With legalization sweeping across the country, the cannabis category is evolving just like any other successful mainstream market – with scale and diversity. MRI-Simmons reported that 22% of the total population now consume cannabis or CBD, a 38% increase from 2018 to 2019. The report also showed more than 56% of U.S. adults support legalization. 

As more markets begin to roll out legal cannabis programs and attitudes continue to shift among the U.S. population, there will be an explosion of “new” cannabis consumers across the country. Two consumer groups stand out, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic: new-to-cannabis consumers and new-to-legal cannabis consumers. While both enjoy cannabis, their path to purchase is different and likely requires tailored marketing strategies. 

New-To-Cannabis Consumers

The first group, new-to-cannabis consumers, are comprised of people just starting their journey into the cannabis and CBD market. This group generally has little experience in the space and lacks sufficient knowledge in the field to make informed purchase decisions. They want to experience all or specific benefits of cannabis products but might not know where or how to get started. 

New to the category but excited about its potential, these canna-curious customers will be far less familiar with product offerings, dosage guidelines, and the dispensary shopping experience in general, so they will look to brands as the trusted source of guidance at the beginning of their cannabis journeys.  

Marketing Tip: Help new cannabis consumers confidently take their first step into the market by providing them with content that makes shopping feel simple, safe and fun: 

  • Plan a virtual activation or live stream event that invites consumers to learn first-hand about the ease of access, convenience, and your product offerings first hand by experts in the space 

  • Devote a section on your site to cannabis education that provides specific purchasing advice relevant to your product portfolio 

  • Run remarketing campaigns targeting website visitors who have previously engaged with your educational content but have not checked out. These ads should reiterate messaging around shopping best practices, safety, and ease of access. 

New-To-Legal Cannabis Consumers

While net new cannabis consumers represent a massive market (and marketing) opportunity, there’s an even bigger group emerging: established consumers who are new to the world of legal cannabis but not new to cannabis consumption.

These new-to-legal cannabis consumers are made up of experienced cannabis consumers transitioning from the black market to brick-and-mortar buying. And thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, the shift to legal retail is accelerating as consumers choose personal safety over lower prices associated with unregulated environments.

study conducted by the University of Waterloo School of Public Health in July 2020 found that across Alaska, California, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington State, 40.3% of respondents perceived legal cannabis to be safer to use, 59.2% perceived legal cannabis to be more convenient to buy, and 56.1% perceived legal cannabis to be safer to purchase. 

New-to-legal consumers are driving growth in markets across the country. In Michigan, for example, recreational cannabis sales surpassed medical sales for the first time in the week of 6/15 and had grown nearly 800% overall since December of 2019.

Unlike cannabis consumers new to the category, new-to-legal cannabis has established product understanding, preferences and routines. And their purchasing behaviors indicate that they prioritize convenience and efficiency above all. For example, Fyllo campaign data for May and June shows that the majority of checkout activity is happening in the early morning and afternoon. What’s more, consumers have been shifting their purchasing behavior to earlier in the week. In May, nearly 53% of total sales volume took place on Friday-Sunday. In June, only 45% of purchases were made on the weekend, with buying on Monday and Tuesday increasing by 74% and 36% respectively.

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This shift to shopping earlier in the week tells us two things about new-to-legal cannabis consumers. First, they shop at times and on days when dispensaries are less crowded and wait times are shorter. And second, they are purchasing cannabis like any other essential product bought on a routine basis.

Marketing Tip: Resonate with new-to-legal cannabis consumers by tailoring your messaging to highlight ease and efficiency. 

  • Choose a specific CTA for your ad creative  (e.g., “Curbside pickup,” “Delivery,” “Pre-order”) 

  • Implement time-focused ad copy that speaks into the efficiency demands of these consumers (e.g., “Delivered in Minutes” and “Same Day Pickup”)

  • Offer promotional incentives and/or subscription services for loyal consumers looking to buy with you each week. 

As the number of legal cannabis markets in the US grows, new consumers will grow exponentially. And while new-to-cannabis and new-to-legal consumers have unique needs that marketers must acknowledge, both groups represent massive opportunities for cannabis companies looking to grow their customer base.   

Want to learn more about how you can grow your cannabis customer base with digital advertising? Get in touch with Fyllo’s media solutions team today. 

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