Elevating the Retail Experience in Cannabis: What’s Missing and What’s Still to Come?
As cannabis legalization reaches five years and continues to reshape the retail landscape in Canada, both enthusiasts and entrepreneurs eagerly anticipate the evolution of the retail market. With the emergence of specialized and boutique retail stores, it’s time to examine what’s missing and how it can be enhanced to create a truly exceptional experience for consumers.
Toronto specifically has long been known for its diverse and vibrant retail offerings, but cannabis is still finding its feet in the city. While progress has been made in the last five years, there is ample room for improvement.
One key area for consideration is product variety. While licensed cannabis retailers do offer a range of options, there is still untapped potential to diversify the product landscape. With the Ontario Cannabis Store continuing to introduce new and innovative products to market, retailers are beginning to cater to a wider array of consumer preferences and needs.
One category still under scrutiny is Edibles. Though producers have brought forth forward thinking products to market, the THC limit imposed on this specific category continues to be the pitfall of acquiring new customers who do not want to consume anything combustable. The current legal limit of 10mg in Canada, which New York State also adopted, is perfect for new users entering the market. It does in fact steer away experienced users with a higher tolerance which in turn directly supports the sale of products through unregulated stores and services.
As of November 8 2023, NORML Canada has published a petition to increase edible limits from 10mg to 100mg per package. This petition is open for signatures until March 7 2024 and is being supported by MP Patrick Weiler.
Further, the integration of updated technology into the cannabis retail space could greatly enhance the overall experience for customers. Implementing user-friendly online ordering systems that compete with today’s current offerings, would be beneficial for the retail space as the options for “compliant” menus are limited and can become very expensive depending on the route taken when customization gets involved.
The industry would also celebrate mobile apps for browsing product availability and prices, outside of Uber Eats, though Uber does provide a unique experience for customers through its layout which has already been adopted by many.
Interactive in-store displays are sometimes not common in cannabis retail but they have the ability to provide shoppers with a more seamless and engaging experience. These could be considered “Self-Checkout Tablets” where customers can browse, learn and purchase at ease, in-store, at their will. Through these advancements, customers would easily access information about strain profiles, terpenes, product origins, recommended uses, and dosage instructions, empowering them to make informed decisions.
Retail cannabis still has room to grow.
In terms of physical space, Toronto, Ontario and Canada could benefit from cannabis retail stores that offer more than just the transactional aspect. Creating immersive environments where customers can learn about cannabis cultivation, extraction methods, or even participate in workshops could elevate the overall experience. These experiential spaces would not only educate consumers but also foster a sense of community and collaboration between the Licensed Retailer, Licensed Producer and Consumer.
While many existing cannabis retailers in Toronto are thriving, the market is eagerly anticipating the arrival of new players and rules with consumption on the mind of everyone involved. Additionally, micro-cultivators and craft cannabis producers are making a significant impact on market trends, offering unique and high-quality products to meet the demands of discerning cannabis consumers.
With Toronto’s diverse population and culture, there is an abundance of untapped potential waiting to be explored and the same could be said for the rest of the country. As new retail spaces prepare to open their doors, we can expect a highly competitive and more diverse market, driving innovation and raising the bar for customer experience. The anticipated launch of “cafes” where customers can consume cannabis on-site (while following Ontario’s Smoke-Free-Act), similar to Amsterdam’s famed “coffee shops,” promises to revolutionize the way Torontonians and tourists alike enjoy recreational use products.
In closing, while cannabis retail in Toronto is on the right track, there is still significant potential for growth and improvement. By focusing on product variety, integrating technology, creating immersive experiences, and pushing to embrace upcoming regulatory changes, retailers can redefine the cannabis landscape in Toronto and beyond, providing consumers with a truly memorable and exceptional experience.