Cannabis retail should be easy. As retail designers, we treat it no differently than any other retail brand or concept, except it has a few more challenges and regulations to respect. We think it is similar to selling shoes, but the product happens to be cannabis. Here are a few things that we keep in mind with every project and every brand we work with in the cannabis space.
1. Keep digital quiet. In our current era of digital info-tainment and millennial-driven video content everywhere, we need to keep video and digital content in brick-and-mortar locations to a minimum. Any use of digital content should be through intuitive brand positions (e.g., next to a related product to enhance product knowledge or projected on walls or fixtures as architectural elements to provide movement in the space and subtle brand references) intended only to maximize sales per customer, increase product knowledge, and/or enforce brand awareness. As a customer, digital should be something that appears when you need it, not something that follows you through the store like a shadow.
2. Don’t forget ALL your customer profiles. Keep in mind that even though cannabis has become mainstream, you still have a core customer group of seniors or those who consume cannabis for medical purposes whose needs must be addressed. Consider comfortable seating in strategic places for customers of all ages and physical abilities (e.g., high stools, especially those without backs, can be challenging and uncomfortable for many), private consultation areas, and reducing the amount of overpowering signage, marketing and flashing video.
3. Swing Space (No, not a real swing—we tried that.) Dedicate 10 percent of your retail floor and shelf space to a revolving product display that changes out biweekly/monthly. Make this area front and center to all customers. This will allow for the space to showcase new brands, emphasize aging product that needs to move, or just be a dedicated area to do something creative and artistic that will engage customers and brands, drive sales, and maybe even grab a quick Instagram shot.
4. Speak to your neighborhood. The challenges of local regulations have limited the product visibility in the storefront, and the security check-in can intimidate new customers. Make the entrance welcoming through the use of glass and clear materials, allowing natural light to flood the space. Transform the security process into a comfortable greeting moment where the brand experience begins.
5. KISS. The “keep it simple, stupid” saying is never more relevant than in cannabis product assortments. Keep your brand and store design simple, easy to navigate, focused on specific effects, delivery method (e.g., vape pens, flower, sublinguals, edibles) and consumer demographic. Having product overload in a retail space causes brain freeze for any customer journey. The best brands are clear and concise on their product assortment and display.