As CBD continues to grow in popularity among people across a variety of age demographics, including seniors, more people are turning to retail CBD stores to find and purchase CBD products. With a growing number of CBD products to choose from, however, consumers are often overwhelmed by the options and may be unsure what CBD products are best suited for their needs. That’s why it’s important for CBD retailers to provide an inviting, educational environment for consumers.
But what does it take to create a positive customer experience in a retail CBD store? What are consumers looking for when they visit a CBD retailer? To gain some insight into how CBD stores can better meet CBD consumers’ needs and preferences, we reached out to a panel of CBD enthusiasts and retailers and asked them to answer this question:
“What do people want in a retail experience when visiting a CBD store?”
Meet Our Panel of CBD Enthusiasts & Retailers:
Read on to learn what our experts had to say about the most important things consumers are looking for in a retail CBD experience.
Shanon Henry is a Medical Marijuana Research Analyst working for a medical marijuana clinic that helps patients obtain medical marijuana recommendations. They can register with local medical marijuana programs and get a cannabis card to make it easier for them to get medical marijuana.
“Here are a few elements that make a great customer experience for a CBD store…”
- Awareness: Customers want to be informed about your existence as a CBD brand.
- Discovery: Visibility of products customers may want or need.
- Cultivation: They want to build a strong connection with a retail store.
- Advocacy: They need help to see the value that your product or service can provide for their life.
Maxime Bates works for CBD Flower USA.
“Since CBD is a relatively new industry, individuals want to visit a retail store that knows and understands what CBD is…”
Customers are seeking a product to help improve their lives, and chances are, they have loads of questions that need to be answered. With that, staff needs to be knowledgeable and able to help their customers.
Also, customers can often feel lost when it comes to the variety of ways you can take CBD. So, being able to guide a customer in the different options that they have is equally important.
You want to present them with the options you have, as well as options that they may find at other retail stores. This will help customers see that you do care about their well-being, not just selling them a product for the heck of it.
Other things that your customers are looking for is dosing guidance and to talk to someone in regards to recommended product suggestions. Some customers are at a loss when it comes to what dosage they should start on. When a store representative is knowledgeable and able to give this guidance, it can make a customer feel more secure in taking a CBD product.
While the CBD world is still opening up to new possibilities, having a knowledgeable staff that can guide customers in their search for the right CBD products can help improve their confidence in taking this supplement, as well as getting their questions answered.
Brian Robben is the CEO of the international digital marketing agency Robben Media.
“In a CBD store, the experience is everything…”
The smell should be ideal. There should be glass containers and cabinets showing off the different products. If you can offer free samples or show how the product grows, then that will make for a more interesting experience. Include a photo booth, both for a better visitor experience and free marketing when they tag your CBD brand on social media.
David Friedman works with Compassionate Healthcare of Florida, made up of board-certified physicians who believe in the benefits of cannabinoid medicine.
“When visiting a retail CBD store, people want three main things…”
Access to safe products, affordable prices, and knowledgeable guidance. It is easy to get overwhelmed with the vast amount of options available to today’s consumer.
CBD is a very safe and effective cannabinoid that has been shown to provide numerous benefits to many medical symptoms; however, with the rise in popularity came a rise in counterfeit and overseas products that contain too little, too much, or no CBD at all. Patients want to purchase from a trusted source and have confidence the CBD they purchase is in fact CBD.
With the potential profits in CBD sales and many patients looking to CBD as an alternative or addition to traditional pharmaceuticals, retail CBD stores also have to ensure products are not priced outside of consumers’ budgets.
Lastly, the many new consumption options and CBD manufacturers have increased the amount of products available. For many patients this can be overwhelming, and they get discouraged. It’s vital that when a potential patient visits a CBD store, they are met by knowledgeable staff who can guide them and ensure they don’t become overwhelmed when seeing all the available options.
Rod Glupker is the Owner of CBD Store of Michigan.
“Here are a few things important to consumers when visiting a retail CBD store…”
- We understand the majority of customers that come in do not want to get high.
They also do not like a store with lots of pictures of marijuana or hemp plants. Our store is set up like a health food store. We keep it very clean and sanitary. I have customers tell me often that they love our store’s cleanliness.
- Customers want a good selection.
