This article is an in-depth guide to CBD market research and analysis. We’ll cover what market research is, how to perform your analysis, and areas of research that are particularly relevant to the CBD market, before answering all your most frequently-asked-questions on the subject.
Do you ever wonder how the top CBD brands stay one step ahead of the competition, on top of the trends, and on everyone’s lips? While it might be tempting to believe their success is all due to luck, money, and good timing, in reality finding success in the CBD market is all about the market research and analysis you’re able to do.
Whether you’re a small business owner or you’re looking to build a huge brand name within the CBD industry, you’re going to need to conduct market research- and we’re here to help. How else will you know which products will sell well, how to structure your latest marketing strategy, how customers think of you, and what’s ‘normal’ within the CBD market? Research allows your business to establish a baseline, to set reasonable goals, and surpass them!
In the world of hemp-based wellness, things are constantly changing. After all, CBD has only been commercially available since the late 2000s, and it’s only recently that the compound has become well-known and widely available. While laws restricting the use of recreational cannabis remain in place in many places, the public (and country-wide regulations) are easing their ideas of what cannabis-derived compounds (like CBD oil) can achieve.
With more CBD brands forming every day, building a solid industry reputation isn’t an easy task- but it isn’t impossible, either. In this article, we’ll walk you through the importance of CBD market research, how to conduct market research, the challenges around it, and how to overcome them. Who knows? The CBD industry is still relatively new and growing- maybe through research, you’ll discover an untapped market, a new potential use for CBD, or other such advantages sure to place your brand head-and-shoulders above the competition.
What is Market Research?
Market research is simply the act of gathering information, intelligence about your niche- and the broader CBD market. This can involve diving into every part of your business (and taking a look at what your competitors are up to as well), such as:
- Marketing strategies
- Branding decisions
- The social media your brand uses (and how you use it)
- The market you’re targeting
- Your customer service practices
- The products you sell
As a CBD business, you want to have as broad a view of the industry as possible, understanding the public opinion of your CBD products, as well as what competitors are up to. When conducting market analysis, you want to close the gap between what your customers want and what your products actually deliver- whether that’s by altering your products, or tweaking your marketing strategy to target a different pool of consumers.
Essentially, market research helps your CBD business to:
- Avoid mistakes
- Appeal more to your target market
- Compete better with others in your niche
- Identify opportunities your competitors may be missing
- Stay on top (and ahead) of trends
Researching your target market and competitors can also help you develop a unique brand identity, which is vital for survival within an increasingly oversaturated CBD market. By playing to your strengths and knowing the weaknesses of your competitors, you can stand out from the crowd of less-than-premium CBD brands clamouring for attention.
The goals for many CBD businesses can be aided with thorough market analysis. For instance, it is vital to establish your brand as an authority on CBD and wellness within the industry. If customers can’t trust your products with their health, they won’t buy them- simple as that. If customers are looking for a specific type of product and you don’t produce it, they will buy from a brand who does… unless you give them an excellent reason not to.
Here are a few fast facts about how doing market research can help you:
- Suppose you don’t care about consistently improving customer experiences with your brand and products. In that case, you run the risk of losing current and potential customers to businesses with stellar customer service and exciting products.
- Statistics and industry analytics tell you what’s going on in the industry, while research will help you understand why current trends are happening- and how you can benefit from them.
- Research helps you think from a customer’s perspective, which is vital for long-term brand survival and success in the increasingly competitive CBD industry.
- An ineffective marketing strategy is often a result of not enough research and too much guesswork and intuition, even by well-intentioned marketers. Bad ideas are far less likely to come from people who have taken the time to research and come up with an educated opinion based on what their consumers actually want.
- CBD market research can also help you figure out what has been done before by other brands, allowing you to see what works well and what can be a waste of your team’s time, budget, and resources.
Types of Market Research
What is Primary Market Research?
