Interview: How Fleur Marché Converts The CBD-Curious Luxury Customer With Quality And Curation
PSFK speaks to the luxury CBD platform's founders to get a glimpse at how the site differentiates itself in the quickly evolving cannabis retail space, combining consumer needs with CBD's best applications for a curated and quality experience
As the CBD space continues to boom, some consumers still feel as though they lack reputable resources to turn to for quality and safe experiences. The Fleur Marché, a hyper-curated, online-only platform for wellness-focused luxury CBD products, hopes to change this, parlaying its founders' experience from their work with Goop into a trustworthy space for women to find relief from common woes like anxiety and insomnia.
In an interview for our podcast, PSFK caught up with the Fleur Marché's owners, Ashley Lewis and Meredith Schroeder, to find out more about the recently launched site, including how it works to educate and convert the “reluctant” consumer who maybe has heard of CBD but isn't sure about it, as well as the potential of the cannabis retail space as it continues to evolve.
PSFK: What are some of the trends from the retailer side as well as the consumer side that you've noticed within the CBD space, and that you're leveraging in the Fleur Marché?
Ashley Lewis: The biggest thing is that consumers are looking for guidance on how to use the products. Even on the traditional cannabis side (with THC), brands like Dosist capitalized on the concept of telling consumers how to use its products. We leveraged our experience from Goop, which did a great job helping consumers understand how to use products and what the target benefits are.
On our site, you're able to shop a variety of ways, including by brand and by format, but mainly by need. Our customers can go on the site and say, “I need help with sleep. I need help with anxiety.”
Meredith Schroeder: Another trend is that a lot of people are trying to reposition or at least go after a wellness audience as it pertains to cannabis. That's important to us, and something we learned at Goop. Ashley ran the wellness vertical and I ran the fashion vertical. What we did well was contextualize everything for the customer within the lens of wellness and quality products.
We wanted to use that experience and parlay that into this category that was otherwise not speaking that same language.
Ashley: We also have very strict standards for our products. We have a pretty thorough vetting process for any brand or product that makes it onto the site. That is something that we took directly from Goop, too.
That's something that people are looking for as this space continues to boom and so many startups enter it. People still don't know who's the authority. Are they getting good quality? That's something valuable from a consumer side.
Tell us about the founding of the Fleur Marché. Were there any gaps in the market you noticed, or unmet consumer needs you wanted to fill with your own brand?
Ashley: There are two sides of the same coin that we're addressing. The first is education. The acronym CBD is everywhere. A lot of people have heard about it at this point. It's made its way into the media, but it's still hard to understand what it is and does. There's still a ton of confusion about whether or not it gets you high. How does it taste? If you get drug tested, will it show up? The facts are something that the consumers need.
They also need them in a way that's easy to digest. It's important that they're able to get the information they want without having to feel like they're doing research. That's one side of it.
The other side of it is creating a platform where, once consumers understand what CBD is, they can go to have a curated, delightful, easy-to-use experience.
Those were two huge holes. It's the reason we started the business, because when we first got into CBD ourselves, there was no great experience. The market is highly fragmented. You find CBD in a variety of different places on the Internet, none of which are the ones that you want if you are a seasoned consumer of beauty, health and wellness products. Those are the holes that we've felt were obvious and needed to be filled.
You mentioned your emphasis on quality and education. How did you enable that? What type of research and resources did you go through?
Meredith: We have a pretty in depth on-boarding process for all of our brands that we carry. Luckily enough, we had a lot of relationships that existed from Goop while doing research in the CBD category specifically. We were able to leverage those relationships pretty quickly and onboard some best-in-class brands, which was important to us.
In terms of our process, we have a very in-depth vendor questionnaire that we require all of our brands to go through so that we can get to the bottom of their testing, actually review all of the third-party testing, get the COAs and have a repository of information so that we can feel confident about the quality of the products that we have in our universe. That's our process.
Then, we also, get to know the brands personally to make sure a synergy is there—that they have a great story that they're telling and that they're coming from an authentic place in the CBD and cannabis space. We ensure it's an authentic product that aligns with our brand's standards.
You offer a highly curated selection of products. Could you describe how you went about choosing them?
