Our Guide to Cannabis Consumer Insights

The legal cannabis industry has existed for only a couple of decades, and as the industry progresses, so does consumer behavior, engagement, and expectations. The proliferation of legal cannabis has uncovered numerous buyer personas, from Microdosing Mamas to Boomerangs, each with their own habits and preferences. Businesses need to understand their current and prospective consumers in order to effectively market products and grow their company. 

Brands aim to make decisions from their own consumer data - assuming they can pull insights in a clean manner. These insights fuel marketing, product, and overall business decisions. The challenge, however, comes from ensuring the data is truly representative of this rapidly moving market, as well as extracting the proper insights that put your company in good position to succeed. 

Consumer insights provide a complete view of the types of people that could be your next customers, fueling impactful messaging, compelling products, and greater returns. 


Demographics are foundational to deep consumer insights. Segmenting a population by using demographics allows companies to determine the size of a potential market. Companies also leverage them in order to make decisions on new products, marketing strategies, and content. These can include: 

  • Age 
  • Gender 
  • Income 
  • Sexuality 
  • Ethnicity 
  • Marital Status 
  • Education 
  • Having children or not 

Cannabis consumers of all different demographics will have varying behaviors across product preference, frequency of use, average spend per product, and more. For example, college students may prefer 
flower and are less likely to be brand loyal while married women 40-50 may prefer low-dose edibles. Changing one or two demographic attributes in your analysis can drastically change what the data tells you. 


Usage and Paths to Purchase 

Many cannabis consumers are used to the dynamics of the illicit market. They often have a dealer they purchase flower from or get products through friends. As the industry progresses, more products enter the fold, and cannabis retail grows, consumer paths to purchase and usage behaviors will become even more complex. 

These behaviors can be broken down by asking 4 simple questions: How? Why? What? Where? 


How consumers use cannabis heavily varies depending on things like demographics. Just like our example above, consumers of all kinds will have different preferences on how they consume – via edibles, concentrates, flower, etc. 


Many consumers don’t use cannabis every day (though a significant portion use 5+ days/week). Frequency of use is important for developing consumer insights as brands look for additional opportunities to incorporate themselves in the daily lives of consumers. 


Consumers use cannabis for many reasons and for a variety of occasions. Understanding the ‘why’ drives anything from product and brand messaging to distribution strategy and partnershipsWhen it comes to medical conditions, many consumers use cannabis for anxiety or chronic painThere are occasions, both in and out of the home, where are a growing portion of consumers are using cannabis. From relaxing at home and concerts, to outdoor activities and nightclubs, companies are leveraging occasions, experiences, and use cases to drive higher consumer engagement and loyalty. 


Where consumers buy cannabis has previously been a very simple topic – through the illicit market or medical cannabis facilitiesAs more states and countries move toward adult-use programs, distribution through dispensaries creates an extra layer of complexity.  


Cannabis as a Substitute for Alcohol and Tobacco 

Cannabis is increasingly being used as a replacement for alcohol consumption. While many cannabis consumers already consume a variety of alcoholic beverages, the practice of using both substances is becoming increasingly complex, especially when it comes to experiences and occasions. Consumers may be more inclined to consume alcohol at a bar but may also mix cannabis with that occasion. This combination becomes even more dynamic when looking at social gatherings, concerts, and other occasions where both alcohol and cannabis could be consumed.  

The legalization of cannabis has also resulted in people shifting their alcohol consumption patterns. A significant portion of cannabis users consume less alcohol after an adult-use program opens in their state. This behavior does not directly align with tobacco consumption, though many cannabis consumers do not even use tobacco. 

As more beverage and alcohol companies enter the cannabis space, they will want to identify the substitution behaviors of cannabis consumers to ensure their brand helps curate these occasions and moods. 


Personality Attributes and Psychological Motivators to Buy 

With the rapid expansion of the legal cannabis industry, brands are trying to find their way across the ever-expanding ocean of consumer dataUnderstanding the ‘who’ and ‘what’ are very foundational to robust consumer insights. But do you know the ‘why?’  

Leveraging data-driven insights on why people spend their money on certain cannabis brands and products is the key to setting up a winning marketing and sales strategy. 

Buying decisions are both emotional and logical. Anyone that is a buyer (of any product) is dissatisfied with something. It is often unclear what that something is. Our brains develop and finalize our purchasing decisions while our hearts help justify them.  

People are more likely to respond to product and brand messaging that speaks to who they are psychologically. Each person aligns with a set of psychological constructs that can be tapped into in order to help drive purchasing decisions. Here are some of the most common: 

  • Reward & Incentives – Behavior is dictated by a desire for external rewards 
  • Power & Authority – Behavior is dictated by the perceived ability to take action and make changes in one’s life or to influence others. 
  • Belonging & Community – Behavior is dictated by membership, influence, and a shared emotional connection 
  • Achievement & Accomplishment – Behavior is dictated by external or internal goals 

A consumer whose psychological profile is wired around Belonging & Community is less likely to response positively to messaging aimed at Power & Authority. It is simply less important to them. By tapping into these psychological profiles, companies can deeply relate to consumers by speaking in a way that speaks to personal beliefs and values. 

Consumer Interests Outside of Cannabis 

Cannabis is often a small part of the average consumer’s day. They have jobs, workout routines, hobbies, and social lives. It can be difficult to resonate with consumers when you only know their demographics or usage behaviors. By understanding who they are outside of cannabis, you can begin to get in front of them much more effectively and build lifelong relationships. 

People are interested in, well, a lot of different things. From sports and fitness, to music and arts, it is easy to get overwhelmed with how consumers spend their time. It’s important to break them out, and by categorizing the social media interests from our consumers, this is what we get: 

  • Fashion & Beauty 
  • Food & Travel 
  • Health & Sports 
  • Home & Community 
  • Music & Arts 
  • News & Pop Culture 

There are certain categories that rank much higher than the others across various personas. What is most important, however, is understanding the relationships these consumers have with specific people, brands, and 
organizations on the internet. By understanding brand preference (ie: Target vs. Walmart) or media consumption (ie: True Crime vs. Comedies) across the social landscape, you can drive partnership and content strategies that resonate with real consumers.  

Topics of Conversation Involving Cannabis 

The content that people put out on social media can be a gold mine for brands and consumer insights enthusiasts. Social media gives you the opportunity to understand who and what people are talking about in the context of cannabis, and by developing robust lookalike audiences, the population of people reached is immensely magnified. 


So what do we mean by context? Well, cannabis can be talked about across many different topics. From pain and politics, to fitness and sleep, consumers are discussing cannabis in ways that are increasingly aligning with product segments. Social media can be a very good indicator for consumer and product trends.