With a prescription, an Australian vaper can buy nicotine e-liquid from any offshore seller willing to ship e-liquid internationally.

How New Zealand Vape Shops Found Opportunity in Australia

Have you ever tried to learn more about what international consumers want? It’s actually relatively easy to gain an understanding of overseas buyers; simply find out what they search for on Google. If you research vaping-related keywords on google.com.au, for example, you’ll discover that Australian vapers commonly search for phrases like “ship e-liquid to Australia” – and when you see search terms like that, it’s pretty easy to surmise that there’s a significant population of Australian vapers looking for overseas sources of e-liquid. You can capture those potential customers, then, by adding text to your vape shop’s website indicating that you welcome Australian business – and that’s exactly what vape shops all over New Zealand have done with great success.

How to Learn More About Your Potential International Buyers

Would you like to learn more about whether your company has the potential to break through to the international market? It’s not difficult to find out what international consumers are searching for online. Simply visit Google and type a keyword relating to your industry. When you see the results page, click “Settings” at the top of the page and select “Search Settings” on the menu. Scroll down on the next page until you reach the “Region Settings” section. Select the region of your choice and click the “Save” button. You’re now looking at the results page for your search as people in that region would see it. 

Does your company’s website already appear somewhere on the results page for your search? If it does, think about how you could modify your site to attract more clicks from potential customers in your target region. It could be that adding some information to an existing page on your site is all that you need to do to attract more international traffic.

If your site doesn’t appear on the results page for the international search, look at the websites that do appear. Those sites are on the first page for a term that people are searching for, and that means those websites are presumably earning money from that search term. Study their methods. How did those websites get to where they are, and what techniques could you adopt to make your business more successful in that region?

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