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Barriers to Purchasing at OCS.ca

While the Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS) boasts an increasing conversion rate and improvements across the board on findability issues, customers still seem to prefer shopping with private retailers in-store. Out of 3 million unique visitors, only 330,000 ended up making a purchase, with 100,000 fewer returning visitors than the previous quarter. In its most recent report, the OCS celebrated serving 78% of the population with express delivery of products purchased on OCS.ca, however, its customer sentiment score dropped 5.3%.

What are the barriers to purchasing for e-commerce shoppers in Ontario? How can they be overcome?

Value and Price

Into the third year of legal cannabis retail, the price remains in the top three determining factors when it comes to making a purchase. It’s not just the dollars and cents, though. In Q3 of 2020, 19% of OCS.ca customers felt like they weren’t getting value for their money, up 4% from the previous quarter despite OCS’s efforts to lower prices.

With legal sources acquiring more legacy customers, they have specific expectations when it comes to buying in bulk—they want the discount that they’re used to. In the illicit market, the more a customer buys the larger discount they get, but this is often not the case with retailers. When asked, 17% of consumers thought the price didn’t decrease enough when buying in bulk, a 3% increase from the previous quarter.

Ultimately, 16% of customers surveyed said that they could find the same products cheaper elsewhere, 4% more than the quarter before, and a further 14% said prices were too high for their budget. Regardless of what a retailer or producer feels their product is worth, it still comes down to how much a customer will spend.

Quality and Variety of Products

According to the OCS report, 88% of returning visitors and 82% of new customers said that quality is the most important factor in making a purchase. While retailers don’t have control over how a product is grown or manufactured, they do have control over which SKUs to stock. Around one in six (15%) respondents said that the quality of the products negatively influenced their decision to buy, 6% more than in the previous quarter.

While the OCS has made strides in product availability in the last quarter, around one quarter (24%) of respondents still couldn’t find the product they were looking for, and 37% said that the product they wanted wasn’t in stock.

Online vs. In-Store Shoppers

The majority of cannabis retail transactions are still being done in brick-and-mortar stores in Ontario, and the report shows that the majority of OCS.ca shoppers appear to shop online due to the convenience and express delivery options that the organization has monopolized in the province. Only 13.6% of cannabis sold was sold through the OCS website, with the remainder flying off the shelves in-store, and despite 1,362 unique SKUs available for sale and wholesale, only 4.8% of them are considered “fast sellers”. These fast sellers account for 24.2% of sales, so no wonder customers have complaints about lack of inventory. Even “slow sellers”, which account for 24.6% of SKUs, account for 40% of sales.

If the rest of the country can learn anything from this case study, it’s that each retailer has its own unique customer base that it needs to tend to. This report shows that at the end of the day customers just want a good product for a good price that’s in-stock when they show up. By actively listening to customers and analyzing what they buy, retailers and producers alike can keep shelves stocked and keep customers coming back.