SXSW Cannabusiness: How Will Dispensaries Look & Feel in the Future?

As weed becomes mainstream, dispensaries need to create better experiences for customers.

By Erica Roane, Contributing Writer

The days of purchasing marijuana in a cold, steel, and heavily secured dispensary may be coming to an end. With the legalization of marijuana on the rise and cannabis becoming more mainstream, so are the industry’s retail business practices.

When creating and designing dispensary layouts; consumers, their needs, and comfort are all being considered throughout the entire business development phase. During SXSW’s “The New Age Dispensary” panel, designers, retail planners, and business leaders within cannabis discussed the future of dispensaries and what consumers really want.

Create an Experience

As cannabis becomes more accessible, there will new types of customers.

“For many of your customers, this will be their first time visiting a dispensary so you want to make sure their experience is memorable,” says Megan Stone, owner of Royal Highness Cannabis Boutique. “Considering your customer’s personality goes a long way.”

Providing mindful touches such as an open consultation space with views of the product puts the customer’s mind at ease while also breaking down intimidation and fears.

Consider Familiarity

When customers experience a new product with a familiar layout, their shopping experience is automatically put at ease.

“In Canada I have seen a dispensary with a record store layout, it did not look or feel like a dispensary,” added Anne Forkutza, a brand strategist with Cova. “Music was playing and all of the different strains were placed on albums, just like a record store.”

Other familiar touches could include offering customers light refreshments such as water, coffee or tea.

The Power of Visual Merchandising

“Engaging the five senses and creating an amazing layout for your dispensary goes a long way with your customers,” added Stone. “Learning technology also offers an element of comfort to the new cannabis consumer. Having choices and learning about different products visually through technology not only speaks to the customer but gives them a sense of power and control over their experience.”

The new dispensaries should also explore innovative branding practices. “Get away from brands that start with ‘Canna,’ using the color green, and also the leaf.”

Easing POS Pain

The location of the cash register within a dispensary has the potential to be a pain point.

With Cannabis being a cash only business, your customers will spend anywhere from 3-5 minutes at the register. The point-of-sale area of a dispensary should be one of the most consciously-designed.

Ensuring that this area has messaging is a great way to connect with your customers. Moreover, mentioning specials, sponsored events, and future product offers are great conversation starters.

As Cannabis the continues to grow, the dispensary customer will become more dynamic. Additions such as educating and training staff to be mindful and compassionate of every customer from the casual user to the cancer-patient creates customer loyalty.

In all, when designing the new-age dispensary, it is not always about budget. Design, thought, effort and an innovative mindset go a long way.

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