(Bloomberg) -- Cannabis companies are joining their mainstream consumer-product peers in trying to reinvent the shopping experience.
For Jushi Holdings Inc., that means art exhibits at its Beyond/Hello stores, sage-and-citrus-scented candles and a desert theme to help customers feel like they’re not just in a staid dispensary. Under the direction of Andreas Neumann, a former rock photographer who is now the company’s chief creative officer, Jushi has also relaunched its website to give shoppers a more “frictionless experience.”
“We want to create a retail scene,” Neumann told me in a phone conversation last week. He compared the idea to a Starbucks Reserve or a Fred Segal, where you can find products that other establishments don’t have yet. He wants to make the stores “a place you want to hang out and talk and meet like-minded people.”
As more states legalize recreational use, cannabis companies are taking cues from mainstream retailers and trying to differentiate their brands with a sharper focus on the customer experience. After experimenting with celebrity partnerships and branded merchandise, some dispensaries are now rethinking their approach to the business, both digitally and in stores.
That comes naturally to Neumann, who has a background in creative advertising strategies. At Saatchi & Saatchi, he co-founded GUM, a division that disguised advertising as entertainment through efforts such as creating a hip-hop band that advertisers could have their product appear with. He joined Jushi, a Boca Raton, Florida-based company that sells in states including Pennsylvania, Illinois, Virginia and California, last year.
Non-traditional retail strategies can be key for marijuana companies, since federal illegality and even local laws make advertising a challenge. Building a brand identity is also particularly difficult as Covid-19 disrupts in-person shopping.
Jushi isn’t alone in trying to update the retail experience.
Online marketplace Leafly in February partnered with e-commerce provider Jane Technologies Inc. to help cannabis retailers offer a more robust digital experience, combining reviews from both platforms and Leafly’s strain database. Around the same time, Springbig, a Boca Raton-based software firm that does loyalty marketing, bought BudTender, a Canadian platform that collects customer feedback and does SMS surveys of customers.
In many ways, the cannabis industry is now just keeping pace with what many mainstream retailers are doing in trying to modernize shopping for post-pandemic consumers. Still, that doesn’t mean that celebrities and branded merch are a thing of the past.
Jushi’s desert scenes will also feature “Hanks Kerchiefs,” a line of bandannas made by Tom Hanks’ son, Colin.