Regardless of the regulatory environment – whether in restrictive Canada or more permissive Colorado – activating a cannabis brand at the retail point of sale is one of the best marketing investments you can make.
The dispensary store environment is often one of the only places where licensed producers can promote their brand – to budtenders and consumers alike. It’s the place to tell a differentiated brand story in a confusing mix of product formats, strains, prices, cannabinoid profiles and therapeutic benefits. Why? Because most purchase decisions are still made in the store.
Research from one of the largest trade associations for the retail industry – Shop Environments Association – indicates that despite significant evolution of the retail store environment, the vast majority of purchase decisions continue to be made in-store. Specific data in the cannabis category is lacking, given the sheer newness of it, but in many similar categories, the data indicates that two thirds of purchase decisions (or more) are made in the retail store.
Education, or lack therof, is a significant barrier to entry in the cannabis category, especially among new users and with the introduction of new formats. Brand ambassadors in the retail environment can turn this challenge into an opportunity. Sponsoring brands can expect to convert 15-25% of prospects that are engaged by their well-trained in-store representatives, so long as they are prepared and have the tools at their disposal. Preparation includes confirming with the dispensary, well in advance, that the brand ambassadors are expected and that they have a great location for the in-store activation. It’s also very important to have good inventory levels and a broad selection of SKUs; nothing worse than running out of stock when you are being promoted by staff specifically hired for the activation!
Other tools include merchandising and display materials that help tell the brand story. For example, an organic cannabis brand will want to demonstrate the benefits of their end-to-end organic growing process, thus justifying a premium price. Or hosting a demonstration on how to use a new vape format and the benefits of vaping versus smoking. Or introducing a baby boomer prospect to cannabis-infused tea as an evening ritual that may help with sleep. Investing in impactful and breakthrough display materials and selling tools are critical to a successful in-store activation, and ultimately elevate the experience for the customer.
Importantly, the in-store activation and educational information discussed above can also be shared with the store’s budtenders (aka influencers), not just consumers. Investing in in-store marketing is a cost-effective way to communicate the brand story throughout the lower part of the path to purchase. Use the store environment to tell the brand story and shift perceptions from providing a commodity to selling a value-added and premium brand. Especially in markets where traditional brand-building marketing options are limited or non-existent.