We have over 60 brands of CBD in stock, as well as our own proprietary brand. All products must be 3rd party tested. We do look at potency to ensure accuracy. We also make sure they contain no pesticides, heavy metals, mold, or lead. We have sections for each category: tinctures, capsules, topicals, consumables, drinkables, smokeables, and pets.
- Customers want to have someone knowledgeable in CBD.
You and your staff must be able to answer all their questions. A knowledge center is important to them. If you have room for a TV set up with a looping video of knowledgeable information, that is great. Otherwise, a section with educational literature for them to pick up and take home is also important.
- Customers like samples.
If you can get them to try some samples, they will usually buy that item.
- Everyone loves a good sale.
Having something on sale all the time brings customers in. Switching what you have on sale often keeps them coming back.
Dr. Tim Shu is the founder and chief executive officer of VETCBD Hemp. Dr. Shu founded VETCBD so pets could safely benefit from the multiple therapeutic uses of cannabis. By combining his expertise in veterinary medicine with his knowledge of medical cannabis, Dr. Shu formulates VETCBD products to be safe and effective for use in animals.
“As a supplier to dispensaries, our goal is to provide…”
As much information about our products as we can to support the budtenders working the floor and to introduce customers to who we are. For those first getting into CBD, the experience can be daunting with the amount of products and variance of options available, which is why we really focus on the importance of education, research, and advocacy. We want customers to feel confident and informed with their decisions, have information backed by facts and data, and give our dispensary partners the tools they need to advocate for our products to ultimately fulfill their clientele’s needs.
Jack Choros is the CMO of Sophisticated Investor.
“CBD stores want staff members who are knowledgeable about different health problems and how CBD can help…”
The overwhelming majority of recreational cannabis users love THC, the compound in cannabis that creates a psychoactive effect. CBD, on the other hand, is much more valuable for helping people with all kinds of aches and pains related to arthritis and any number of chronic conditions. The more you understand the medical aspect of cannabis use, the better you can match customers with the right CBD product.
Ingmar Folk is the Founder of CoinFlip Trading Consult.
“I definitely want a well educated, reputable salesperson who is able to…”
Tell me in a vivid way about the magic of hemp products, why CBD can help me with my health issues, what product fits best for a given disease and, of course, how I need to consume CBD the right way.
Helene Berkowitz is a retail tech executive and startup founder with a background in finance and international payment systems. She is passionate about technology with a human component. In 2017, Helene founded ReceetMe to create a digital retail experience focused on the customer experience.
“Consumers have specific expectations of what a retail experience should be, and this includes convenience, digital experiences, and fast service…”
People crave convenience, and that can mean anything from flexible payment options, to curbside pickup, online order fulfillment, and more.
Consumers want information on the health benefits of CBD products for a wide variety of use cases, such as weight loss, anxiety, insomnia, and pain relief. They expect product information to be clear and visible when shopping in a store. This can take the form of touch screens showing product details or traditional paper pamphlets located by individual product stands and shelves. After all, an educated consumer is a loyal consumer.
In an age of technology, digital transformation is no longer a luxury, but an absolute necessity. Consumers expect to engage with brands digitally. That can take the form of a robust e-commerce and m-commerce site that supports the brick-and-mortar location, or BOPIS (buy online, pick up in store). Touch screens placed strategically throughout the store can provide shoppers with a rich, engaging retail experience. Mobile payments and mobile checkout complement the in-store process, as well.
Often, a consumer doesn’t know exactly what they want or even the questions to ask. Store associates are key to ensuring a great, positive in-store experience. Store managers must offer associate training so that staff can be empowered with the right knowledge and methods of helping shoppers, whatever their needs and questions may be.
Sam Watson is the Founder at Dr Watson CBD.
“No matter whether you’re lucky enough to still be able to walk into a CBD store or if you have to shop for CBD online, there are certain things consumers want and expect from vendors…”
With reports showing that the CBD market is set to reach $16.32 billion by 2026, it’s no wonder that people have certain expectations from this growing market.
Experienced buyers will want to know the dosage, for example, of broad-spectrum tinctures, but first-time buyers will also have questions about what CBD is and how it works (even whether it can get them high – it can’t!).
