As Canadians approached the historic legalization of recreational cannabis in 2018, my team and I designed an engaging ecommerce platform for Alberta Cannabis. We addressed the perceptions, apprehensions and needs of all levels of Alberta’s cannabis users in order to create a brand that understands and values superior user experience by prioritizing what’s most important to customers like service, price, quality, education and security.
On launch day, the website received over 60,000 users in the first hour. Below is a video from
Bloomberg showing the success
of the website on launch day.
In order to gather how Albertans felt towards the brand we were creating, the team worked in various locations across Alberta to conduct interviews with 31 Albertans that aligned with three personas we identified. The personas were developed based on the user-based segments we received from AGLC. The main locations were Edmonton, Red Deer, Calgary and Medicine Hat. By having the team in three different locations, we were able to go through quick iteration cycles.
We tested the prototype and brand across several locations in Alberta to account for regional variations in perceptions.
We designed the proposition around the needs, aspirations, and expectations of three design targets.
The craft connoisseur
“I smoke every day after work to wind down, it is like a glass of wine for someone like you”
Evan smokes Cannabis on a daily basis, he is highly knowledgeable and discerning. He seeks a curated service and is always on the look out for new offerings. Price is important to Evan, as small savings can stack up.
A social cannabis user
“I rarely buy cannabis myself, but smoke with my friends and housemates”
Sophie is most likely to participate with friends, but she rarely buys cannabis for herself. She has a very basic understanding of products, strains etc., but a lots of questions.
New to cannabis
“I’m intrigued by cannabis, but I wouldn’t know where to start if I wanted to buy or use it”
Legality has been a barrier to use for Neville, he likes to live on the right side of the law. He is curious about cannabis, but wants to be re-assured of the risks and merits before he will consider purchasing.
We started by studying key drivers that affected people's shopping behaviour. Once we conducted the research, we found 5 overarching categories.
Customers are seeking a curated, professional, & convenient shopping experience.
Price is a significant driver for many customers, they will seek the cheapest prices and look for promotions.
Quality: flavour profiles and the ‘high’ experience. Absence of impurities Range: format and strain availability for use in different occasions
Consumers are looking for information but are shy about asking. They’re looking for an open dialogue and around risks and merits of cannabis.
This is a primary concern about buying online.
As we were working on understanding customer shopping behaviours, we also worked on creating a
brand and website for Alberta
We conducted hour long interviews with 31 individuals across our three personas. We did this to solicit feedback on the prototype, brand and to gain insights around attitudes, experiences and general context as a rationale for our design decisions. Here is what we heard:
Taking inspiration from the geography that defines the province, the logo presents a clear, contemporary, and confident cannabis proposition to all Albertans.
Endorser structure to be used in key customer facing material
In addition to the logo, typography, colours, and imagery have all been considered. These elements form the basis of the new brand.
We used this information to create the wireframes for the site. Once the wireframes were designed, we tested these with users. Any feedback we received was incorporated into the design process.
As we conducted the research, we saw that each persona takes a different journey before purchasing cannabis.
For users like Evan, we designed the flow that allowed him to quickly find what he's looking for and purchase cannabis.
Evan is straight to the point – he notes headlines of how it works, but is less concerned with the fine print.
Before sharing his personal information, Evan wants to have a look around to see what the platform has to offer. The prices are good, so he creates an account.
Evan knows the strain type he is looking for and uses the search bar to find it. After having found the right product, he proceeds to look for more detailed information.
He has heard of terpenes before, but didn’t know about the particular composition of his favorite strain. He finds a similar composition in another strain he previously thought he disliked.
He realizes that the quality of a previous illegal purchase was inferior, and in this and subsequent purchases, Evan is able to make a more informed choice around what strains and products he prefers.
For people like Sophie, we designed the flow that allowed her to search the product, see it's details and then proceed to checkout.
Sophie pays special attention to the shipping section of the landing page as she was concerned with having her package delivered to the wrong house by mistake.
Seeing the AGLC logo makes Sophie feel like the platform is legitimate, and she verifies her ID and logs in. Browsing through the site, she encounters the word ”Sativa”, which sounds familiar.
She searches for ”sativa” to find sativa dominant strains. When she sees the filter, she immediately starts playing with it to narrow down the selection to match her preferences around strain and price.
Sophie looks at the pictures and is glad to see the product packaging to be discreet. She has heard from a friend that the particular look and colour of the dried flower is a good indicator of quality.
Sophie finds herself unsure about whether the THC content is high or low, and what CBD does. She clicks the underline words and is quickly brought up to speed.
For people like Neville, we designed the flow that allowed him to research cannabis, get a better understanding of the products that are available and then proceed to checkout.
Neville lands on the website and carefully reads through the information. He is curious about what the platform has to offer and proceeds to sign up.
He pays close attention to the onboarding pages. He thinks that it is a lot to remember, and is happy to see the links to where he can access the information later.
After watching a video on rolling a joint, he decides to buy marijuana. He is still unsure which strain to select.
Neville clicks into a Discover Cannabis product pack and continues to read about the product.
Noting that the particular strain he has selected is low on THC, Neville feels reassured and proceeds with his purchase.
To save time, we combined usability and brand testing into one by allowing users to interact with a clickable prototype. Below is the feedback that we received about the brand and the user interface.
Video of the results from customer testing out the brand and website. Password: ACANN2018
As a development team, the main technical challenge we faced was finding an out of box solution for the website. We wanted to expedite the build and launch of the website but still work with the AGLC’s current systems. This meant that we had to follow a lot of the user experience principles from the out of box kit.
All this research was followed by a series of design and development sprints. This led to the final website which took nearly a year to build and launch. The initial customer research was conducted Deloitte’s Market Gravity team and the final designs were built by Kael Cruz, Piyush Bandyopadhyay, Brian Ross, Chris Page and myself.
One of the most intriguing parts of this experience was seeing the discrepancy between people’s responses to the design ofthe prototype and the design of the live website. I discovered the best way to get people sharing wasby asking questions that were open to interpretation, allowing interviewees to lead the conversation.I found them more inclined to share personal stories which allowed me to constantly follow up with “why”.
For example, one of the comments about the landing page was: “I don’t want to see mountains. I’m hereto buy cannabis.” Before this project, I would find myself overlooking similar comments but now, I ammore inclined to probe deeper. I want to know what makes a customer say something like that and whatwe can do to make their journey better.
Another interesting experience was presenting and explaining design decisions to clients that did nothave a background in design or tech. The client had not worked with designers that conducted this levelof research in the past. Therefore, we faced the challenge of explaining the value in a comprehensiveresearch process to design. In addition, the design decisions that made sense to us as didn’t necessarilymake sense to the business-minded executives we presented to. I often found myself stepping in to explain why and how I came upon various conclusions.