A long time ago, in a retail economy far, far away…
It is an interesting thing to see how consumerism and the methods of selecting consumer products has changed so dramatically over the last few decades. Introductions of new retail giants that challenged preconceived notions of what it meant to shop and consume have forever altered the consumer landscape. Storied businesses that had lasted for decades, if not centuries (Macy’s, Sears, Bloomingdales, and more) buckled and were brought to their knees when the “middle person” was cut out due to the heavier reliance upon direct internet access, the ability at being able to customize options, and the formulaic madness of archaic circulars went as out of style as the layout of the once highly-respected stores. Some didn’t just buckle but caved altogether with the tiniest whimper before being snuffed out; and the world still turned.
What was at issue with these giants of a previous industry was the impossibility of adaptation and forgetting who was truly in charge in this relationship: the consumer. The age-old adage that the “customer is always right” seemed to be hollow as these companies required people to not only come to them but to also be subjected to the experiences that the store provided for them — and make no mistake, these were conscious choices on the part of the businesses as numerous studies on retail and consumerism have been published through the lens of sociology and psychology to inform the company how to make changes; but they were not heeded.
The first thing that hits you when you walk in any brick and mortar store is dim light; enough to see things, but not enough to truly “see” what is offered. This provides you with the recognition that there are items present, but you need to get closer to the items to see if it is what you are looking for; studies have shown the longer time you are in a store, the higher the likelihood you will be willing to purchase. Generally, the items you see are also close to other items that complement each other; this forces consumers a “choice” to pair the items together, thus spending more money. The layout of the stores are positioned as “clumps”, or pockets of items on squared shelving, squared hooks, rectangular rows, etc that you have to navigate through and be “among the items” as immersion results in purchasing. Most retail stores provide you with a “track”, or directional flow of items, found either near the check stands for those last minute and unnecessary purchases or within the store itself (because as studies have noted, human beings are relatively “easy-minded” and when you provide a human being with a direction or path they tend to stick to it…one of the reasons why when human beings see a formed line they would rather join it than look for a shorter one).
The traditional mode of consumerism forever changed with the internet as the power dynamic in the relationship changed; people no longer needed a physical space with which to shop or browse, people no longer needed to deal with customer service representatives, people no longer needed to be subjected to long checkout lines, people no longer needed to be bombarded with product after product; instead, people now had access, power, customization, and independence. People were truly free to make decisions of their own volition, express themselves fully, and sidestep the barrage of conditioning. Companies had to become more competitive against each other, provide consumers a reason to come to them and, most importantly, provide some variability (or, for some, versatility).
Starbucks goes from a random coffee shop chain to the biggest in the world by providing quick service, multiple options, the ability to customize a staple (coffee), play relaxing music, free wireless internet, multiple outlets, comfortable furniture, etc., all in order to not only attract customers but to keep them there (which they do by offering fifty cent refills on basic coffee drinks); the game plan being that the longer you stay, the more likely you will become hungry and pay for overpriced food items — and it works. What is most interesting is that a bank, Chase, recognized this setup and saw that Starbucks was not providing coffee per se, but an experience where customers can be themselves, enjoy their time, and unwind. Up until recently, the setup of Chase was identical to any other bank branch out there; long lines, dim light, customer service representatives relatively uncaring. Instead, Chase began to provide a campaign to attract customers to their branches by changing the bank into…a coffee shop replete with comfortable furniture, ambient music, plentiful outlets, and free coffee. It is no surprise that from this move, beginning after the first quarter of 2019 when Chase began to implement this coffee shop enterprise, that their active user accounts increased 6% year over year to become one of the three dominant banks present.
While this era gathered prominence on the side of consumers, there soon proved to be some challenges; with all of the available customization, without having to shop in the physical space, without being able to “see” full range of the options, consumers were dropped into the proverbial “deep end” of the pool by inviting a lot of guess work into the shopping game — try before you buy became a thing of the past. Additionally, with all of the available products or goods mostly online, the onus was on the consumer to know the “ins and outs” of the product before purchase (would a 27% polyester, 35% cotton, and 38% wool item be warm enough). If a consumer did not like a product, they could return it thru their online medium only (that is, if the company were willing to accept the product back); but for some products that were considered consumables, they became subjected to hoping their choice was right for them. This was solved when new platforms that provided reviews of products began to become popular and offer consumers the ability to add their own opinions to this review network. The problem within this solution was that it eroded the independence consumers had against companies as consumers turned to listen to other “consumers” (paid writers to shill reviews) and make decisions based off of what they were saying.
While there are positives and negatives associated with this tumultuous consumer landscape, it is key to note that there is no going back. In the competitive market relationship that is between you and the products, goods, or services you buy it is imperative that the consumer be as fully informed as they can be. Asking the right questions becomes the “end-all”.
The CBD industry is not immune to these same considerations but due to its relative “new-ness” in an ever-growing field that connects to wellness, medicinal options, and the leisure (rest and relaxation) it becomes difficult to become informed. While there have been articles associated with the attempt at informing consumers, it becomes an increasingly difficult proposition when consumers are expected to sift through the boundless sea that is the internet and develop what is trustworthy or not — independent of the biases found that is out there.
For those that enter a CBD shop, the experience can be also somewhat overwhelming. Sometimes set up as an apothecary, sometimes a random assortment of items from floor to ceiling, sometimes a very narrow and packed room, sometimes a very small section of items shunted to a corner — to speak nothing of the overwhelming choices a consumer has. At times, it is reminiscent of the first time you enter a candy store as a child (or for the older generations perhaps, Toys R’ Us) when you first see all of the options at once and a mixture of eagerness, wonder, and some anxiety (at picking out the right one candy or toy you are allowed to buy) take root. Having a “guiding hand” in advising consumers to CBD-related products helps, but if your first experience in a candy or toy store was like me, then your parent steered you in the direction that they were willing to buy — and I just had to be happy with whatever that was.
As a child, I didn’t know better and, truthfully, I didn’t care; I was getting something for free! Now, however, that I have purchasing power and in this new landscape of consumerism, I have become more cognizant of what I seek, why I am seeking it, and how it would apply to me. Having walked numerous CBD-related shops, I have found that they range from the highly informed, the calming experience, the confusing mass of varied products, to the harassing as I walk up and down the aisles — but what has been the common thread through it all is that I know what I am already looking for and can retain my independence throughout. For those that are new to this, though, it will be incumbent upon you to become more informed if you, too, want to understand that you are more than a consumer — you are the very reason that these companies exist in the first place.
Previously, I have written some articles examining the CBD industry from varied directions (which you can read
), but as I look at other various CBD-related websites, I find that while I get to know the products themselves, I rarely get to understand what, specifically, I should be on the lookout for what I am, specifically, wanting CBD to do. Perhaps it’s just me, but I would rather know the why and how of things before deciding to spend my hard-earned money. First, though, I need to ask the right questions and, for me, these are the questions that I think deserve the most attention to and what I plan to pursue:
Which CBD is right for me?
What is the difference between full spectrum and broad spectrum CBD?
What are the differences between hemp-derived CBD and THC-derived CBD?
How will my body react to taking CBD?
Why is there so much regulation of CBD?
Why is it important to know the sourcing of my CBD?
Is CBD legal?
Is CBD a replacement for medicinal options?
How might CBD blends make the difference?
Is there data-driven information about CBD?
Are there any risks associated with the usage of CBD?
How might CBD “change my life”?