Edibles continue to garner attention and headlines in cannabis. And with good reason. Edibles have emerged as one of the fastest growing product categories in sales and consumer adoption. In a recent proprietary study by High Yield Insights on cannabis consumer attitudes and behavior, 41% of current users in adult use states reported using more edibles post-legalization. Combined with an explosion of innovation, creative social media marketing, and enticing names, it’s easy to see why so many eyes and dollars have turned to edibles.
As the category attracts new entrants and investment, leveraging insights will separate winners from losers. With companies in other customer facing industries with physical stores—from consumer packaged goods to banking—fully integrating customer journeys into their strategic decision-making, the time has come for cannabis to take a similar approach. With more consumers’ from all demographics entering cannabis on a daily basis, it’s imperative that the industry understand the hows and whys of the edible customer journey.
The Edible Customer Is Different
The customer that prefers edible is not your everyday cannabis customer. High Yield Insights identified that those consumers who prefer edibles are more likely to be lighter users (using one time or less per month), newer to using (less than 5 years), female, college educated and high-income earners. And while we think of edibles as a fun product for adult use occasions, cannabis users who identify as using for medical purposes are just as likely to report edibles are their preferred form as recreational users. This interest level among medical users opens up new opportunities for manufacturers, from long-lasting pain relief to micro dosages. For any user group, manufacturers and dispensaries play a critical role in creating a positive usage experience for these customers, potentially turning occasional users into regular customers.
Right Conversation at the Right Time
For many customers, the edible purchase decision starts with a discussion. In High Yield Insights’ Consumers and Edibles report, talking to a dispensary associate was the most cited decision-driver, with 56% of all edible purchasers reporting they used such discussions to drive their purchase. This advice seeking was even higher among older edible users, those aged 45+ who may be returning to cannabis after a long lay off or who use cannabis sparingly.
Edibles present a vast range of options to meet the needs of these consumers, from indulgence to relaxation to alleviating pain. However the industry can’t rely on the classic retail marketing maxim – “the first moment of truth” – when browsers can be converted to buyers in a store aisle. Sitting behind glass (much less “behind the curtain”) as edibles often do minimizes the effectiveness of on-pack messaging. Properly trained dispensary staff require a long learning curve, and the nature of cannabis and its varying effects on users can make that all the more difficult. That said, customers are looking for guidance and getting bad information at the outset of the journey is going to make for a poor experience further down, turning away a would-be customer.
Getting to the Product: Form, Flavor, Price, Potency
Typically, after discussing what they hope to get out of an experience, most edible customers zero in on the edible form, such as gummies, brownies, chocolates or cookies. Slightly more than half (52%) based their edible purchase decision on the form of the edible or infusion. And it’s important to note that when customers report a desire for a specific form, they are stating more than a preference for one food type over another. That may be part of their decision, of course, but so too may be portability, discretion, calories, satiety—considerations that go into deciding what to eat, well, anything.
On balance, edible consumers act like any other food and beverage consumer. After deciding on a particular form, their next two considerations are flavor and price. Two-thirds of edible customers report basing purchase decisions on flavor and price point. Even though an edible may only be savored for a few seconds, and even though an edible purchase may only occur once a quarter, old habits are hard (impossible, maybe) to break.
What is unique to cannabis is the role of potency. The potency of an edible plays a key role in choosing one edible over another for 56% of edible customers, a figure that jumps to 62% for those who earn over $100K annually. Here is where manufacturers-dispensary collaboration could pay off for the customer. While cannabinoid levels may be required on packaging, these newer customers may not be fully aware of the difference between 5 MG of THC and 10 MG of CBD, all of which underscores the importance of in-store guidance.
What About Non-Users
Edibles may be growing, but in High Yield Insights’ survey, only 21% of customers reported using edibles today. So, what’s holding back the other 79%? Comments from non-edible users range from uncertainty (“Not sure how I would react or how much to consume”) to disappointment (“My experience one time was I got too high for my liking”). These are early days for edibles, relative to many other categories, but setting the right expectations and informing consumers on appropriate usage are necessary steps for continued growth.
We are only now starting to get a picture of how large edibles and infused cannabis products can be, but clearly more needs to be done. Consumers want to know what they are getting into when they bite into a brownie, and they are looking toward industry players to provide them with that information. Through understanding the journey consumers are taking, industry players should identify those steps where they can inject useful and customer-friendly information that moves the category forward. And while purchases may occur in the walls of a dispensary, both dispensaries and manufacturers should identify those steps where they can support one another, all with the goal of improving the customer experience.