We want to make the distinction within all of our products and be very transparent on our website to explain the exact benefits very intentionally so that we're not confusing the customer.
When we first started, that we felt like we had to go down real rabbit holes to find good quality products. We took it seriously to make sure we were curating the best of the best.
You have an emphasis on issues like insomnia and anxiety. How did you choose which applications of CBD that you wanted to have products for?
We did a lot of research on what the main uses of CBD for women are. We also had a huge data set at Goop to understand what the issues of the modern woman are. Then, we tried to cross reference those with what is CBD known to do—the best case studies.
We wanted to make sure that we were addressing relevant needs but also giving correct information and helping people. The goal of this company is to provide an alternative wellness tool. Our expressed desire is to help women discover something valuable not only in helping with their issues, but also in helping get them off drugs that may otherwise be harmful.
For us, it was a cross reference of the problems that we think women want solved and what CBD actually does.
Let's talk about your retail and marketing strategy. How has being an online-only brand benefited or presented challenges to your business?
Ashley: We started online because that was the fastest way to get the concept into market and reach the most people, which has been exciting. It definitely has proven to be the right decision because in our week four today of being operational, we're seeing orders from all over the country.
Los Angeles and New York are obviously driving the most traffic, but we're seeing a ton of orders from Ohio, Kansas and Pennsylvania, too. It all goes back, again, to why we started the business: to have a platform but also to have a great education.
Do you have any plans to go brick-and-mortar in some manifestation?
From the start, it was important to us to figure out brick and mortar and IRL activations. While we can't say exactly, we are very close to signing a deal to have popups on either coast. We're also working on a trunk show program that would allow us to get into women's living rooms where they're talking to their friends about all this stuff, what their specific questions are—what they need to understand before they buy. We're very much planning and getting ready to go brick and mortar and person to person.
Do you currently find that most of your consumers are engaging through social media, or are they coming directly to your site? How are consumers finding you?
Meredith: It's a mixed bag. In our initial launch, which was January 9, we had a couple of nice press moments that drove some traffic right away through Fast Company and New York Times style section, so that was certainly helpful to get eyeballs on the site.
We have a pretty engaged social audience as well. It's just Ashley and I right now, so we're a lean team. The only place that we're playing right is Instagram. We'll have a bigger presence across all social channels soon.
Instagram specifically has a very engaged audience. We've actually placed orders directly through the platform. People love it because they can ask very direct questions casually without going through the barriers of corporate emails.
The Instagram channel's a great way for them to casually feel connected, which is important to us because we want to instill a sense of community with these people. It's a great way for them to access us personally.
What's next for the Fleur Marché and for the CBD space in general? How do you see the business evolving over the next year or so?
Meredith: For CBD, we're just at the tip of the iceberg. 2018 was a big boom for CBD and now that the Farm Bill has passed, 2019's obviously going to be even bigger. We're just starting to see how things are going to pan out in 2019.
There's going to be new phases of CBD, specifically like new cannabinoids that will re-imagine the space as it exists today. I don't think that that's going to slow down in any way. CBN will become a bigger ingredient, as well as a lot of other cannabinoids that we know less about right now.
CBD is only one of the cannabinoids that are very effective. We'll start to see that rapidly change. Then also, we have longer term plans in terms of expansion beyond that.
Ashley: Now that the Farm Bill has passed, one great thing is that the supply chain is open wide for hemp-based CBD. It is our hope that along with that comes more standardized regulations in terms of how brands are required to test the product and what quality actually looks like.
Right now, we're at the very beginning. We're very laser-focused on what we call the reluctant customer—the woman who has either heard about CBD and thinks she's not interested or is curious but kind of intimidated.
We're focused on first and foremost helping educate and convert her into someone who finds value in it. Beyond that, we fully expect that as the science evolves and as we learn about the new cannabinoids, we can encourage our customers to be a little bit more adventurous and curious in terms of CBD—maybe THC.
We fully anticipate that there will be more science about the entourage effect and how having a little bit of THC in your CBD product makes it more effective in certain cases. We want to make sure that as we grow, we're able to service our customer throughout her journey so she gets more adventurous and wants to try new things. We always want to make sure that we are able to provide those things. In that sense, as we think about brick and mortar, as we think about how to grow, it's with that in mind.