With Oct. 17 officially ushering in the ‘cannabis 2.0’ era in Canada, research firm MiQ has released a study outlining how Canadians are conducting online research and the tactics licensed producers (LPs) use to reach them in a heavily regulated environment.
According to Blazing a Trail: The Future of Cannabis Marketing in Canada, Canadians are very curious about cannabis. There are more than 300,000 cannabis-related searches every day, with queries ranging from cannabis news to information on the varieties of cannabis and their relative impact on health.
The three types of cannabis customers
MiQ breaks down the cannabis audience into three distinct segments:
- Active users: People who have been consuming for some time and have a sense of what they’re looking for. They comprise just over one-third (34%) of the total cannabis audience.
- Experimenters: A mix of existing customers who like to try different types of cannabis offerings, and potential new customers still searching for the right product for their needs. This is a younger-skewing cluster, with 43% between 18 and 34.
- Researchers: This group is not yet big on cannabis consumption, but is keen to stay informed. Nearly one-third (32%) of this group seeks out cannabis news, compared with just 5% of experimenters and 3% of active users.
While nearly half of all cannabis users are ready to explore and experiment, the sheer number of options can lead to what the study calls “decision paralysis” that makes it difficult for them to navigate the crowded space.
The three groups also have distinct habits when it comes to their online activity. Active users, for example, spend an average of five minutes and 28 seconds on an LP’s site, looking at an average of seven pages (with “Find a store” most frequently their final page).
Experimenters spend 4:17 on a site and look at four pages, with their session typically ending on a product description page. Researchers spend 2:13 on a site and look at two pages, with news typically their final stop.
Roll another number
According to MiQ, men are 43% more likely than women to research cannabis online, while people 45 and older are more likely to conduct online research. People under 45, meanwhile, are 1.4 times more likely to use an online store locator.
In addition, consumers who live alone, particularly those in urban areas, are 2.4 times more likely than those who live with a partner to consume cannabis, and 3.2 times more likely than those living with one or more child.
Connecting digital and online behaviour
MiQ also geo-fenced more than 125 cannabis dispensaries and retail outlets in five Canadian cities over two weeks, capturing 98,000 distinct footfalls to better understand cannabis consumers.
The key finding: Cross-visitation for cannabis stores is “marginal at best,” with buyers tending to favour a single outlet for all their needs. “It is imperative for cannabis retailers to make their case to local consumers and be aggressive online about driving traffic to their physical locations,” the study states.
The data showed that consumers in each city were more likely to visit cannabis retailers on weekdays, while just under one-quarter (23%) of visitors to a store/pharmacy read cannabis related content online both before and after their visit. Most people made a store visit within one week of visiting a retailer’s website.
“During these times, hyper-local campaigns and targeting strategies designed to bring passersby into the store can have the greatest impact and create new repeat customers,” the study concluded.
Using data from more than 17,000 consumers visiting 14 Montreal dispensaries over a one-month period, MiQ combined online metrics such as dwell time, volume of sessions consumed, types of sites (with cannabis content) with offline visitation frequency and the distance of store from their home or place of work to create a five-point scoring system for cannabis users.
The research identified 8% of shoppers as a “high yield” segment—highly likely to visit a store and drive revenue based on their online behaviour. MiQ recommends having an “aggressive bidding strategy” in place to attract this segment to retail locations.
The next step, it says, is to use lookalike models to expand this method to all consumers, deciding what a likely in-store visitor looks like in the broader audience in order to segment and quickly assign digital ad spend.
The challenge for marketers, the study said, is creating “actionable insights” that can be applied to digital marketing initiatives. As the market matures, the study said, it will be “essential” for cannabis marketers to align with media and data partners capable of helping with cross-media planning and testing and optimizing campaigns.
“The cannabis industry may be nascent, but the digital advertising industry is not, and the lessons we’ve learned over the past decade can be applied to drive results here in the same fashion they have elsewhere,” the study concludes.