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Experiential Design and why you need it in your dispensary

Mary Modern rendering

You see a new dispensary on the block and decide to check it out. The exterior has a beachy, 60’s vibe and you’re curious. When you walk in, you can feel the salt heavy air, somehow smell the ocean. (the gooood kind of ocean smell.) Visually you can see that pristine pop of ocean blue here and there, mixed with sandy creams and wave washed woods. Wait, is it sunny in here? Are you hearing waves? So you check out the products in these pilon type displays and you find packaging that looks like it is from a vintage Steve McQueen film. Every detail feels expensive and cool, right down to the lighting and hardware. You’ve never been here before, but you’re definitely going to remember this and definitely tell your friend group. And probably buy a hat.

This is experiential design in a nutshell.

The dream vision for cannabis dispensaries combines multiple sense- touching points within the space. Apple store vibes aren’t going to be able to compete with a dispensary like this. It is called experiential, because it’s an experience.

Planet 13 experiential design

Another great way to immerse your customer in your brand is to offer adjacent hybrid areas within your dispensary. These flex areas could be something engaging and fun like an arcade or VR room, or even something more peace- inducing and tranquil like a greenhouse or aquarium. Or an onsite zen garden. Customers love being transported to a new place and interior retail design is absolutely the coolest way to do it.

This can also tie into the recent social media trend, ASMR where you can experience a tingly euphoric feeling triggered by a carefully created clip. Love it or hate it, your customers are experiencing it, talking about it and sharing it. Just one more example of the way our created environment can sway the senses away from the everyday meh’s and off to somewhere extraordinary.

Sounds expensive, right?

Yes, it absolutely can be. Expect to add 30-50% to your design and build out budgets. The increased costs arise from the added considerations like sound, smell and interactive digital media. You may spend more in merchandising too, ensuring that your products are elevated in a way that matches your experience.

Experiential dispensary design can also absolutely fail if you do it half assed. It’s not one of those things you simply add in later. (not without a complete shut down and massive overhaul.) Layered and detailed design of this nature will require you to hire a professional designer well versed in not only interior retail but hospitality, guest experience and the cannabis industry. Your team will need to be fully onboard and dedicated to this unique and exciting dispensary design.

Designer: Shoos Design; the Woods West Hollywood

Designer: Shoos Design; the Woods West Hollywood

But here’s the thing- you can’t not afford to integrate experiential design into your dispensary if you want to be a destination dispensary. People aren’t going to keep coming back for a cool mural, they’re going to expect the full package after they visit a space they’ve shopped at with all their senses engaged. Everything else is going to seem, vanilla.

Mary Modern Dispensary design