A “seed-to-experience” model that focuses on consumer experience in the cannabis market can help companies with product development.
Companies focused on consumer experience in the cannabis market might have an advantage over their peers.
These are big days for the medical cannabis industry. Now legal or about to become legal in a growing number of jurisdictions, recreational adult use cannabis is one of the fastest growing consumer products in the world.
Of course, in order to sustain that growth as the industry develops, cannabis companies need to innovate and further strengthen their product offerings. To do this, cannabis companies of all types should be looking towards their most valuable resource, their customers.
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By engaging directly with their consumers, cannabis businesses, be they recreational or medically focused, can create a valuable feedback loop that can help them develop more refined cannabis strains, determine the optimal dosage amounts, and dream up new and innovate cannabis products.
It might seem like an obvious concept. After all, businesses have been gauging customer satisfaction for decades. But in a market like legal cannabis, where so much is still developing, there is a world of vital insight that is still to be mined and the basic means of gathering consumer insights will not cut it for companies that want to truly take advantage.
In the cannabis industry, ‘seed to sale’ has become the motto for vertically integrated companies looking to optimize the entire supply chain for maximum quality and efficiency. What these companies could be doing, however, is extending this process to include the customer experience with the product after the sale. Instead of seed to sale, companies looking to optimize their product development can implement a ‘seed-to-experience’ model.
Consumer experience in the cannabis market
Right now, whether we’re talking about medical or recreational cannabis, there is a lot of variability in the cannabis experience, and there is just as much variability in what each individual consumer is looking for in that experience. For the recreational user base, not everyone is looking to get intensely high when they take a puff from their vape pen. In fact, for a large portion of recreational users, an overly intense experience could be enough to put them off cannabis for good.
Similarly, medical cannabis users will look for a wide variety of different effects ranging from anxiety relief to treatment of chronic pain to more niche needs like prevention of epileptic seizures and much more. Cannabis is far from a one size fits all medicine and a strain that is great for physical pain relief may have counterproductive effects when used for anxiety.
Companies are spending significant resources on research and development in order to refine their offerings to these specific consumer needs while keeping those offerings broad enough to maintain a wide appeal. It’s a fine line to walk and one that makes the insights generated from a seed-to-experience approach remarkably valuable.
It has been not quite five years since the state of Colorado became the first legal jurisdiction in the world to legalize cannabis and build a consumer industry around the product. Five years is not quite enough time to develop a strong picture of the cannabis consumer, especially considering that the reasons people use cannabis and what they want from the experience vary so widely. What this comes down to is the fact that reliable cannabis consumer data is rare and valuable, and right now the best way to get that data is by crowdsourcing.
There are plenty of avenues for crowdsourcing data from cannabis consumers. Consumers can opt in to contribute survey data, or data could be collected by use of consumer-focused digital apps. More elaborate setups have even used biosensor data from internet-of-things connected devices like smartwatches. Some cannabis companies have partnered with research firms and academic institutions to analyze and interpret this valuable data.
While just about every cannabis company can benefit from this type of after-sale consumer engagement, it’s vertically integrated companies that will truly be able to take full advantage. A vertically integrated cannabis business is able to take data generated during and after a retail experience and apply it nearly on the fly to the product at its earliest stages in the supply chain. If data suggests, for example, that a particular strain is not producing the desired results for the target consumer, that strain can be swapped out or modified in future grows. If consumer feedback suggests quality issues that can be addressed in the shipping and handling process, a fully vertically integrated company will be best equipped to make the necessary changes in operation.
Gathering and applying experience data
Oregon-based licensed cannabis producer Grown Rogue was one of the cannabis companies to adopt the seed-to-experience model. The company’s approach to seed to experience centers around gathering and analyzing customer feedback through the Rogue Study, a scientifically-based survey developed in partnership with the University of Santa Barbara. Customers can fill out the survey on Grown Rogue’s website and, according to the company, the results present an accurate picture of the psychological and physiological status of the consumer prior to and within 30 minutes of consumption.
With this information, Grown Rogue is able to get a better idea of its product’s performance and gain vital insights into how various attributes, product types, dosage amounts and strains affect the consumer experience and tailor the company’s offerings accordingly. This research also allows for the development of effective function branding targeted at addressing consumer experiences.
Cannabis tech company Cannvas Medtech (CSE:MTEC) is another business looking to generate data on how consumers are experiencing cannabis. The company has deployed a platform called Cannvas.me which will provide users with educational resources while using user submitted info to create insights into the wants, needs and experience of the cannabis consumer. Lift & Co. (TSXV:LIFT) has developed a similar platform that aims to the “Trip Advisor for cannabis,” collecting and aggregating consumer cannabis reviews and using that crowdsourced data to provide retailers with consumer insights.
Understanding the consumer experience in the cannabis market is key to improvement and innovation in the cannabis space. In this new industry, there’s still so much to learn about the user experience and those insights will provide opportunity to create the best experience possible for cannabis customers.
This article was originally published on the Investing News Network in November 2018.