Primary research allows you to collect information first-hand from your customers. This can tell you about the different types of people buying your CBD products, and help you to target different groups more effectively in the future. There are several types of primary research businesses can use to gather information first-hand:
Specific Primary Research- this method of research is best for those businesses who have already done research into the current market and surrounding industry, and who know what is most important for their business’ continued survival. This form of research often asks specific questions prompted by broader research, inspecting a particular section of your audience and really honing in on what they want from your CBD products. Examples of specific primary research include:
- Focus groups
- Consumer interviews
- Specific surveys
Exploratory Primary Research– this may not provide you with huge statistics that look good on marketing presentations. However, this form of market research will help you identify general trends within your target market, as well as any issues within your current business practices that could be standing in the way of success. While this kind of research tends to involve small sample sizes and personal interactions over inspecting massive market trends, it’s still helpful to keep in mind how your business may impact individual consumers. Examples of exploratory primary research include:
- Customer surveys
- Customer quizzes
- Customer interviews
What is Secondary Market Research?
Secondary market research is less personal than primary research. However, it is no less vital to your business! Often, this type of CBD market analysis will be readily available through things like:
- Market statistics and data
- Current trends
- Sales data from your business
- Other industry data gathered from various third-party sources
Public resources are an invaluable form of gathering business intelligence in any industry, and particularly to the CBD market. This type of secondary market research is often free to access and learn from, backed by government bodies, and updated regularly.
Other forms of secondary market research may come from commercial agencies- though this can be costly to access, it’s often worth the investment to access specific information about your target market.
However, internal data from your own business can also count as secondary research, as (while the information doesn’t come directly from customers) it is still an accurate reflection of who is interacting with your CBD brand. Whether it’s knowing your customer retention rates or understanding which products sell best, internal research sources can often be underestimated when considering different types of market research.
Why is Market Research Important?
Aside from all the potential benefits that CBD market research can give to your brand, it’s important to factor in how complex, and confusing selling products to human beings truly is. Marketing asks a simple question: what do people want, and how do we give it to them? While the question itself is fairly simple, the answer is often complicated- hence why so many brands sell the same product, like CBD oil!
However, some brands are able to answer this question better than others. By studying them and building on their proven marketing techniques, your brand can fulfil the needs of any potential consumers better than others on the market.
CBD market research helps you answer the most essential questions of running a business, such as:
- What prices are people willing to pay for my products?
- What colours and packaging do people prefer to see on the shelf?
- What dosages, potencies, and types of CBD do consumers prefer?
- What problems do my customers have, and how can my products solve them?
By making yourself an ideal brand, you can easily appeal to your ideal consumer- so, in a way, industry analysis is simple… albeit difficult to implement! With all the different potential benefits and uses of CBD, it can be tempting to try to target all potential customers at once- however, if you make your marketing strategy too vague, you risk not appealing to anyone at all.
Effective marketing strategies will help your target market effectively decide whether or not your products may be helpful for them- and whether they should buy from you exclusively. As such, it’s important to study similar, successful brands in your niche to ensure you are correctly communicating your brand’s public image to your target audience.
Areas of Market Research for CBD Brands
We’ve already discussed how marketing can be difficult, even if the theories behind it are simple enough. However, what challenges do CBD brands face as they attempt to market their products? How businesses target their potential consumers is increasingly complicated and automated, with artificial intelligence and big data playing a significant role in much of the CBD industry.
Regardless of whether you’re a new CBD business owner or a veteran within the industry, you’re likely to encounter the same challenges when it comes to how to market your CBD products.
Customer Confusion and Lack of Education
It’s often tricky for consumers to understand the complex world of CBD, with an infinite amount of dosages, potential benefits, and consumption options. As a brand, it’s your job to understand where the confusion lies, and simplify the issues for your consumers. Many customers are often confused regarding questions such as:
- Is CBD legal?
- Is CBD safe?
- What is CBD?
If you can understand why customers are confused, you can also help to clear up this confusion- and establish your CBD brand as an authority within the industry at the same time!
Lack of CBD Regulations
When it comes to things like the potential potency of CBD products, as well as prices, the market is largely unregulated. As long as a product doesn’t surpass a certain amount of THC (the intoxicating compound found within cannabis), it’s generally considered legal. However, the lack of solid regulations often prompts mentions of the ‘wild-wild West’ in comparison to the CBD industry.
