by Ray Ko of shopPOPdisplays
Retailers from all walks of life are trying to figure out how to merchandise products that, pre-pandemic, would be offered using “try before you buy” tactics to entice people to make a purchase. Clothing stores had dressing rooms. Makeup stores had countertop sampling displays. Food purveyors offered edibles from self-service bins.
In some ways, the heavily regulated nature of the cannabis industry has put its retailers at an advantage when it comes to visual merchandising—they’ve had to be creative because, especially with adult-use customers, they’ve never been able to set up any type of “try before you buy” scenario. In many states, it’s even illegal for shoppers to bring their own items to the checkout counter. That makes selling an inherently experiential product a game of sight instead of taste, smell, or touch.
With cannabis becoming ever more mainstream, cannabis purveyors have taken an increasingly sophisticated approach to store design. Here are a few things to consider when implementing or refreshing a visual merchandising approach.
Consider the entire space
Floors, walls, ceilings, and countertops should all be utilized from a visual perspective, regardless of square footage. Wall-mounted shelving and wall-mounted pedestals make the most of vertical space. So do tall display cases. Waist-high displays that shoppers can walk around and look into from above work well in the center of a room. Locking display boxes and display cases can be used atop counters as space allows. Eye-catching and strategically placed signage, whether wall-mounted or suspended from the ceiling, can draw people to specific items or areas of the store and provide important educational information.
Consider the traffic flow
People tend to turn to their right when they enter a store, and cannabis retailers should be strategic about what they encounter there. It’s not the best place to put the budtender/checkout counter, because that only serves to bottleneck traffic and keep people from casting an eye about the rest of the shop. The goal in this space is to entice new customers to explore the store and give regular customers something new to think about. Signage that touts specials and intriguing products is a good choice, along with nearby displays of those items with adequate educational info for newcomers. Be sure there’s room for people to linger without impeding those who are coming in for a quick pick-up. That level of awareness is essential for every display in the store. No one wants to feel as if they’re infringing on another’s personal space, whether they’re there to browse or move right to the budtenders.
Make good lighting a priority
Since customers are often prohibited from picking up any cannabis-containing products in a dispensary on their own accord, the ability to examine them adequately without touching is paramount. Overhead lighting alone is not enough. For one, it will be blocked by the customer anytime they bend over to look inside a counter display. Many shelving units and product display cases come with, or can be outfitted with, lighting from above, beneath, or either side. Mirrors can also be incorporated to give people a 360-degree view. Consider what a person will want to know about a product and illuminate it accordingly—preferably inside a lockable display that doesn’t impede viewing. Displays made of optically clear acrylic are a good choice because they’re lightweight and shatter-resistant (especially as compared to glass).
Use acrylic blocks to add interest
Arranging products at different heights and angles on shelves or under counters serves many purposes. Acrylic blocks are the Swiss Army knife of displays because they come in a wide variety of dimensions and can be used to call attention to small items, create groups of complementary items and add a level of cachet to any product placed atop them. Since acrylic itself is optically clear, it can be tinted any color to complement a brand or particular look. And, acrylic is infinitely malleable, so custom pieces can be designed to accommodate any product or space.
Choose cannabis-specific displays
Cannabis shops can utilize a variety of cannabis retail displays to showcase the products they sell or have specific displays designed to suit their needs. Cannabis display pods highlight, preserve and protect buds while allowing customers to fully experience terpene aromas without handling the product itself. As well, there are cannabis display pod spikes that enable a full view of your product, enabling customers to see the fine details of each bud. Bud jars can be customized with colored spike inserts and/or placed in display pod holders showcasing multiple jars. We’ve also created displays shaped to hold vape products.
Ray Ko has been creating effective visual merchandising strategies for retailers for more than twenty years. Today, he is the senior ecommerce manager for shopPOPdisplays, a leading designer and manufacturer of stock and custom retail displays that helps brick-and-mortar and ecommerce stores of all sizes, across all industries, showcase their products to drive sales.