Vireo Health, a multistate cannabis operator with operations in seven U.S. markets, is in the process of rebranding all of its retail locations by the middle of next year in an effort to improve the overall customer experience.
“We’re big believers that folks can sometimes forget every little detail of what happened inside of a space, but they certainly don’t forget how you left them feeling at the end of the experience,” SVP of Retail Patrick Peters tells Cannabis Dispensary. “And we want customers leaving our Green Goods retail locations feeling good.”
As Vireo started to expand into new states in 2018, acquiring operations in Arizona and New Mexico, the company operated different retail identities across each one of its markets, and saw an opportunity to rebrand under one cohesive name.
Peters joined the company at the end of 2019, and with a background in retail, working for brands like Calvin Klein, Liz Claiborne and Abercrombie & Fitch, he saw an opportunity to create a brand that is well-known and easily identifiable in the cannabis space.
“I’m a big believer in brand identity, [and] Vireo is, as well,” Peters says. “We can build consistency through different elements of our spaces—color, design, logo, as well as the experience, like how a person feels after visiting our spaces—just to distinguish us in the consumer’s mind. So, that’s what we’re looking to do.”
Vireo opened its first two Green Goods locations at the end of 2019 in Scranton and Bethlehem, Pa., and is in the process of opening seven more Green Goods dispensaries across Minnesota, New Mexico and Maryland.
The company is also rebranding its existing four locations in Minnesota, which have been operating under the Minnesota Medical Solutions (MinnMed) brand.
Vireo is completing the rebranding in a few different stages, Peters says. First, the company approaches interior renovations, which include updating key colors and the layout of the dispensaries. Then, Vireo updates the exterior of the stores to be consistent with the interior.
The company has created a “knowledge bar” in all of its Green Goods dispensaries with iPad stations that allow guests to explore product options, order and then pick up their order at the counter. Vireo has also updated its customer service program by launching a Green Goods Customer Service Plan that outlines steps for team members to engage with customers from the time they enter the store through the checkout process.
Vireo is also incorporating videos at its dispensaries that educate customers on specific products, the science behind terpenes or even how to place online orders.
Through these efforts, the customer experience will change in a few different ways, Peters says.
“A lot of our dispensaries that we initially established had a clinical feel—a waiting room space where you sit, wait, get your number called, and you pick up your medicine,” he says. “These are designed to have a more light, engaged feeling, with the knowledge bars [and] customer displays. We’ll be layering in more products for folks to look at, whether that’s apparel, mugs, topiaries—just different products and things that we’ll be having around our retail shop that we didn’t have before. As opposed to sitting in a corner and waiting for your number, the customer will be encouraged to be up and around and talking to our team members.”
Rebranding during the COVID-19 pandemic has made the process easier, he adds, because much of Vireo’s business is conducted outside the dispensary, in curbside transactions, which has allowed the team to rebrand the interior spaces much more quickly.
All eight of Vireo’s Minnesota locations—four brand new dispensaries and four existing stores—will be completed by the end of the year, Peters says, with existing dispensaries in New York, New Mexico and Arizona rebranded by the end of 2021.
Rebranding the Right Way
Peters says the Vireo team is learning valuable lessons throughout its rebranding process, with perhaps the most important being that communication to its customer base is key.
“We did everything we could … to share in advance the different stages of rebranding, what they were going to see,” Peters says. “We also updated them on product changes when those were going to take place, so they know what to expect and when to expect it. That just mitigates questions or concerns on the back end, so we can be as transparent as possible. … At the end of the day, the goal is to minimize interruption for the customer as much as possible. And the other part is that they feel good about the changes and the transition that’s coming up, so we try to accent all the positive things we were trying to do to … make their experience better.”
Communication with staff is equally important, Peters adds.
“Make sure your own internal team is getting as many updates as possible on rebranding, [as far as] when it’s going to happen [and] what that exactly means for them, … whether that’s dress code, position changes [or], for us, customer service model changes,” he says. “Also, [make sure they know] the whys—why are we doing that? I find that when your internal team knows the why, the more bought in they typically are and the more supportive they are of doing something new if they know it’s for their efficiencies as well as the customer.”
Vireo formed internal committees and asked employees what they wanted to see updated within the dispensaries, Peters adds. For example, when considering updates to the company’s customer service model, Vireo brought team members with varying levels of experience together from multiple states to provide feedback.
“We took what talent we have and folks who are already committed to our customers, business and brand to help shape what we want to see at the next level and what next steps look like,” Peters says. “I think having all those different views gives a better, more holistic picture that can help shape what you want the next steps or the next phases of your business to look like. Instead of it just being retail feedback from retail team members, pull in folks from your grow facility and folks from your office on different things that they see and notice.”
Customer feedback is also critical, he adds. Vireo launched a customer service survey in Minnesota a few months back, and Peters says the company has gleaned useful information that it has incorporated into its Green Goods rebrand.
Peters says the ultimate goal is to continue Vireo’s medical and scientific approach to the business while updating the look and feel of the stores, as well as the overall customer experience.
“I think as a retailer, our goal would be to build and grow a consistent experience from location to location, state to state, so when you see Green Goods, you know where you are based on the look and feel and experience you have at our locations,” he says. “At the end of the day, whether it’s a medical state or a recreational state, we want to leave our customers feeling good. … We’re … positioning ourselves to have not only a successful business today, but also an equally if not more successful business tomorrow in states that could turn recreational. I think the ability to have faster, smoother transactions will be very important in the future, and we’re in a much better space to do that now."