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How COVID is Changing the Way People Shop for Cannabis

Danielle Poirier

5 Changes That Are Here to Stay

Change has struck the retail world; evolving from what was once a structured, in-person experience, to a world under lockdown. Businesses thrived off of their ability to be flexible and adapt to new ways of selling and providing services at a distance. For dispensaries, COVID has changed how people shop for cannabis indefinitely.

New consumer behaviours have formed since the beginning of the outbreak and it could mean that cannabis retail is in for a big change! People are getting used to, and enjoying the distance they can have while being able to purchase the products they wish with ease, which means that some of the things that have been put into place for the quarantine may make a comeback due to popularity!

Is your dispensary keeping these things in mind? Let’s explore the 5 major changes that customers have been enjoying throughout 2020 that could be here to stay now that we’re in the new year!

How COVID changed the way people shop for cannabis

Buy online, pick up, or get it delivered 

It’s easier, convenient, and while these regulations may have been removed, for now, it’s inevitable for them to return again one day. 

43% of Canadians now even prefer to buy online versus only 13% just last year, and as people’s homes become their safe space where they can do almost anything they want, this number is bound to continue rising.

Plus, cannabis delivery is a norm in places like California where the market has matured, and consumers enjoy the services just as much as they enjoy Skip the Dishes, Uber, and other popular services that come on-demand – so don’t go reversing infrastructure you built to support these because when the market becomes mature, they’re sure to make a comeback.  

Intuitive online shopping 

With so many Canadians in favour of shopping online, having an intuitive online shopping experience is going to become crucial. Retailers have set up their online store with eCommerce solutions that are easy to use, and they provide the customer with everything they want and need to know to make an informed purchase. 

Building out your online shop was not just something for temporary regs. Many stores in mature regions have invested time in building out their checkout with valuable touchpoints, including rewards, incentives, and product details for customers. 

We advise dispensaries to continue building out their online store because this was a change that customers not only loved, but it’s another inevitable service that will come back in the coming years! 

Big support for local businesses 

The illicit market has some new competition! Many consumers turned to illicit market alternatives prior to COVID-19, but as physical distancing measures heightened, visiting a dealer and consuming mystery product became a much scarier reality. 

People were willing to spend more if it meant that it’d keep them stocked up and safe, so over the pandemic, many chose their favourite local joint to buy legal cannabis, and they’re liking how convenient and accessible it had become!

As we transition back to a new “normal”, we could see numbers move back from the legal to the illicit channel, however, with customer retention strategies, many customers will likely stay with their local dispensary long-term. 

Contactless payments

Many retailers have made the move toward offering contactless payments, meaning that there is no more manual entry of a credit card over the phone, and customers couldn’t be happier! 

Being able to contactless pay doesn’t only prevent the spread of germs, but it also means that depending on regulations, you can provide the ability for customers to pay online, which makes the process between order and delivery are smooth, needing only an ID check before the handoff between your staff and the customer.

More space & more sales!

Protecting our personal bubble is going to become much more important going forward when it comes to shopping. 

6-feet has become the norm across North America in terms of distancing, and these rules are going to be in place for the foreseeable future, but it’s for the better! 

While safety is top-of-mind when it comes to reducing capacity in your store, customers also appreciate having more space and service to themselves. 

According to research conducted by consumer behaviour expert, Paco Underhill found that giving your customers adequate space to browse and shop will make them more inclined to buy, as a large deterrent to spending money in a store is the customer’s inability to properly browse the products they’re interested in! 

With 35% of Canadians preferring to come into the store to explore options with the help of a knowledgeable budtender, having more dedicated staff servicing fewer customers for longer periods could make room for improved sales following the pandemic. 


With so many variables for when our world will return to normal, one thing we’re certain about is that the cannabis industry is maturing every single day. Many regulations will come back – it’s only a matter of time. So while we’re waiting, continue to make improvements to your online store, pickup and delivery infrastructure, and how you can better serve the customers who are coming into your store. 

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