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Using Senses to Create Ambiance

Atmosphere: A term that traditionally refers to the feelings and emotions that are brought on by the environment. You’ve likely heard of fancy restaurants that have a ‘good atmosphere’ or dive bars that have a ‘depressing atmosphere’.

Originating as a musical philosophy, atmospherics is the use of effects to create emotion. When done properly, this can become a way to build emotional connections with customers, resulting in better customer satisfaction and stronger loyalty.

A substantial portion of cannabis stores have been designed for functionality, with little to no consideration having been made to create a positive atmosphere for customers. These are missed opportunities to use spatial aesthetics and sensory triggers to help cue customers to purchase, or help to reinforce purchasing decisions.

Utilizing the five senses, we can attract and engage customers in the same ways that price, product education, and availability are currently being leveraged by cannabis stores. Understanding your best customers and the sensory elements they respond to the most, will help you create a plan of action to improve your store’s atmosphere and start speaking the silent language of sales.


One of the largest sensory impacts regarding customer experience in retail stores is sight. Using a structured layout is a useful way to take advantage of this sense and can help guide customers through your store. Giving consideration to spacing, keeping things organized, and utilizing certain types of colour arrangements, encourages movement through the store in specific ways.

1922 in Toronto takes advantage of these sensory stimulations by simply showing off1922 their work. These sight-lines are special, and because they’re out of the ordinary it piques the interest of customers and inspires them to want to learn more about what 1922 has to offer.

By prioritizing the reduction of visual barriers at 1922, their customers have a full view of the sales process. This transparent view of retail makes the customer experience approachable and honest. With no product on the sales floor, customers are invited to head straight to the cash desk and engage with a welcoming 1922 team member.

To Mike Dunn and Brooke Silversides, creators of 1922, “every visual detail matters”, as it is the non-verbal language that creates trust with the customer.


Sound is a much trickier sense to use for intriguing your customers. Many major brands use a variety of techniques to try and cater to this sense, including playing music in their stores.

If you can utilize the right kind of sounds or music that connects with your customers on a personal level, you can create a longer-lasting emotional connection that they will subconsciously associate with your brand.

Low-tempo music has been shown to slow down customer movements.

According to Business Insider, if a wine shop is playing classical music instead of Top 40, it not only increases sales but also encourages customers to buy more expensive bottles of wine. Additionally, low-tempo music has been shown to slow down customer movements throughout the store, which results in them buying more. This is a sensory technique that many cannabis stores could take advantage of to slow customers down and give staff members more opportunities to interact with them and assist with their cannabis education.

When Prairie Records was designing their store, they could see that a substantial number of cannabis stores were instituting designs that allowed for limited engagement with the products. “We wanted to create a welcoming environment, which drew on feelings of nostalgia to create an emotional connection,” says Adam Coates of Decibel Cannabis Company.

Music was the key to unlocking this connection.

Using music that appeals to their target market, they created a shared experience that connected their tactile design choices and the organization of their store to the products they offer.

The store features products that fit with the atmosphere created by their record of the week.

Prairie Records even instituted ‘Top Hits Tuesday’. Coates says on these days customers can access headphones to listen to their selected music more intently, and the store features products that fit with the atmosphere created by their record of the week.

This type of promotion moves beyond features and benefits, to create a pleasant atmosphere that not only provides a positive customer experience but also promotes stronger engagement with their products.


Possibly the easiest sense to employ in your stores, touch is also a wonderful way to encourage customer education in cannabis stores.

Allowing customers to interact with products by touching and exploring them, where regulations will allow of course, will not only help you make the sale, but allows staff to educate customers directly about certain products. A significant portion of customers want to have this freedom to evaluate and understand cannabis products before using them, so using this tactile tactic is a must.

House of CannabisAt House of Cannabis stores, touch is used to tell a visual-tactile story.

Their designs incorporate materials found in nature, such as birch trees and light wood elements to set the tone. Cement and leather risers are used to highlight their products, with whale boning to break up the straight lines typically found in cannabis store décor.

“We try to create an environment that hits various shoppers’ basic senses, which leads the customer to explore the display and interact with our store team members,” says Ben Tran of The House of Cannabis.

Together, these touch elements create an atmosphere that feels natural, calming, and inviting.


Smell is a strong sense that easily triggers emotional attachments that can be used in the store to connect with the customer. Smell jars are the closest customers can get to experience the product, and budtenders can help them understand the complexity of the terpenes in different products.

Some stores also use scent from diffusers to create a welcoming atmosphere.

Sensory Summary

Creating a comfortable overall atmosphere in cannabis stores puts customers at ease, which makes them feel more confident purchasing products.

Cannabis retail stores have many regulatory restrictions, but there is still a world of options available to them that can help establish deeper emotional engagement with their customers.

This emotional connection is what cannabis stores need to establish to stand out in the increasingly saturated retail market. As the number of competitive outlets continues to increase, the importance of building a good atmosphere for your clientele is only going to become more relevant and necessary.

Tags: 1922 (1), Adam Coates (1), Ben Tran (1), Brooke Silversides (1), Cannabis Marketing (39), Cannabis Retail (387), House of Cannabis (1), Mike Dunn (2), Prairie Records (5)