Dispensary design can make or break a first impression. If customers feel confused about who you are as a brand or where to get what they need, they'll walk right back out the door.
Virginia Maggiore is all too familiar with failed business plans of the retail world. On episode 31 of the Kaya Cast Podcast, she shared her observations and pro tips from the last 18 years as a retail architect.
Virginia is much more than a structural architect and designer; she's fluent in brand development, optimizing in-store & customer experience, creative retail strategy, business planning (licensing, budgeting, and compliance), and marketing for global budding businesses. For pre-established businesses, she helps refresh branding and redesigns their systems. She's the full package.
Virginia is the Principal at RD Collaborative Architecture, where she helps brands of all kinds show their true colors in a clever and concise way.
She'll host workshops and consultations that prompt entrepreneurs with questions about their unique brand pillars:
Then she'll try to convey these elements into the dispensary design and build, managing every aspect from consultation to construction management. In the past, Virginia has implemented “wow factors” central to the branding, like a built-in skatepark, shark tank, and recording studio! Now that’s how you leave a lasting impression.
During the podcast, Virginia shared numerous tips and insights for how to maneuver challenges, while building customer loyalty through branding and design. Here are her top 4 dispensary design tips:
People need to recognize you to trust you. They are comforted when their expectations are set and they get the same experience at each of your locations. People like stability, predictability, and familiarity. Use the same brand colors, fonts, styles, and customer service approaches across the board — within the boundaries of varying compliance laws.
This industry packs a lot of (unpleasant) surprises for novices, so have a professional from day 1 to help you prepare for all of the paperwork, budgeting, and planning before moving onto permanent infrastructure. Hire a visual merchandiser to manage product showcasing and retail layout, and retail staff (even those outside the cannabis industry) to train and manage service operations.
Customer service is key, which means you need the right people.
As Virginia says, "I can make the Taj Mahal of dispensaries, but if you don't have the right staff who are educated, friendly, and familiar with your repeat customers, then you're gonna lose those customers".
Choose a location that doesn't need much investment from your pocket. Get a property owner who will take financial responsibility for maintenance and additions required by city regulations. Keep parking space and placement in mind, and consider the parking flow of other shops who share the lot.
And remember, measure twice and draw once because it sure isn't fun (or cheap) re-building.
Discover what kind of shoppers you want and the experiences you want them to have, and then design around that. Make people want to discover more about you from the outside and more about cannabis inside. Leave extra space to grow into in case you 'discover' you want to expand your territory. “Maybe you want to introduce refrigerated products in two years, but you have no space for a refrigerator in your storage room.”
Do you want shoppers to line up, getting in and out efficiently? Or do you want them to peruse and lounge for a while? Set up aisles and seating accordingly, taking into account that many customers use cannabis to care for physical pain or aging and may need some seating.
Draw people in with an impressionable exterior that tells them who you are and what you sell. Within, have clear zones and signage with staff around to educate and customize the experience to fit the customer's needs. Make everything inside immersive and tactile; engaging their senses so they interact with the product.
"Only put a screen in their face when a real product can't do the job.”
From customer interaction, to building ideas, these 4 tips will create a holistic dispensary design that will encourage customer trust, education & destigmatization, and intuitive flow throughout your shop.
For more dispensary design tips from Virginia, listen to the full episode now!
“KayaPush has it all in one platform where you can kind of build what you need. Especially as a start-up, that’s important to us to be cost-friendly. You have the best price for what you’re offering. ”
-Marry Ann from Riverside Wellness-