Depending on where you live, CBD can be called a supplement, medication, drug, therapeutic aid, or food additive. However, many of these names are also forbidden across certain borders, so it pays to be aware of local, national, and international CBD laws before you invest heavily in a particular CBD label or marketing strategy.
The new and ever-changing landscape of the CBD market can make everything from growth to marketing harder for brands to decipher. Depending on where you live, you may only be able to grow cannabis Sativa (hemp), and only have a certain amount of various cannabinoids within your products. With regulations varying from country to country (and often state-to-state), it’s hard to tell where you stand. As such, it’s vital to research upcoming regulatory changes within the CBD industry, as well as consider how they may change the future of the industry.
For instance, when then-president Trump signed the 2018 amendment to the Farm Bill, he enabled the wide-scale distribution of CBD products on a commercial level across the United States. This didn’t just impact American CBD companies, but also those overseas and in Canada who were waiting for the opportunity to expand into the States.
Prices Often Vary, Even for Premium CBD Products
With the incredible amount of variation that exists between CBD brands, it’s no surprise that prices can often seem more like on-the-spot inventions than genuine reflections of value. However, this doesn’t mean that all CBD products are terminally overpriced, as there are still many factors worth researching that can ‘hike up’ the price of your CBD products, such as:
- How your CBD is grown from the hemp plant- organic products, as a rule, are more costly to produce and certify. In some places, the soil or environment may not be as suitable for growing hemp, resulting in lower yields or the need for indoor growth methods- and more expensive final products.
- Third-party lab testing- as a general rule, any reliable CBD brand will use third party testing in order to ensure their labelling is accurate and their products are free of any unwanted additives, GMOs, pesticides, etc. However, sending your products to an independent laboratory can also be fairly costly.
- The type of extraction method you use (many brands aim for a compromise between quality, efficacy, and budget; going for either ethanol or CO2 extraction.)
- Potency and cannabinoid content- people are generally willing to pay more for a more potent dose of CBD, or a full/broad-spectrum product with a good range of other compounds from the original plant.
Even factors that, on the surface, don’t have a lot to do with your final product, can still wind up affecting your final price tag. Suppose your company is employing a fair amount of scientific experts to help with everything from growth to formulation and efficacy. In that case, this means you have more expenses to cover- and that means charging a little more for your CBD oils. Likewise, a prime business location will often come with exorbitant rental costs you’ll need to consider when pricing your products.
At the end of the day, two things matter:
- Can customers afford your products?
- Are you making a profit from your products?
Until the answer to both of these questions is a resounding yes, it’s worth looking at how other businesses are accomplishing their goals, and tweaking whatever you’re doing wrong.
CBD Oil is a Competitive Market
We’ve mentioned studying the competition already. However, why is this?
Aside from being the norm in just about any industry, the CBD market is exceptionally competitive, adding to its ‘wild West’ reputation. New brands appear every day, while others fade into obscurity when they can’t keep up. Many brands make the mistake of being too much like their competitors, selling too similar products, and simply not being memorable enough to encourage repeat purchases from their customers.
To avoid making basic mistakes and industry faux-pas, you may wish to see your competitors through several perspectives while researching:
- A classic competitor, essentially a threat to your business
- Something to aspire to, almost as a mentor
- Someone testing the waters, hinting at good or bad business opportunities before you take them
While the CBD market began reasonably narrow, with consumers essentially only able to buy oil, nowadays, the landscape of the CBD industry is constantly broadening. CBD drinks, food, tinctures, suppositories, and even pet treats are all on the market- and they’re just the tip of the iceberg! With every new type of CBD product that becomes available, a competitor taps an untapped market and gains a whole new clientele.
