The buyer is perhaps the most coveted role in the cannabis ecosystem. They choose what goes on the shelf and how much, taking into account the consumer’s preferences, best-selling products, sales, trends, and seasons.
We asked some brilliant buyers what they look for in a brand. How to stand out on the shelf. What consumers desire to see on shelves in the modern dispensary. From mom-and-pop retail storefronts to massive distributors, here’s some actionable advice from buyers on what cannabis brands can do in order to succeed in the competitive marketplace.
What makes a cannabis brand stand out?
“A new brand stands out to us by having a striking brand identity and packaging, a substantive and compelling company story, and by offering a product that meets or exceeds our expectations through quality and overall experience,” says Camille Roistacher, Founder & CEO at WYLLOW, an immersive, artful dispensary in Los Angeles. “It’s important for us to know that everything we carry in the store is something we would either consume ourselves, or would be proud to share with family and friends.”
“Packaging, pricing, quality, and support,” says Ty Mehra, buyer for Atrium Dispensary, a popular retail storefront in Topanga. “Be unique and be prepared. If it’s priced wrong or packaging is ugly, it’s an instant no for me.”
“A new brand has to fill a void in our current assortment, whether it be pricing, regional demand, packaging or innovative marketing/promotional strategies,” says Jason Bridges, buyer for Amuse, one of the largest delivery companies with outposts across the state. He says Amuse focuses on having a wide range of options for consumers, relying on an “assortment strategy that is inclusive of all categories/subcategories, and a mixture of price points within each.”
Here are 15 actionable tips from buyers to brands.
- Edible innovations, please. “I’ll be looking for more innovation in the edible market this year,” says Bridges. “I would love to have success with another type of edible. I’ll also be looking for more fast-acting options and micro-dosed edibles. Speaking for myself, I would love to be able to consume an entire bag of gummies.”
- Collaboration is King: “I would also like to see more brand collaborations this year, especially across different categories,” says Bridges. These collaborations appear between flower and concentrate companies, edible companies and clothing lines, and more.
- Roll it up: Data shows the pre-roll category continues to thrive. Bridges and data from Amuse sales both agree. “We’ve definitely seen an increase in pre-roll sales this year,” he says. “Infused pre-rolls, in particular, continue to generate extremely high demand.”
- Size matters: Eighths have long been the most popular size of flower sold. But the weight that consumers buy is increasing says Bridges. “We’re seeing increasing demand for ounces so we’re continuing to invest in more of those specifically.”
- Accessible concentrates: “Opening price point concentrates have been experiencing extremely high sell-throughs as well,” says Bridges.
- Focus on your strengths: “I would suggest focusing on what makes your brand different or interesting,” says Bridges. “Also, research the retailers you’re meeting with and familiarize yourself with their current menu and pricing so you have an idea of where or how you might fit in.”
- Connect on a personal level: “Be more invested in the long-term relationship than the transaction,” says Roistacher. “The cannabis industry requires tenacity in order to succeed; however, the community is still relatively small and supportive of one another. We look for authentic interactions where we can connect as humans first and entrepreneurs second.”
- Tell a story: “We want to know the story behind you and your brand so we can find the synergy that will carry over to the salesfloor if we decide to bring on your product,” says Roistacher. Her WYLLOW storefront is unique in its whimsical design, hyper-focused curation of products, and sensory storytelling experience. The brands on the shelf align with the ethos of the store. “Our buying decisions are dictated by quality, consumer requests, and a strong focus on carrying women-led, underrepresented minority-owned and BIPOC brands.”
- Trust the consumer, they know what they want: “The majority of our customers seem to know what they want when they walk through our doors. To us, this signals the maturation of the cannabis consumer,” says Roistacher. “Education still happens, even with experienced consumers, but the shopping confidence has significantly risen and we find this to be exciting as we expand our offerings, such as flower that contains a variety of cannabinoids and drinkables that promise different social experiences.”
- Convenience never goes out of style: “Vapes have come back in a big way–-both disposable and carts,” says Roistacher. “Convenience and the discreet form factor seem to be guiding these purchasing decisions. Pre-rolls continue to be big sellers and consumers seem to want both mini pre-rolls and 1 gram sizes.”
- Beverages rule, if you know how to market them: Beverages have been a big seller for Atrium in the last year, says Mehra. “I started with 2 fridges on my sales floor and now have 8 fridges full of beverages. People will buy cases upon cases of beverages at a time, and we are only growing that category.” Atrium marketed the hell out of them, says Mehra, through an interactive monthly event. “I have grown this product by doing a Farmers Market on the last Saturday of every month. It’s our customer appreciation day where we showcase brands (mostly beverage brands) in our parking lot and let customers walk thru the farmers market and learn about the brands. This has been one of the main reasons we have been selling so many beverages at our location.”
- Samples paint the picture: “Send metric samples and make sure that they were received before you even try to pitch me,” Mehra says. “It’s even better when they send staff samples for the whole staff prior to any sales pitch.”
- Research the store stats beforehand: “You must know your analytics for your store and have the numbers in your head or at least run data in your meetings before you purchase,” Mehra says. “I am constantly running data every day to see sell thru and analyzing why particular products sell. There are a lot of factors in place between all the categories of different products. I research their competitors and compare wholesale. Research the store and know the demographics so the sales pitch coincides with traffic of the store.”
- Embrace the daily promo: “Our store is known for daily promos,” says Mehra. “Typically, we have about 25 to 30 BOGO deals across almost all categories so our customers can get a buy one get one every day of the week.”
- Don’t give up: Buyers receive a lot of communication. Don’t stop following up and fine-tuning your brand’s pitch. Mehra says that brands “must be diligent and have maniacal follow thru.”