Cannabis retail strategy, Cannabis education, demographics and product familiarity all help win over buyers

The trajectory of retail flower sales between January 2018 and September 2021 is shown in adult-use marijuana markets tracked by Seattle-based analytics company Headset. Adjusted to begin at the same point, the distinct growth patterns between states—California, orange; Colorado, dark blue; Nevada, pink; Oregon, green; and Washington, light blue—can be attributed to age of market, wholesale flower supply, retail density and other factors. Graphic by Katie Ruland

The marijuana industry has never been so replete with cannabis product formats: flower, vape cartridges, concentrates, edibles and infused beverages as well as topicals, tinctures, capsules and other offerings.

For marijuana executives, these choices present opportunities and challenges that are best navigated by understanding what consumers want from their cannabis products.

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Answering that question is especially tricky because marijuana consumers are so varied—different genders, age groups and income classes, to start—and their goals for cannabis consumption can be very different.

Nevertheless, sales data and anecdotal evidence reveal nationwide trends, although there is some variation by region and store.

For example, flower remains the No. 1 product format—although its market share has waned over time as different formats have become available and consumers have become more open to trying them. Flower is typically followed by vape cartridges, concentrates, edibles and infused beverages—then topicals and other products.

What compels consumers to buy certain cannabis products mostly depends on the individual, each customer’s goals and experience level with cannabis. Dispensary executives cite multiple factors that play into the decision, including:

  • Potency.
  • Effect.
  • Terpenes and secondary cannabinoids.
  • Familiarity.
  • Price.
  • Ease of use and convenience.
  • Extraction methods.
  • Aroma and taste.

Some of these attributes are important across product niches—such as potency and price—while others drive more interest to specific products. For example, “familiarity” played a significant role in driving new or return cannabis consumers to flower, edibles and infused beverages but less so with concentrates. “Ease and convenience,” meanwhile, helped drive pre-roll and vape cartridge sales but weren’t traits sought out by consumers of flower, concentrates and other formats.

Tide of trends

“They’ve become far more sophisticated,” Ann DeMarco, general manager at Highland Health, a recreational marijuana store in Trinidad, Colorado, said of cannabis consumers. “There’s so much information available now to consumers that they come in already with a lot of knowledge. Consumers become more sophisticated more quickly than a few years ago because budtenders are better educated about products than before and can pass that knowledge on to consumers.

“Eight to 10 years ago, you had to search and search and search to find reliable, accurate information.”

Now, DeMarco noted, “we have consumers coming in telling us about products we haven’t heard of. They ask about extraction methods, or if we carry the edibles with the new fast-acting nanotechnology.”

To see the full cover package including graphs and charts, visit “What Consumers Want” in the digital version of MJBizMagazine.