Coronavirus & CBD: Navigating Shifts in Consumer Behavior

April 07, 2020


Coronavirus & CBD: Navigating Shifts in Consumer Behavior by Larry Berg

Aggressive health measures to stem the spread of the Coronavirus or COVID-19 are changing everything, including the operation of CBD businesses.  And if there’s one thing CBD business owners are accustomed to, it’s change.

Dramatic shifts in in-store and online shopping patterns are palpable and have the potential to become permanent as consumers adjust to public health demands to go out less and shop online more. 

Whether such changes disrupt business models is not in question. They will. The bottom-line impact to businesses is largely dependent on responsiveness.

Brick & Mortar Shoppers are Moving Online

The rising percentage of confirmed COVID-19 cases and related emergency actions is marked by fewer visits to brick-and-mortar stores and increased online shopping, according to Neilson in an analysis released last week.

Increased Digital Demand

The increase in demand is driving up digital activity. With so many consumers self-quarantined and staying at home, internet activity is at an all time high. In China, mobile Internet activity rose by 20 percent —from 6.1 hours in early January to 7.3 hours – when workers were placed on self-quarantine, according to a QuestMobile study. Increases in U.S. market browsing rates are already evident and increasing. 

For CBD businesses,  increased consumer digital demand signals several significant shifts.

Digital Ad Space Will Be at a Premium

Many high-touch businesses and bricks-and-mortar locations are quickly moving to online marketing, as evidenced by Sephora’s recent announcement that it suspended its in-store make-up testing and related encouragement to engage with its online tools.

Spot advertisers may find less open inventory and fewer attractive entry-level ad offers over the coming months, so the time to make contractual commitments is closing. 

Speed is the New Competitive Advantage

Companies that are nimble have an unprecedented opportunity to leapfrog others who may have complex decision-making strategies in place or cumbersome operations/logistical platforms. 

Frequency is Key

Distracted consumers are more likely to respond to the brands they see most often. That requires increased positioning on the part of brands, regardless their past market position.

Bulk Buys

Shipping delays may rise in concert with increased online purchases. CBD companies can help consumers avoid them with bulk order discounts, quarterly shipping offers or other frequency plays that encourage volume purchases.  

These discounts have an underlying advantage of building brand loyalty of consumers who are less likely to competitive shop for items they have pre-stocked.


Pocketbook concerns should be reflected in ad offers. With so many U.S. household budgets stretched, it’s important to provide value. The difference in between CBD remaining a household staple or becoming a discretionary household purchase will likely be measured in decimals.  

Free shipping, bonus sample trial packs with purchase and competitively priced promotions are trending now. We expect to see complimentary thermometers, face masks and other hard-to-find commodities in CBD market offers soon. 

Education & Imagery

Quality standards matter now more than ever. If your website does not currently feature an update on how your quality practices meet or exceed public health standards, update it today. 

Wholesale Moves from High Touch to High Tech 

The postponement of countless CBD Expos and Trade Shows is creating new demand and opportunities for CBD businesses focused on wholesale/retail growth, who need to find new avenues to reach prospective wholesale clients and their customer base.

The CBD wholesale market is moving from the trade show floor to a digital+ marketplace in the short-term, which conceivably could nudge the market toward less high-touch business models. Interest in digital marketing products with direct mail sampling capability is increasing in concert with the level of event cancellations and is expected to grow over the coming months.

A growing number of CBD businesses are moving excess wholesale samples via consumer-based digital promotions in order to avoid excess inventory costs.

Forward-thinking CBD brands are working in concert with retail partners to include product samples in digital offers, as a means of supporting bricks and mortar retailers move toward touchless transactions.

Change: The One Constant

COVID-19 is creating incredible business challenges. As we navigate the new normal, it’s important to remember there’s power in the ability to pivot. Yes, change is ahead. And in an industry dominated by change agents, we’ve got this.

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