Heather Haselwood
Mar 24 · 5 min read

The cannabis and hemp industry has a problem. As legalization sweeps across the United States and other countries around the world, the industry is suddenly faced with a new problem that didn’t exist before — competition. How can a small edibles entrepreneur compete with Silicon Valley backed start-ups? What about when CBD is readily available at CVS?

We saw this same question emerge during the 2000s when app development was booming. Apps and digital products of varying degrees of practicality and usefulness flooded the market, no one really knew where any of it was going, somehow everyone but you was getting rich, and our idea of what a digital experience drastically changed. If you tried to tell someone in the 90s that you were starting a company that allowed strangers from the internet to come sleep in your home, people would have looked at you like you were insane. Now that company is Airbnb.

The big differentiator in the tech industry became user experience (UX). The idea was simple and yet difficult to execute–know your users better than anyone else, design experiences they really want, make your products easy to use, and your users will love you. So what can the cannabis industry learn from the recent successes and failures of the tech boom of the last decade? To avoid a price war with CVS brand CBD differentiate with your customer experience. From boutique experiences designed for connoisseurs to the local neighborhood weed shop, know your customer and cater to their particular issues. Give your customers a flawless experience, with solutions designed for their actual problems. Not convinced? Here’s 10 Reasons why the Cannabis and Hemp Industry need customer experience designers (CX).

  1. Heavy Hitters Are Prepping For Legalization
    Big companies are not able to move into the space yet, leaving you the ability to create boutique experiences that can’t be authentically replicated by big-box companies.
  2. Experience Design is Already Proven as a Differentiator
    There are already countless business examples of companies differentiating due to its well-crafted experience design. Apple, Airbnb, Uber, Postmates, Spotify, Ikea, Bose… and the list goes on.
  3. Your Competition is Still Just Thinking About Logos
    Thinking about entire experiences puts you ahead of the game. A lot of cannabis entrepreneurs starting out know they need to be concerned about their brand, but their thinking is limited to logos, visual packaging design, and wondering what they can/can’t post on social media. You need to be thinking about what problems your product is solving, who are you solving it for, how are customers thinking about you before and after their interaction with you, and so much more. While other cannapreneurs are trying to figure out how to create a Facebook ad, you can elevate your business by thinking of entire end-to-end experiences.
  4. Until Marketing Regulations Change, Word of Mouth is King
    While we’re working to unmuddy the waters of cannabis marketing regulations, your customers are talking about you behind your back. Are you giving them the tools they need to sell you to their friends? We’re in a very strange place regarding what we can and can’t message on a mass scale, so make sure your customers have an experience they want to talk about to other people, and can describe.
  5. New Cannabis Users are Intimidated
    We have an obligation to help people find the right way to use cannabis. Many older customers are discovering the world of cannabis products for the first time and need to be walked through their options. Yes, they can talk to a budtender, but are they trained on how to talk to new cannabis users? What is bringing that new user to cannabis anyway? What are the products that would most appeal to them? Customer research and new customer programs can create a comforting experience that related back to #4, word of mouth.
  6. Cannabis Stigma Still Exists
    While cannabis can be a lucrative business, this industry is unique in how it comes together as a community to fight stigma and misinformation. You owe it to the entire industry to have the type of professional polish that comes with designing delightful cannabis experiences. All ships rise with the tide.
  7. High-Income and Sophisticated Customers See Holes
    You may think your dispensary thinks about customer experiences, but if your customers work in industries like tech or entertainment as many do in Los Angeles, your customers can see the holes in your services. If you’re catering to high-end consumers understand that they expect flawless service and will continue to be more demanding about this as more and more businesses start to adapt.
  8. Customers Are Willing To Pay For Premium Experiences
    Why does someone pay extra for the latte from Intelligencia Coffee vs. Starbucks? Small coffee roster shops offer unique connoisseur experiences and oftentimes a superior product. If you are catering to cannabis-snobs, what kind of experience are you offering them?
  9. Your Employees Jobs Will Be Easier
    Have you ever gone to a restaurant and noticed the staff seem lost? Maybe someone from the back is yelling at the expeditor or you see someone rushing back and forth across the floor. Your experience as a diner is affected and you notice the restaurant has some chaos happening in the back. By having a well-defined experience you make your employees happier because they know how their jobs fit into the big picture. Help your employees help your customers by providing them the tools they need to focus on selling and not confusing inventory practices.
  10. Cannabis is Playing the Long Game
    This list doesn’t apply to you if your goal is to set up shop overnight, take in all the cash you can for a day and then move on to the next town to do it again. The cannabis industry is here to stay, so let’s set ourselves up for long-term success. Using this grace period when big business can’t enter to create meaningful customer experiences will keep small cannabis in the game for years to come.

If you found this interesting, give us some claps! We are excited to continue writing on this topic and sharing how experiences shape brands.

If you’re in the Los Angeles area, join other cannabis entrepreneurs at our Meetup for workshops, seminars, and other events. Cannabis CX Meetup.

Smolder seeks to educate the growing Cannabis Industry on how Customer Experience (CX) can create lasting products, dispensaries, and brands.


Educating Cannabis Brands & Entrepreneurs on Customer Experience (CX) Design

Heather Haselwood

Written by

Experience Designer | Founder at Smolder



Educating Cannabis Brands & Entrepreneurs on Customer Experience (CX) Design

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