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How To Make The First Impression Count For Your Dispensary

“You need a store that is very approachable, very welcoming, that allows each of those customers to come in and have their own journey at their own pace.”
-Joe Caltabiano, Cresco Labs

As a retail interior designer, I give a lot of thought to how certain aspects of the customer experience should drive the design. If I were your ideal customer (a busy working mom, who likes to cut loose on the weekends, travels, and works out), what would make me want to tell my friends about your store? What would make me want to opt-in to all of your ventures? And what would make me become a repeat, loyal customer?

This is a small step to figuring out what your customer journey should look like. Once you figure out who your customer is, it’s time to appeal to them personally and get them to spend while in your store.

From the moment they google your business or notice your new store walking down the street, your customer will make a quick YES/NO decision on whether it’s a place they want to spend their time or not. When it’s a YES, the customer journey begins.

It really is important to tell your story with each piece of the puzzle. Making your space personal, your vibe cohesive, and ensuring all roads pointing back to why you got into this industry will create a connection to your customer that is strong and lasting.

Everyone knows the story of Apple: Jobs & Wozniak with spare parts in a garage…we know the start-up stories of the big companies because they chose to tell us. The story is deliberate. It helps them connect to the average person and gives a common point of connection. It’s important to do this with your cannabis or hemp dispensary as well. Tell your story. Trust me, people want to hear it. In my design map sessions, I hear the most amazing and unique reasons why people want to go for their license and open a dispensary. The reasons range from personal tragedy to petty incarceration and jaded boyfriends. It motivates me to incorporate it into their retail interior design. Art is a great communicator and people understand it when it’s done well.

First Impression

Retail design is a lot like a deodorant commercial: you’ve only got one chance to make a first impression. The waiting room/entry is that first chance.

  • Is there a welcoming, comfortable place to wait? What does this space say about your brand? If it looks like a doctor’s office waiting room, it’s time to update. What do you want your customers to be doing while they’re waiting?
  • Where is the first place your customers will see your logo? How prominent is it and does your interior look reflect what your logo and brand say about you?
  • Who is the first person your customers will talk to and how do they interact? Instead of just asking for the customer’s ID, maybe they pair the shopper with a budtender. Or they offer materials to browse while waiting that match the customer’s needs. Pre-loaded ipads are great for this and can make for a seamless shopping experience.

Last Impressions

I personally shop various retail cannabis & hemp dispensaries often and have a few things I think about after I leave.

  • How long did it take me to find what I wanted? Did anyone help me decide what I should try next? How easy was it for the employee to lead me to what they wanted me to see? (Ever notice how some stores move products around all the time which leads to a few weeks of employee confusion? This can be really annoying for customers.)
  • Did the product placement in the store make sense? Costco is a pretty good example of this. Kayaks next to tents. Coffee next to cereal. Protein powder next to Tylenol. The same general idea should happen in a retail cannabis dispensary. Health and beauty together, edibles together, vapes together. Don’t group all the sativa in the same section. A customer won’t venture to the other side to try something new. Merchandising trick: Organize a product group by potency, left to right with the highest potency on the right.
  • (Here’s the big one.) What was their story? Do I care about it? Here is where the big brands lose me. Every location is identical and gives me no indication of their “why” other than to take my money.

This industry is new and we have an excellent opportunity to smash the stereotypes with fresh ideas and new players. Those ideas come from you and your story. You can trust that your ideal customer will seek you out and support you if you open yourself up and allow them to see the “why” behind why you do what you do. Tell them why you care, why you’ve invested all your time and money into retail cannabis, why you want them happy, and why you started your business in the first place. Putting your personal stamp on your dispensary will set you up for a successful, long life in the cannabis industry.