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The Anatomy of Good Cannabis Retail Store Design

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Since the Cannabis Act came into effect in Canada on October 17, 2018, pioneering brands have been opening unique new retail spaces across the country.

What started as a gold rush of brands racing to open retail locations to beat out the competition, has slowed to a game of strategy—as brands realize that it takes more than speed to stand out and stake a claim in this turbulent but exciting new industry. 

In a 2019 journal entry, Vancouver-based design firm Cutler explored three key challenges facing brands entering the Canadian cannabis retail market and how to overcome them. Fast forward a year, Cutler have more successful location openings in its portfolio, and a new set of insights. Below are Cutler’s key findings:

STAND OUT

As the first wave of retail cannabis settles, brands are finding themselves faced with a new challenge: how does one stand out in an industry filled with newcomers offering the same or similar products?

The solution? Showcase your brand and provide customers with a memorable retail experience.

SHOWCASE YOUR BRAND IDENTITY

Every brand has a unique story. If you want to stand out in the cannabis market, the design of your retail environment and merchandise must tell it. 

How do you achieve this? 

  • Have a clear brand presence throughout your store
  • Nail consistency

Cutler’s experience working with cannabis brands like Kiaro & Choom proves that a well-communicated brand can be the difference between a location’s success and failure. Interior elements such as signage, murals, feature walls, and millwork can all be used to reflect the meaning behind a brand; while inspiring customer interaction and establishing a divide between you and your competition.

Unique, consistent, and well-placed brand elements give customers something to connect with. If done well, that connection can be so impactful that it remains memorable long after they have left; building brand loyalty, and inciting repeat visits.

Interior of Kiaro store. Photo: Cutler
Interior of Kiaro store. Photo: Cutler

PROVIDE A QUALITY EXPERIENCE 

The need for meaningful connection is part of Cutler’s biology. A physical retail space presents a brand with an opportunity to facilitate that connection.

As the number of new retail cannabis locations swells, so does the competition. And more competition equals less market share. Providing customers with a good experience is the solution to this growing dilemma. Brands that provide customers with a good experience bring in 5.7 times more revenue than competitors that lag in the customer experience department. Customer experience can be defined by your customers’ perception of how you treat them. This perception affects their behaviour, drives feelings of connection and builds memories; which in turn drives their loyalty.

On a retail scale, a quality experience can be established in a number of ways. A few of which include:

  • Building in brand touchpoints that introduce and educate customers about your product lines; 
  • Having knowledgeable customer service staff who are focused on building relationships and creating a personalized experience;
  • And establishing a community around your brand by hosting special events that add value and showcase your expertise, while showing your appreciation for your customers.

Unfortunately, there isn’t one magic formula to creating a good customer experience. What works for some brands, may not for others. To know what will resonate with your customers, you need to get to know them. This means market research.

For Cutler, market research is a foundational component of its approach to retail space design. It ultimately helps influence the design not just of the retail environment, but the entire customer journey — from storefront to checkout. 

Once you know who your customers are, you can then design a personalized experience tailored to serve them.

With 73% of consumers saying that a good experience is key in influencing their brand loyalties, and loyal customers being five times more likely to purchase again (four times more likely to refer a friend to your brand), you can’t afford not to provide customers with a good experience in the retail cannabis industry.

PLAN FOR THE FUTURE 

As new technology and products are introduced, the Canadian cannabis industry will continue to evolve; and with that evolution will come a new set of challenges. To ensure that you’re ready for them, it is vital that your retail space is designed to be future-proofed. 

Building in moveable millwork components or interchangeable display systems are two great, budget-conscious ways that we like to future proof a space. Having the ability to rearrange your product displays gives you versatility; making it easy for you to pivot as customer needs change and the industry evolves. And with the total number of Canadian retail cannabis stores rising by 88% from March 2019 to July 2019 alone, you can bet that it will.

*Cutler recently partnered with Retail Insider as a sponsor for our Spacelist real estate page. Visit our real estate page to search for and upload commercial listings. For more information on Cutler and its design work, visit: www.cutlerdc.com

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