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Online Cannabis Merchandising Tips Proven to Drive Sales ft. Vetrina Group

Danielle Poirier

Straight From the Experts: Key Strategies for Cannabis Retailers Looking to Optimize Their Online Store

Today, eCommerce is evolving for all industries, cannabis included, and merchants are making strategic visual decisions that go far beyond building a clean, responsive website. Visual merchandising has been a science associated with brick-and-mortar stores, however, this psychological ‘feng shui’ is now being adopted and refined for online cannabis merchandising.

We turned to the experts, Krista Raymer and Leandra Reid, Co-Founders & CEO’s of Vetrina Group. With over 3 decades of retail experience under their belts, Vetrina Group specializes in driving profitability to cannabis retailers faster by optimizing their operational efficiency using data-driven decision-making. 

Vetrina Group shared some of their top tips for when it comes to setting up your eCommerce, and mastering your omnichannel shopping experience – ultimately increasing sales, turning over inventory faster, and finally, increasing customer loyalty!

Before we begin, how much time should retailers spend optimizing their eCommerce?

Generally, at minimum, Vetrina recommends that retailers spend at least a couple of hours per week optimizing their eCommerce if they want to start seeing improvements. That being said, you get what you give, so to speak. For instance, if a retailer invests one day out of the week organizing inventory, creating custom collections, and optimizing their brand and product appearance online, in theory, this retailer should have an easier time moving more products in less time than retailers who choose not to invest time optimizing their eCommerce.

Tip: Verda makes this process even simpler by automatically showing products that have been restocked, saving your team hours each week! 

5 Online Merchandising Tips for Cannabis Retailers

Know your audience and find ways to relate to them! 

Every decision that you make with your eCommerce should ultimately boil down to who you are selling to. What are they interested in? Do you have any insights into their buying behaviours? How can you help make the online experience just as informative as the in-store experience? 

The idea of merchandising is all about grabbing your customer’s attention and displaying certain products in precise moments. Find ways to relate to your customers – In Verda’s eCommerce, retailers have the ability to create custom collections of products that are seasonal, trending, staff-picks or whatever you choose. The more relatable your products are to your customers, the more likely they are to purchase and come back for more!

Follow a 3-Part Merchandising System

One of the most common mistakes that retailers make with their eCommerce site is that they display their entire inventory all on one page, and with equal value on each product. By doing this, no single product jumps off the page, making it difficult for customers to find products they could be interested in. Just like how brick and mortar stores have a flow, directional signage, and things like visual pop-up displays, your eCommerce should try and replicate that same experience. 

Vetrina explained that following a 3-Part Merchandising System helps keep distinct, but different groupings of products, aimed to maximize cart size with the idea of clearing up any clutter. This allows your store to highlight the right product, to the right person, at the right time. 

Group 1: This is where your custom collections and bestsellers should live, along with items that are desirable, promotional, or perhaps products with the highest margin! 

Group 2: The ‘Need’ category. Here you will organize the remainder of your items in a clear and simple way. Customers should be able to scan and find the products they’re looking for without too much trouble. 

The most recommended way to sort your products is by type; and according to OCS’ 2019-2020 Annual Review, if organized by dollar amount sold, product types should follow this order: 

  1. Flower
  2. Oils
  3. Capsules
  4. Pre-Rolls
  5. Vapes
  6. Edibles
  7. Seeds
  8. Concentrates
  9. Beverages
  10. Topicals

Group 3: Here we have our impulse-buy category, where you should place accessories, complementary, and upsell products that are easy to grab at the last second before the customer completes their transaction. 

Did you know… Verda displays recommended products to customers when they click to view an item they’re interested in, which captures those impulse ‘add-to-cart’ moments.

By implementing these grouping systems, your eCommerce should appear just as clean as your in-store experience, and while also being easy to navigate and visually appealing, every touchpoint encourages a larger spend per transaction.

Read your data! 

If your store is already engaged in revenue, leveraging your analytics is a great place to start. Take a look at the data you’ve collected to-date… what products are your customers buying right away, and what has been sitting on the shelf a little longer than the rest? The key to fast product turnover is to merchandise inventory in a way that makes sense for customers to discover while clicking through your eCommerce. 

Rule of thumb: If something isn’t selling to its potential in one spot on your site, give that item an ‘expiration date’, where, after a certain amount of time (i.e. 7 days), if that product still isn’t performing as you’d like, try moving it somewhere new. This will help you identify which spots on your eCommerce are ‘hot’ and ‘cold’.  

Compare, evaluate and make necessary changes! 

Comparing data allows you to better leverage products to be sold together. Take, for instance, a flower product that is selling better in-store than online, and is typically purchased with impulse buys near the cash register.

So why isn’t this product selling as well online? Take into consideration where the product lives in your eCommerce. Perhaps it’s not categorized where your customers expect it to be, and maybe impulse purchases don’t pop-up before the customer goes to their cart to checkout.

Identifying the gaps and key differences between your in-store and online environments will help create a more uniform brand experience, and will help reflect the same benefits in terms of revenue and customer traction. 

Click and collect & delivery options drive customer retention

Social media and eCommerce have proven to be supremely powerful forces. Last year, click and collect and cannabis delivery made their debut in Ontario, and it is certainly something that customers and dispensary owners want to keep. 

Generally, retail saw an uptick of planned ‘impulse’ shopping out of boredom, but since May 2020, online shoppers who chose local pickup or delivery options spent 23% more and had 25% higher cart sizes, and shoppers who chose local pickup had a 13% higher conversion rate, compared to those who chose delivery who had a 19% higher conversion rate! 

Adopting convenient offerings like these aren’t just a great way to boost customer retention and gain lifetime loyalty, but it’s also a sure-fire way to gain more sales. 

Use self-serve kiosks as ways to introduce your eCommerce!

This is a huge opportunity in-store that hasn’t been capitalized on quite yet, and that is to educate your customers on how they can start browsing online. Budtenders have an opportunity to demonstrate how the online shopping flow goes, which makes the experience far more familiar and approachable for customers who wouldn’t otherwise use your eCommerce portal. 


We’d like to thank Vetrina Group for sharing their insights with us and we encourage any cannabis retailers who are looking to optimize their operations (both online or offline) and get to profitability faster, to connect with the Vetrina team!

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