When shopping for organic meat products, people are willing to pay a premium. Why? Because they know where it comes from. The same applies to CBD. For example, at Dr Watson, we provide the available laboratory certification for ALL of our products and are clear about where and how our hemp extracts are farmed.
On top of all its amazing benefits, it’s undeniable that CBD can still be ‘trendy.’ While switched-on consumers may well gravitate towards superior products that are clear about their dosage, people still want something that looks good. Clear branding, logo, and color scheme is something consumers have come to expect – after all, they may well be taking their vape pen or CBD oil out and using it in public, or they might have it displayed on their nightstand.
Adam Crookes is the Founder of Freshly Squeezed, a CBD content writing agency.
“Over the next year, as retail begins to get back on its feet, I think CBD stores are going to lean into the experiential side of retail…”
Consumers are fascinated by CBD because they often know very little about it. I think CBD stores need to become educational hubs for consumers to learn more about this compound. This could be achieved through the placement of interactive screens with educational videos in the store. Alternatively, store owners could increase the number of customer support assistants in the store to ensure someone is always available to answer questions about CBD. I would also like to see more leaflets and guides being handed out to consumers after purchases are made. Oftentimes, people don’t know how to get the most out of this compound – and guidelines on the product packaging rarely offer much insight.
Chris Lord is the CEO and Founder of CaniBrands. Chris specializes in driving rapid growth with CPG and consumer products companies and is a globally recognized customer experience thought leader.
“According to Prohibition Partners, 50% of CDB consumers have been using CBD for less than a year…”
And as more and more consumers are realizing the profound benefits of CBD and cannabinoids in general, they are seeking quality products that contain CBD and have a variety of ways to take it, such as convenient, easy-to-use oral sprays that allow for more accurate microdosing.
Since CBD stores are facing growing competition from natural and specialty retailers that are not CBD-centric but offer a wide array of natural health products, CBD stores really have to elevate the experience for shoppers to keep their business.
Consumers want quality and a variety of product formats, but they also want to feel safe and trust the knowledge of the store’s staff in guiding their choices. Many new consumers would be turned off going to a smoke shop or similar type of store and don’t want to feel like they are shopping for something taboo, but rather that they are making informed choices for their health.
CBD stores that seem to do well in most markets have an inviting ambience that could be described as being like a coffee shop or boutique fashion retailer, as well as very knowledgeable staff with opportunities for the consumer to educate themselves about CBD and dosing advice. The really successful retailers make the shoppers feel like they are part of a community that is educated on the topic and making informed choices for their optimal health. More choice, convenience, and education on CBD solutions for pain, sleep, energy, and anxiety will be key to keeping consumers coming back.
John Ross is the President & CEO of Test Prep Insight, an online education company.
“The main three things that people want in a retail experience when visiting a CBD store are cleanliness, security, and anonymity…”
Given that CBD is a medicinal product and purity plays a large part in its efficacy, people want a store that is clean and refined. If the store is dirty, disorganized, or rundown, they will associate such characteristics with the product and will have a negative shopping experience.
In terms of security and anonymity, though legal in most states, CBD still carries a bit of a social taboo, at least in some circles. It is also an all-cash business in many states, increasing the risk of crime. So to the extent a store is secure, perhaps through a guard at the front door and secure check-in at the front reception, it will help people feel more safe and comfortable. And to help customers feel more anonymous, stores shouldn’t have large windows or exposed entrances and exits. A lot of people prefer to stay anonymous with a quick, easy, and visually protected purchasing process.
Alysia Bear, better known as Allie, The Canna Canuck, is a cannabiz force of nature. She’s a Canadian cannabis influencer, model associated with some big-name brands, an entrepreneur, a widely-traveled journalist, Assistant Editor for national media, a respected cannabis educator, and a budding glass artist. Building on her vision, she now adds the founding of the Broadleaf Cannabis Collective and CEO title to her trademarked brand.
“In my line of work, I have the benefit of experiences and conversations on both sides of the market – legal and legacy – and I’ve found some common ground among the two…”
I believe that cannabis legalization in Canada is, of course, still in its early stages, but I think we’ve gone in the wrong direction a bit when it comes to cannabis retail, the products being marketed now, and industry best practices.
For CBD retail, my advice would be to focus on the shopping experience from an uneducated, novice buyer’s perspective instead of a polished, regulated, heavily secured and governmental one.
