A Customer Experience Rooted In Cannabis Education

How the West Coast Cannabis Store is seeking to move the conversation beyond THC


High THC does not = High-quality cannabis, yet for many new consumers this is commonly perceived as the best way to get the most bang for their buck.

Many retailers have embraced this shortcut—but not all.

West Coast Cannabis Store, a cannabis retail startup based in beautiful British Columbia that recently opened its first location, is one such exception.

For today’s edition of Four PM I had the opportunity to sit down with Steven Read, the Managing Director of West Coast Cannabis Store, to learn more about his journey through the industry and what the future holds for West Coast Cannabis.

Steven Read is the former VP of Marketing for Keirton, and is currently the Managing Director of West Coast Cannabis Store.

What motivated you to join the cannabis industry?

The people—I've never seen so many dedicated and passionate people come together to support a single purpose.

When I started in the industry back in 2016, it was amazing to watch an industry push itself forward into the unknown. So many risks were taken. It was so imperfect. But I will say that there's something very real and deeply emotional about the type of people that are drawn to cannabis. They possess a sort of deeper connection to the human spirit, a connection to each other in ways I haven't seen since the birth of the yoga industry back in 2007.

Developing an industry alongside connected people like this is exhilarating, stressful, and relaxing all at the same time. It's hard to explain but I think a lot of people in cannabis would understand.

(📸 / West Coast Cannabis Store)

What's been the biggest challenge you've faced since joining the industry?

Intent—with the birth of a new industry comes with it the draw of something exciting and new. I've been lucky enough to go through it a couple of times now and it's a really fun process.

Why people joined the cannabis industry has been telling for me personally. I've learned a lot about people and their motivations. In the early years, things were simpler. It started with the people that had been fighting for legalization for years and had a true love and connection for the plant.

The intent was genuine and the environment was authentic. Then came all the creatives and builder-types. They shared the same vision and loved the risky, expressive, and open space that comes with creating a new industry. Still, the people were genuine and the industry was authentic. Then came the money.

After that, what else can I say? Lol.

The biggest challenge has been navigating people's intent. How you overcome it is to hold your line, stay true to your purpose, and not get distracted by people with money as their intent. Surround yourself with amazing people, work on amazing things, and don't look back. Everything else usually falls into place.

How important is the customer experience in cannabis retail as a point of differentiation?

For now, it's everything.

While most of retail has gone vertical over the past decade, retail cannabis is emerging as a new industry in the traditional sense of retail where we all have access to the same products under relatively the same conditions.

When you remove the ability to market and use loyalty programs, it becomes super important to win the guest experience and have differentiation, which includes excelling at all points in which the customer interacts with your brand once they walk through the door.

That's why we invested heavily in our merchandising and display system (discovery) and took an energetic approach to the store layout and design, and designing the overall vibe to be colorful and uplifting vs. a lot of the dreary colors and browns + glass cases you see dominating most cannabis retailers.

We feel the guest experience at a minimum should match the diversity and expression of the plant and everything it offers us.

(📸 / West Coast Cannabis Store)

What's got you most excited about cannabis in 2021? 

Personally, I'm looking forward to how the customer will continue to shape the industry. With so many different retail brands out there—all of which are amazing in their own right, it will be interesting to see where the customer decides to take us.

How important is THC? What about the chatter about Sativa/Indica? It will be interesting to watch this play out in 2021.

We also just opened our first store in Jasper, AB, and we're still super excited about that. The team worked incredibly hard to bring the extremely unique West Coast vision to life and so far the feedback we're receiving has been amazing.

I couldn't be more proud of our team. We took so many risks in designing our customer experience and we are incredibly happy to see customers delighted.

Next up for West Coast Cannabis is Tofino and Fernie!!


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