Which consumers will lead the retail recovery?

February 17, 2021

For retail marketers planning their next move, cannabis consumers represent an audience that will help restart business and open a path to post-pandemic growth.

Which consumers will lead the retail recovery?

Marketers across every segment are thinking about which consumers will lead the recovery. Unfortunately, the recovery and return phase of the pandemic represents a big unknown for retailers and consumer brands alike. What is known is that the transition to the new normal will unfold over time, and it’s not going to look anything like the “before.” Regardless of sector, the return to the next normal is uncharted territory.

When it comes to restoring customer traffic, the task for marketing will be to connect with the first wave of consumers venturing out. The most recent wave of Harris Polls’ ongoing COVID tracker shows that two-thirds of Americans miss shopping in stores. Yet three quarters remain concerned for their safety or loved ones leaving home to run essential errands. One-quarter says they’ll get back out as soon as they hear the “all clear,” but stated intentions are far from an indicator of action.

Over the years, there’s been a lot of consumer research plumbing the question: “Who will be the first customers?” It’s more than likely that the vanguard of consumers transitioning to the post-pandemic era will share the behavior and mindset of early adopters and first-movers.

This is not the bleeding edge explorer flying cross-country at the height of the pandemic in their hazmat suit. It’s also not those who disregard warnings to attend a crowded festival or party. Instead, the audience most relevant to marketers will be the first group of everyday people making an informed decision to travel again, go shopping, or go out to eat when lock-downs end and public health experts give the all-clear.

In wave 48 of the Harris Poll COVID attitude tracker, 36% of Americans said they’d go out to dinner within one day to three months of the spread of the virus flattening, 29% said they’d stay in a hotel, 28% would feel ready to go to the movies and 27% to the gym. It will be these people that make up the first wave of consumers rediscovering life outside their homes.

So who are these consumers?

Over the past weeks, there have been many discussions between marketers about the everyday influencers who will lead the retail recovery. While there’s a wide range of opinions, there’s a consensus that these consumers will share characteristics of mainstream first movers, everyday influencers, and people with a real hunger for experience.

While some may be surprised, data reveals there are 61 million cannabis consumers who share these exact qualities. In contrast to the pop-culture image of laid-back cannabis consumers, the most recent MRI Simmons Research Study of cannabis consumers revealed they are early adopters, influencers, and ready to return to their on-the-go lifestyles.

Cannabis consumers are optimistic and outgoing first movers. They strongly believe that life should be as much fun as possible and consider themselves sociable. The data also shows that they tend to be the first to try new products and are the people others come to for advice on their purchase decisions.

They share comfort with change, with almost six out of ten showing a significantly higher tolerance for risk. They share a distinct predisposition for novelty, and more than half say they’re impulse shoppers. They’re constantly on the lookout for news, trends, the latest streaming content and, not surprisingly, prefer to see movies on the opening weekend.

Retailers will be happy to know that while they’re committed e-commerce shoppers, they’ve not lost their love of in-store shopping: cannabis consumers rank higher for shopping for fun, turning to specialty retailers, and exploring stores looking for new and interesting products.

They can’t wait to get out there. So despite lockdowns and working from home, cannabis consumers got out to camp at national parks and forests. When asked about their plans for 2021, their must-do list included travel to destinations across the globe, a new car or motorcycle, home renovations, trips to theme parks, and a new van for that epic road trip.

For retail marketers planning their next move, cannabis and CBD consumers represent an audience that will help restart business and open up the path to post-pandemic growth.

To learn more about why marketing leaders are racing to reach cannabis consumers, download the whitepaper — Why Cannabis Audiences Are The New Gateway To Growth For Big Brands.

MRI-Simmons Cannabis Study 2020

*Originally authored for Retail Dive.

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