The store experience itself can be so important.
Here in Canada, when the legal market rolled out, the red tape rolled in – and so did all of that plastic packaging! Consumers are experiencing fancy, sterile-looking shops with a touch of the Apple feel to them, and I think we should have gone more in the direction of the teahouse vs. the box-store type of experience offered. We are solely considering the shopping, without considering the product being bought – cannabis. What lets you know whether it’s a good bud? Well, the senses of course, and most are being denied in stores today.
Smell, Sight, Taste, Touch, Sound
What we are seeing in the market is a retail chain suffering with the repercussions of smaller basket sizes due to a risky purchasing scenario. I can tell you, as a buyer, I will never load up on a bunch of individually packaged flowers when I haven’t had the opportunity to examine that particular purchase firsthand. Anyone who buys cannabis regularly knows the sting of finding a dry, improperly flushed, or poor-quality cannabis and are less likely to chance a product they can’t experience with at least a few of the above listed senses. Why would consumers do so in a government store, when licensed cannabis is oftentimes more expensive?
Many of the consumers going into our cannabis stores are elderly, first time users or new to the brands being offered and will likely purchase in the same sort of manner. We could increase profit margins of mom and pop small businesses by adopting methods similar to those in legalized European nations or US states that adopt a more open, casual purchasing experience.
Think fancy tea shop – where you see the flower, get to examine canisters, feel the relaxed vibe, and smell the aromas vs. Apple kiosks and individually framed items in glass casings. When a consumer becomes engaged with their product, forms an attachment to it, and gets to have an experience as part of the purchase, they are more likely, in my opinion, to spend their money on that item. CBD will be no different, with the various educational options that can be offered and the many applications of use.
Any cannabis consumer will tell you that it’s about the ceremony of preparing for the sesh, too, and our shopping experiences, personal care items we buy, the related CBD products one may use, and our entire relationship to the plant can fall right underneath that category. Those entering the CBD retail market could benefit from keeping as much in mind.
Elisha Millan is the owner of Grass Roots Health, Tennessee’s first hemp dispensary, and founder of Fund 129, a philanthropic initiative aimed at ending the opioid epidemic.
“What appears most consistently in our reviews on social media channels is…”
The positive experience customers have with our highly-trained staff. Those positive experiences are more impactful than the certifications and experience our staff has with products. But for those moments to happen, we must train our staff on active listening, communicating empathy, and other attributes in high-level customer service. We take our time to really understand what the customer is looking for, and we genuinely care about the health of each individual. All that shows, and the customers respond well. And, of course, these exchanges occur in an extremely clean, well-lit environment. Especially now with cleanliness at the forefront of everyone’s mind, it’s important to recognize the value of purchasing products in a store that has been sterilized regularly.
Erin is the chief marketing officer of Key to Cannabis, a cannabis and CBD education site aimed at equipping everyone – athletes, scholars, and even your grandparents – with the knowledge and tools to achieve total-body, plant-powered wellness.
“People want a calm and clean retail experience when visiting a CBD store…”
Having well-versed employees who can assist at every step of the purchasing process helps those who don’t know what they’re looking for, and a comfortable environment allows customers to explore their options without feeling rushed or pressured to purchase and leave.
Claudia Chaverra is the proud owner of Your CBD Store in Northridge, CA. After surviving the Route 91 Las Vegas mass shooting in 2017 and developing PTSD, she got educated on CBD and took a leap of faith after several attempts of daily antidepressants were not working for her.
“In my experience, people who come into our store are mainly looking to be heard…”
Many of them have been struggling with different ailments and discomforts. Many have tried different options in search of comfort or relief, or a better quality of life. In addition, customers want to be informed. With so much buzz surrounding CBD, they want to learn what CBD is, how it works, and how it may help them or a loved one.
There is a huge stigma that surrounds CBD/cannabis altogether. The truth is that CBD is an unregulated industry; therefore, not all CBD is created equal. Therefore, customers also want top quality products. Understanding the most important two key factors when choosing CBD – how was the oil extracted and third-party lab reports – makes all the difference.
Lastly, customers always appreciate free samples! CBD works differently for each individual. Giving them an opportunity to try out the product before they make a purchase is one of the key reasons our customers keep coming back.
