Few retail segments require the same level of hyper-personalization as cannabis, where meeting a shopper’s needs requires understanding their exact desires and usage plans on an extremely granular level. This makes the space a natural fit for a marketplace model, where dozens of smaller brands, each with its own strains and specialties, can have their products matched with the customer who would most benefit from them.
Palmer Jane is seeking to connect dispensaries and shoppers, particularly women, through a marketplace that provides curated educational content and matches local brands with interested customers in their area. The retailer, which will soon launch in Colorado before expanding across the U.S. and Canada, is building on the growing recognition of cannabis’ health and beauty benefits.
“The fact that this was deemed an essential business shows how important cannabis is to society, and it really shows the changing opinion into a more positive light,” said Katharine Leonard, Co-Founder of Palmer Jane in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “If you look at some of the statistics, in June  alone Colorado saw a 30% increase year-over-year in retail marijuana sales. According to [cannabis analysis firm] BDSA, the number of Colorado [residents] who have used cannabis in Q3 2020 was 42%, compared to 24% in Q3 2017.”
Shopper expectations for online transactions have also risen in the past year. Palmer Jane is working closely with solution provider VTEX to roll out the marketplace and make sure the transaction side of the business is as efficient and seamless as possible. VTEX has been collaborating and holding regular meetings with Palmer Jane on best practices for operating its site, which will be powered by the VTEX platform.
Appealing to First-Time Cannabis Users Requires a Curated Journey
Both Leonard and Co-Founder Holly Prohs have experience with the medicinal properties of cannabis and want to promote its applications to women, who have largely been outsiders in the industry thus far. Men make up over 60% of sales across all generations and spend more on average than women, according to data from Headset. To this end, Palmer Jane is joining mom groups and building word of mouth, with the goal of reaching a largely untapped market.
The Palmer Jane shopping experience is being built with first-time cannabis users in mind. The website will emphasize asking questions regarding important information like methods of consumption, desired effect and desired intensity level. This will help narrow down the selection for each customer, even for inexperienced shoppers.
“A lot of it comes down to terminology, and for our customers we don’t expect them to understand the industry terminology and jargon,” said Prohs in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “We’re really focusing on plain English, things that anyone can understand, to lead them down a personalized path to get the right product for them.”
A Marketplace Can Put an Emphasis on Marketing
Cannabis is operating under the same convenience-driven pressure that more traditional retail segments have experienced since the pandemic started, with the added wrinkle that education is an essential part of the customer journey. This can become even trickier when a dispensary is trying to target newcomers, who typically need more guidance than veterans who already have an idea of what works for them.
“A lot of [cannabis brands] don’t have the resources to invest in a really robust ecommerce shopping experience, and nowadays people’s expectations for ecommerce are very elevated,” said Prohs. “People expect to go onto an easy-to-use platform where they can have a very streamlined transaction, which is the first thing. The second thing is, many of these dispensaries don’t have the resources for an entire department devoted to marketing, especially not to the sort of customers who aren’t likely to go into the dispensary on their own.”
Palmer Jane will focus on both the marketing and education roles, bringing in new customers and saving dispensaries expensive budtender time, since associates can spend upwards of 15 to 20 minutes walking a single customer through the process of selecting the right cannabis product during a traditional visit. The marketplace also is ensuring that each brand’s identity still shines through on their product pages, by working closely with its partners to understand the exact effects and applications of their product offerings.
“We’re creating curated content, so we’re working really closely with the brands on their voice and what they want to be presented to the customer,” said Leonard. “We are selecting brands that we know fit the effect that our customers are looking for.”