As part of CBD’s versatility, there are a thousand different niches where you may find sales, by targeting those interested in potentially:
- Improving their wellbeing
- Living with anxiety or pain symptoms (or both)
- Pursuing interests in yoga, spirituality, meditation, etc;
- Canna beauty (via CBD cosmetics)
It is often the CBD companies that do their research on the competition and one-up them with strategies that (on the surface) have nothing to do with CBD that come out on top. An excellent marketing strategy employing good use of SEO, PR, influencers, social media, email marketing, and other online ways of reaching your target market can help set yourself apart from competitors.
Increasing Target Market for CBD Products
The ever-increasing variety of CBD products may indicate a lot of competition and over-saturation within the CBD industry. However, it also shows us something else: the target market for CBD is still expanding, too.
Analysing which products are coming into existence (and which are already doing well) is vital when it comes to deciding what products your CBD brand should sell. In addition, how these products are formulated, packaged, and marketed, as well as inspecting the type of person specific products appeal to, will serve your business well.
For instance, a different type of person will buy a CBD bath bomb when compared to someone looking for a CBD tincture, as these products have different qualities and potential benefits. When inspecting what type of CBD product you should sell, think about:
- Any new products that might appeal to your current target market
- What problems your target market has that CBD may be able to solve
- Do you have an idea for a new product that isn’t tried-and-tested by other brands, but which may give you an edge over your competition if it’s a success? Can you finance its production?
- Marketing strategies you can use to sell your products, and if they’ve worked for other businesses
- Are these CBD products legal to sell where your business is located?
- Do these products align with who you are as a business, and will they support your current goals?
It’s vital to consider your target market before entertaining these questions- what niche does your business occupy? What sells well for a CBD cosmetics brand may not suit a business aiming to sell CBD for dogs, after all!
Distributing Your CBD Products
Once you’ve assessed the competition and decided on products (all based on market research, of course), it’s time to think about how you’ll distribute your CBD products. After all, what could be more important than having your products actually reach the customers? Marketing and research teams should be involved with your CBD brand’s distribution strategies, and help you decide which channel is right for you.
Common examples of distribution channels in the CBD industry include:
- Online marketplaces
- Brick-and-mortar retail stores
- Natural ‘organic’ food stores (typically brick-and-mortar)
- Gas stations
- CBD dispensaries, cafes, massage parlours, and other businesses which can include CBD in their products or services
The most effective marketing strategy for your CBD brand will vary depending on how your product will reach the customer- you may wish to use one or multiple of the above methods, depending on what your market analysis tells you is best, of course!
Research Into CBD
Researching the most recent studies, surveys, and case studies surrounding CBD can open up new niches, products, and uses for your products that you may never have considered before. As the regulations surrounding CBD come into place, they must be reinforced with scientific data- and your marketing strategy should be no different. Most premium CBD brands will place a strong value on the scientific efficacy of their product, whether they sell CBD oil, food, skincare, or pet treats.
While CBD marketing laws widely prohibit making medical claims in any form, most countries don’t have anything against linking to scientific studies, which just-so-happen to reinforce your identity as a CBD brand for those with anxiety, chronic pain, or insomnia symptoms. Just make sure any studies you do cite come from reputable sources, such as universities, government bodies, or other certified laboratories.
The Future of the CBD Industry
Looking into CBD market forecasts and the current size of the industry are a crucial part of research. Essentially, it answers the two vital questions many business owners find themselves asking on a daily basis: where am I right now, and where am I going?
Researching the wider market can help you decide:
- What’s trending?
- What’s about to trend?
- Where do you see your business in the next year? What about the next five years? (Try not to plan too far in advance, especially given the fast-flowing nature of the CBD industry)
Being able to form an educated opinion regarding the future of the CBD industry can help you with everything we have discussed today- and then some!
As a business owner, it’s likely you are constantly assessing the internal processes of your business, as well as how to improve conversion rates and spread awareness about CBD. Ensuring that your strategies for improvement are backed up by hard evidence, industry analysis, and statistics is the best recipe for success.
