Diff Agency is a pioneer in Cannabis Ecommerce, having created the first direct to consumer (DTC) websites available to the legal cannabis market. We’re proud to announce that our work on Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS), one of our Cannabis Ecommerce clients, was recognized by the Communicator Awards.
The winners of the 26th Annual Communicator Awards were officially announced in May by the Academy of Interactive and Visual Arts. We’re thrilled to share that we won two awards for our work on OCS: an Award of Excellence for User Experience on Mobile, and an Award of Distinction for Structure and Navigation.
Selling Cannabis Online in Ontario
Restrictions on selling recreational cannabis in Ontario vary between the private market and government agencies. For example, private retailer cannabis websites are restricted to offering “buy online, pay in store” (BOPIS) for purchases, they cannot deliver orders. Private retailers also face restrictions in promotion and marketing of their products.
The OCS is not a private retailer however, it’s a crown corporation (the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation) solely owned by the Province of Ontario, reporting to the Ministry of Finance. Unlike private cannabis retailers, the OCS is authorized to deliver orders to consumers rather than using BOPIS.
OCS is dedicated to providing safe, responsible access to recreational cannabis for adults 19 and older, and they are Ontario’s only online retailer and wholesaler of legal recreational cannabis in Ontario. The OCS works closely with a group of licensed cannabis producers authorized by Health Canada to ensure that customers receive legal and clearly labelled cannabis products.
Designing Cannabis Ecommerce Websites
Designing an online shopping experience “at scale” already has it’s challenges. For example, a website design needs to cater to every type of user imaginable to create an optimized path to purchase.
Once you add to this the restrictions that come along with regulated industries like recreational cannabis, the best practices that we typically apply to an ecommerce user experience become unusable.
As a government agency, the OCS aimed to layer into their website a focus on educating the consumer. The website’s main priority is to elevate consumer knowledge and encourage responsible use of cannabis products for both new and experienced users in Ontario.
To support their educational mandate, OCS has a marketing and content team dedicated to producing helpful editorial content that helps consumers. OCS further has an entire customer-care center staffed by knowledgeable product specialists who provide the information customers need to make the right choices.
With the added challenge of integrating consumer education into the path to purchase, optimizing the OCS ecommerce experience was a difficult task. But Diff’s design team was up to the challenge.
Usability Testing to Overcome Cannabis Ecommerce Challenges
Usability testing is done to validate design decisions and determine whether a website is meeting consumers’ needs by talking to real people.
In the case of OCS, Diff’s design team used testing to rationalize the creative decisions they’d made for the OCS website. While we definitely think we know what users want, the best way to confirm our assumptions is by having real users validate them.
Usability testing is about understanding your users and how they try to accomplish actual tasks, and not just on desktop, but on mobile as well. With the increasing use of mobile apps and websites, consumers have high expectations, and need to understand how your users are interpreting your experience in a mobile context becomes paramount to any successful digitally native brand.
Diff conducted usability testing sessions to validate our design assumptions both on desktop and mobile. In our 1 on 1 moderated usability testing sessions, we recruited from a broad audience segment for cannabis ecommerce to discover if the site design was meeting OCS’s goals and objectives, and to ensure the sale of cannabis products on OCS.ca was being balanced with available educational and socially responsible content.
The usability testing sessions gave Diff actionable insights that the design team used to align the OCS website with user’s expectations. Ultimately, Diff delivered a website that does more than optimize the path to purchase. The OCS website simultaneously educates users about cannabis products in an engaging way that promotes public safety.
Winning top honors in Mobile User Experience for our work on OCS sheds light on how much testing and effort has gone into the website’s design, and the value of Diff’s expertise in regulated industries. This Communicator Award of Excellence demonstrates Diff’s ability to solve for the unique, and new challenges that Cannabis Ecommerce presents.
What Are The Communicator Awards?
With over 6,000 entries received from across the US and around the world, the Communicator Awards is the largest and most competitive awards program honoring creative excellence for communications professionals.
The Communicator Awards honors work that transcends innovation and craft – work that made a lasting impact, providing an equal chance of winning to all entrants regardless of company or agency size and project budget.
The Award of Excellence is the highest honor. According to the Communicator Awards website. This award is given to entrants whose ability to communicate positions them as the best in the field. They further add that the Award of Distinction is presented for projects that exceed industry standards in quality and achievement.
The Full List of Diff’s Communicator Awards, 2020
Diff Agency also won Communicator Awards this year for our work on Anine Bing, AfterShokz, and Wild Fork Foods:
- Award of Excellence for Ecommerce Website – Anine Bing
- Award of Distinction for Visual Appeal – Anine Bing
- Award of Excellence for Integrated Mobile Experience – Aftershokz
- Award of Distinction for UX for Websites – AfterShokz
- Award of Distinction for Mobile Shopping – Wild Fork Foods
You can see a full list of Diff Agency’s previously won awards, here.
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Written by Erin Hynes, Diff Agency's Marketing Coordinator.
This article originally appeared in the Diff Agency blog and has been published here with permission.