Rachel is the founder of Ganjasana cannabis yoga and school and the director of sales for their USDA Certified Organic CBD company, Moon Mother Hemp.
“As a regenerative hemp farmer who understands that hemp is the world’s largest bioremediator…”
Meaning that whatever is in the soil will end up in the final CBD end product (like heavy metals such as mercury), customers want to see transparency in brands via a COA or certificate of analysis so they know exactly what they are going to put in or on their body. People want to know that a product is devoid of pesticides and fungicides that may have been used in the farming practices, and they also want to know what solvents were used in the extraction process. Here in the US, it is legal to extract CBD with carcinogenic solvents such as butane, so people want to make sure that their products are clean and safe to consume. Lastly, consumers want to be aware that the CBD products are true to their marketing, and if a certain mg is listed on the package that there is indeed that many mg in the bottle.
People have many different needs when choosing to turn to plant medicine like CBD, from relieving pain, to beauty and skin care, so they seek options in the administration of CBD, from tinctures, to gel capsules, to topicals. Each mode of administration will affect the bioavailability, or how much CBD actually gets into the bloodstream, so having an educated employee to help them find the right product for them is key.
David is a writer for Green Wellness Life.
“The first thing people want is education and support…”
You can get that online, but it’s often more comforting to receive that one-on-one interaction face to face. A good portion of our customers are older, and that face-to-face interaction is very helpful for them.
Another thing customers want is assurance that they aren’t stuck with a CBD product if it isn’t the right one for them. CBD affects everyone differently, and so different products may work better than others for certain people. You also have to make sure you’re choosing a product that is better suited for the goal you’re trying to accomplish, whether that’s better sleep, pain relief, etc. We assure customers in person that if they pick a product they don’t like, we’ll help them replace it with one they do at no extra cost.
Finally, many CBD stores feel like a dispensary. There are cameras everywhere, and all of the products are locked up behind glass. This isn’t a comfortable shopping experience for anyone. If you can move away from that type of environment and have products openly displayed and available for customers to browse with colorful displays and other accessories, you customers are going to have a more pleasant experience.
Kelsey Donk is a Minneapolis-based website copywriter, SEO strategist, and content creator. She has a MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Minnesota, where she specialized in writing long- and short-form literary nonfiction.
“To me, it comes down to a few main concerns…”
- How and when to use the product(s). This is such important information for a CBD user. I find that customers want different products for after workouts, morning anxiety, and going to sleep. That’s what they have in mind when they’re looking for a product, so it’s really important to have products labeled by time of day or occasion for use. Organizing the store in this way is a great strategy for controlling user experience.
- Clear information about testing. The CBD market is a wild place, and everyone wants to brand their products as high quality. But not all CBD is high quality, and much that you find at a gas station is full of garbage. Users want to know how the CBD is tested, where it was tested, when it was tested, etc. Providing this information early and often significantly improves user experience and reduces the consumer’s anxiety.
- A brand image that reflects customers’ self-image. I have elderly family members who use CBD to manage anxiety and deal with cancer. Do they want to shop at a CBD store where hypebeasts get their vape pens? Probably not. They want an experience that doesn’t make them feel like they should be headed to a rave. And these customers actually make up a good chunk of the market. According to research conducted by Gallup, 19% of the CBD market is made up of people older than 50. If you, as a marketer, can find a way to attract these customers and make sure they don’t feel ashamed to visit your store, that’s a big victory.
Laura Beohner is the President & Co-Founder of The Healing Rose in Newburyport, MA, a CBD wellness products company that uses all organic ingredients. Laura is also the Director & Founder of the Massachusetts Hemp Coalition and is on the Board of Directors for ELEVATE Northeast & Northeast Sustainable Hemp Association.
“When people enter a store looking for CBD products, they want to…”
Feel welcomed and that the person or people working there are educated and there to help them. While I think a large part of the market does look at the price and amount of cannabinoids in the product, branding is incredibly important in the CBD space, as customers want to trust the products they are consuming. As this market matures and customers become more educated, they are starting to turn the packaging around and read the ingredients. Many customers are going that extra step to scan QR codes and explore companies online first, to learn about their team, their mission, and their 3rd party lab testing.