There are many different places to look for industry trends, such as analysing:
- What products are popular at the moment, and why
- The opposite- what isn’t doing well, or is slowly fading out over time
- What has sold well in the past
- Any ‘evergreen’ classics in the industry which are bound to sell well no matter what, such as CBD oil
- Any issues many people are dealing with at the moment (for instance, cases of anxiety spiked during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic)
Knowing where the CBD industry is headed can influence everything we’ve talked about here, from formulation to distribution and pricing.
Study the Wider CBD Market
Once you know what’s going on with your local and national CBD industry, take a look at the international market. Many of the larger CBD brands out there have already gained something of a monopoly on their local markets and respective niches, and are looking to expand into the overseas CBD markets in:
- Latin America
- Mainland Europe
Much of your broader market research is likely to correlate with national trends. However, it’s worth inspecting what works on a wider scale when your business is solidly working towards larger goals of global expansion.
When researching the international CBD market, you should consider:
- Is CBD legal to sell in the country (or countries) you’re considering?
- Can hemp be cultivated in the country you’re considering?
- Is there a market for CBD products there?
- Does the general public have disposable income to spend on ‘luxury’ products like CBD?
- Who will your target audience be in this country, and (even if they are similar to your local customers) how will cultural differences affect your marketing strategy?
- What does the future of the CBD industry look like for this country?
Ways to Do Market Research
Now that you know what to look at during market research, how can you begin to conduct it in a way that best suits your business? We’re here to take you through the best ways to gather information about your niche in the CBD industry.
Ask the Customer Directly
This often falls under the umbrella of ‘primary market research’, however asking the customer directly (treating them as a person, not a statistic or conversion to be made) is often the best way of gathering transparent information about what’s working for your business and what needs to change.
- Interviews and in-person consultations with potential customers allow you to assess how they feel about your brand, products, and other facets of your business.
- Focus groups allow you to test possible marketing strategies and new products on a small sample size of people before they head out into the broader market. This means that you’re more likely to prevent mistakes and predict what will work well by paying attention to feedback from your carefully selected focus groups.
- Many brands also look into customer loyalty and satisfaction, using their customer service practices, review outlets, and on-site surveys to discover how current customers think about their business practices.
- Similarly, you may wish to research how current customers use your products, if they have any issues with your current business practices (is customer service below-par? Is shipping unsatisfactory?), and anything which may reflect poorly on your CBD brand’s reputation.
Branding-Related and Internal Business Research
Branding is a large part of making your business stand out from the rest of the CBD industry- and as such, it should play a significant role in your market research.
As part of branding, many marketing teams will have an idea of an ‘ideal customer’- usually an average person from your target market who the team keeps in mind when designing marketing material. Often, the ‘ideal buyer’ will not be far from the truth- and by researching people similar to your ideal buyer, who they are, what they believe, and what CBD products they prefer to buy, you’re more likely to appeal to them.
Separating your target market into segments is another common way marketers may research potential customers. Perhaps your brand wants to appeal to males between the ages of 30-40 with certain hobbies- by looking into these demographics, you’re more likely to know what they expect from a CBD brand, and how to effectively turn them into brand loyalists.
Researching brand awareness within your current pool of customers is also an excellent way to see how your brand is perceived by your target market, as well as discover what parts of your current branding strategy are working well. If it isn’t memorable, it’s worth investigating why; likewise, if your branding is successful, how can you continue this? What do your customers associate with your products, and how can this be used to your advantage?
One of the most obvious ways to conduct internal research into the CBD market is by turning the focus inward and studying how your own marketing strategies and campaigns have been received. Have they improved sales? Is it worth experimenting with something new? You’ll only know through careful analysis!
We’ve already talked about the importance of researching the wider CBD market, but it bears repeating that you must examine:
- CBD product pricing- look at what your target market is willing to pay, and what other brands are charging for similar products
- CBD products themselves- is there some must-have natural ingredient everyone is adding to their CBD skincare, edibles, or oils? Can you incorporate it into your products?
- The competition- what are other CBD brands in your niche selling? What marketing strategies are they using? What do they have that you don’t (especially if it’s something which may appeal to your target market)?
- How to make yourself unique- for all the success looking at the competition can make you, if you fail to differentiate yourself from the rest of the CBD industry, you’re likely to fail in the business as well.
