It’s been a tumultuous last couple years as governments waffle over sales and distribution regulation and cannabis entrepreneurs angle their businesses towards the droves of marijuana enthusiasts.
California has had one of its first, of most many likely, challenges in negotiating the unpredictability of the governments' plans. That unpredictability may be a resident factor, but there are other key elements that must be considered as marijuana becomes a mainstream consumer product.
Delivering an amiable experience with cannabis is not like any other product or industry. Most new products or businesses have the advantage of referencing existing attributes that resonates a brand's ethos and aesthetic. The process of building a new product often starts with borrowing a page from past and current of examples of the respective their industry. There are countless materials and brand assets to examine and pluck out the aspects that fit nicely into the core of a brand. But what if there’s no page to take from and you’re starting from scratch? Not only is there a lack of reference points you are confronted you are also hit with the reality that only a handful of designers have had experience with cannabis brands and products. This unique scenario provides both challenge and opportunity.
A great place to start, like within any industry, is to identify the demands of the consumer. The cannabis user is not just one profile. In fact there are many and we can broadly define them into three main categories. Recreationists, medical-users and the newcomers. Each user profile has specific needs and desired experiences so how do you satisfy each of those needs with that spread of variance in mind?
The recreational user already has an acute understanding of what cannabis products are. They most likely have a favourite strain or producer and expect consistency and quality. With just that information we can capitalize on their desire for consistency. That in itself can be delivered by grooming that users preference for a brand. The lifetime value (LTV) of a cannabis user is massive. Just think of the unwavering Marlboro or Corona consumer. They buy regularly and loyally. Speaking to your recreational users desires are a long road to a long-term relationship. There’s not a lot of information on this type of user, but we can extrapolate off similar products like tobacco and alcohol.
There is a decent amount of research for the medical user mainly peering into the insights of relationships between types of cannabis products and conditions that can be addressed through cannabis use. Providing the knowledge of which product is right for “x” condition serves of great value to those who suffer from chronic disease. Building your own database based on this condition is beneficial for all parties and help support everything from inventory control to upselling based on past purchasing patterns. Pushing the desired effect to the forefront helps define what this user-case actually wants; a specific effect.
Capturing the newcomer is wide open opportunity. You may not have the luxury of understanding their past purchasing tendencies but you should be able to interpret what might get them fired up. Education plays a big part in eliciting that excitement from them. Presenting products in a clear and palatable ways minimizes any misconceptions they may have. Focusing on arming them with an understanding of the function various cannabis products possess and additionally supplying a bit history will empower them into a position of purchasing.
One needs to look no further than the craft beer industry to see the many duplicit aspects that can be espoused. The craft beer experience is that of luxury and precision. It’s an industry that proudly flies it’s flag. It’s heavy on the branding and storyline. The packaging is never overlooked and the omnipresence of their logo and slogans on all things they do is unapologetic. Each type of beer they produce is riddled with it’s own absoluteness. The consumer is presented with all things that make that particular beer what it is; It’s nose, it’s colour, it’s percentage of alcohol. All these considerations can be transferred to the cannabis user-experience.
The focus on flagship style stores (their brewey) are a great example of how cannabis dispensaries could be better. Craft breweries have a knowledgeable staff and they are all about getting the customer familiar with their overall mix. The bartender offers expert opinion on their offerings and compels the user to partakes in that opinion through sampling and crafted conversation. A space where users can be romanticized into the experience provides a sitemap for how a cannabis retail environment can encapsulate the richness of your brand and products.
As we enter into certain uncertainty we can take refuge in understanding that we can create experiences that ensure longevity within the industry, The unmarked territory speaks in volumes as to the vast opportunity at hand to engage with cannabis consumers of all types. Understanding what and how they want cannabis should not be overlooked or under considered. It is the most important input into this behemoth of an industry.