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Going Virtual: Cannabis Retail Design

With its 420 activation, Insa demonstrates the demand for innovation and experiences in the growing cannabis retail market




Insa, a Massachusetts medical and adult-use cannabis company, captivates customers with a virtual reality (VR) brand experience. Meanwhile, industry trends emphasize accessibility and appeal to new consumers.

Produced by agency Agar (Cincinnati), Insa’s 4/20 VR Experience debuted in April 2023 at pop-up events at INSA stores across Massachusetts.

Virtual reality (VR) goggles transport guests to a behind-the-scenes look at Insa. Participants customize their tour by choosing where to explore — from learning about the cultivation of cannabis to meeting the Insa team or watching the culinary creation of edibles.

“We talk a lot about the quality of our product, and there’s no better way to show it than an immersive, personalized VR tour of our brand,” says Sara Sullivan, VP of Retail Development, Experience, and Operations at Insa.

Alongside the VR tour, guests ate at food trucks, took home custom apparel and participated in branded photo ops.

Offering customers entertainment at stores and memorable pop-up events, such as Insa’s VR experience, is a rising trend with cannabis retailers.


“Consumers’ expectations of hyper-personalization is across every aspect of their daily routines, creating an ever-increasing demand for brands to center on each individual with a tailored and unique offer,” says Robyn Novak, Executive Director of Strategy and Development at Agar.


Going Virtual: Cannabis Retail Design


Regarding recent design trends in the cannabis retail industry, operators and designers are focused on shoppers new to cannabis, according to Megan Stone, Founder and Creative Director of High Road Design Studio (Scottsdale, Ariz.), an interior design studio focused on cannabis design. As cannabis becomes more legally accessible and less stigmatized, store designs are continuing to modernize to appeal to a broader clientele.

“Designers are bringing a sense of normalcy and excitement to cannabis dispensaries through creative fixturing that showcases products in eye-catching yet complementary ways,” Stone says. “These fixture designs are elevating dispensaries from their standard aesthetics and bringing a new level of product accessibility to stores.”


Additionally, dispensaries are establishing relationships with new customers through strong and consistent brand identities. “This is accomplished at every customer touchpoint through logo variations, taglines, iconography, typography, brand imagery, packaging and apparel designs, and environmental graphics and signage,” Stone says.

Despite the changing industry, the basic principles of cannabis retail design, such as “interactive product displays, highly trained staff, express order pick-up infrastructure and super-efficient order fulfillment,” are proving most successful for retailers, according to Stone.

With recent trends favoring unique experiences at stores and streamlined accessibility, designers and retailers in the cannabis space are innovating and modernizing for a rapidly expanding customer base.

Join us this fall at the 2023 International Retail Design Conference (IRDC) in Minneapolis Oct. 25-26, where Sara Sullivan of Insa and Robyn Novak of Agar will discuss Insa’s in-store activations more in-depth and explore how retailers can combat the challenges of selling intangible products and services. Learn more by visiting

📷 Courtesy of Insa




MasterClass: ‘Re-Sparkling’ Retail: Using Store Design to Build Trust, Faith and Brand Loyalty

HOW CAN WE EMPOWER and inspire senior leaders to see design as an investment for future retail growth? This session, led by retail design expert Ian Johnston from Quinine Design, explores how physical stores remain unmatched in the ability to build trust, faith, and loyalty with your customers, ultimately driving shareholder value.

Presented by:
Ian Johnston
Founder and Creative Director, Quinine Design

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