Questions to Ask During CBD Market Research
Before you conduct market analysis involving customers, you should meticulously plan your question, conversation, and strategy to ensure everything stays on task.
When researching your audience, ensure you’re aware of your target:
- Profession (and income)
As well as any issues they may be dealing with on a daily basis that CBD may be able to help with, such as symptoms of chronic pain, anxiety, depression, sleep issues, and sexual issues.
When conducting research using customer interviews and focus groups, ensure you cover all questions you want to ask- in order of importance, and in a way that makes the conversation flow well- nobody likes a clunky, awkward interview! Be respectful of your consumer’s time, and they are likely to repay you with their interest.
Don’t make the mistake of treating the interview like a script- conversation should still be natural, even if you have not-so-secret ulterior motives for having it! In general, the questions you ask should be as open-ended as possible, encouraging detailed answers rather than keeping things to a simple yes-or-no.
In general, you could structure your interview in five broad sections:
1. Asking About the Consumer’s Background:
This is where you do the ‘housekeeping’- learning the basic statistics you need about the customer, such as their:
- Disposable Income
- Why they take/ are interested in CBD
2. Understanding Why They’re Interested in CBD
While you aren’t selling anything to them at this part of the interview, you should still understand how they came to have an interest in CBD, what problem they had that may be solved with CBD, etc.
Building a baseline about what they knew regarding CBD before, during, and after the challenges they’ve faced is crucial. Whether it’s a challenge with their physical health, mental health, or general wellbeing, this information could heavily influence future marketing strategies- as well as help you understand what type of products your consumers are most enthusiastic about.
3. Asking Specific Questions
When narrowing down the types of questions you ask the consumer, ensure you find out:
- How did they research- online? Via a book? Talking to friends and family?
- Where did they go once they knew the basics?
- What words did they specifically search? (this can be helpful for SEO purposes)
- Who was the best source of information?
- How could their research process have been made simpler?
Ask about everything from who they talked to (friends, family, industry professionals) to where they looked for an official source on CBD. How did they conduct the bulk of their research? Search engines, websites, big-name brands, etc, can all help you to build a picture of where the average consumer will find an ‘industry authority’ whom they trust for information about their health.
4. Learning How Consumers Make Conclusions
Once you know the specifics of how the customer has gathered their knowledge of CBD, you may follow their train of thought to discover:
- Which CBD authority they consider most trustworthy and influential
- Which criteria they think are most important in making decisions about CBD- whether that’s for pure research purposes, or deciding which product to buy
- Who (and what) had the most influence over their final decisions about CBD’s efficacy and which product they decided to give a try in the end
5. Making Your Own Conclusions
When you wrap up your interview, your focus should be on improving the customer’s future experience. What would their ideal product look like? How would it be different from their everyday experience?
Try to ensure the meeting ends on a high note- thank the customer for their time and allow them to ask any questions they may have.
By now, you likely understand why it’s crucial to conduct CBD market research. Having data to backup your business strategy can help inform your decisions in everything from product development to marketing. Looking to your competitors and customers alike to gather information can serve you well when it comes to carving out your own unique niche in the industry.
Research also offers you the ability to change what doesn’t work for your business, what doesn’t appeal to your customers, and to avoid mistakes. When conducting market research, make sure you are exploring for unbiased information, rather than cherry-picking what agrees with your personal opinions from the start. Be specific when you need to be specific, and open-minded at every stage of the process.
In short, research can help you better your business by looking at the industry through a fresh lens- whether it’s that of the consumer or your competitor(s). Through research, dedication, and action, you can better your business outcomes and find success.
Verified by a health professional
Anastasiia Myronenko is a Medical Physicist actively practicing in one of the leading cancer centers in Kyiv, Ukraine. She received her master’s degree in Medical Physics at Karazin Kharkiv National University and completed Biological Physics internship at GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research, Germany. Anastasiia Myronenko specializes in radiation therapy and is a fellow of Ukrainian Association of Medical Physicists.