Serial tech entrepreneur, inventor, patent holder, and software connoisseur Jeremy Jacobs likens launching his latest endeavor to bringing beer to the desert. In 2014, he and his team began studying the cannabis retail space with the goal of creating a solution mirroring his established global brand Eyeconic.tv, which serves Fortune 500 healthcare, restaurant, and retail companies.
Enlighten resulted, debuting in 2017. The digital system provides point-of-sale media incorporating fully managed digital signage and menus along with touch-screen kiosks. Employing state-of-the-art integrated hardware and software attached to “the internet of things,” the system educates and entertains consumers as well as provides budtenders with tools and retailers with data and hyper-targeted marketing. Enlighten deployments also offer something for product brands: in-dispensary advertising exposure. According to Jacobs, the system “adds value to the location and its customers.”
Jacobs describes Enlighten as a tech company first and a cannabis company second. The company’s bona fides in mature industries evidently resonate with cannabis companies: What started as a thirty-store test market grew into a network of nearly 1,000 locations in thirty-four states plus Canada, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico. Jacobs attributes the rapid growth to employing the same tech-savvy team and essential equipment that developed, tested, and deployed Eyeconic. “This allowed us to avoid some of the hiccups and pitfalls many [competitors] went through,” he said. “A headache-free life is a good life for dispensary operators.”
He also said consumers appreciate the high-tech approach to shopping as much as budtenders appreciate the system’s convenience and the way it elevates the retail experience. Enlighten On Demand allows dispensaries to live-feed educational videos and imagery tailored to each consumer’s knowledge. Budtenders use the information to help patients select products, then click into the smart-menu interface to display a list of items the system suggests for the patient’s needs and desires. Not only is the approach friendlier and more engaging, but it also prevents the inevitable confusion and embarrassment that results when the customer’s selection is out of stock. The customized consumer interface may be augmented with promotional messages. “We make keeping your menu up to date easy through integration with some of the biggest [point-of-sale] and [customer relationship management] systems in cannabis, including Flowhub, Treez, and POSaBit.”
From a retailer’s perspective, Enlighten’s interactive menus, TV screens, and kiosks make technology approachable. Educating consumers digitally may help cut wait times and increase average spend, and professionally produced edu-tainment can keep customers engaged if they do have to wait. According to Enlighten’s statistics, the company has served more than 500 million videos since it debuted and displays more than 50 million ad impressions annually. “All of our offerings have technology to verify the exact number of impressions and also can employ measurability techniques to prove how well they are working,” Jacobs said.
Perhaps the biggest retail benefits, though, come from increased marketing capabilities and the data the system collects. Screens can target a brand’s audience with video advertisements at the point of sale and, if consumers opt in, follow them around on their cellphones, casually popping up reminders about their favorite brands and dispensary. Enlighten programs like Beacon CRM, Showcase, TrafficWise, and Direct Connect help retain current customers and convert new ones by alerting consumers to new products and special deals. Jacobs calls the suite of programs “white-glove” service. “We produce products that make dispensaries more profitable, more measurable, more efficient, and more interactive,” he said.
Although the company’s growth to date has been impressive, Jacobs said Enlighten has more growth to accomplish. As part of a rapid expansion effort, the company merged with the Eyechronic network, another popular in-dispensary education platform. In February, Enlighten acquired Loud Screens, a digital menu provider. Those and other strategic acquisitions and collaborations will increase Enlighten’s ability to provide dispensaries with a full technological ecosystem for training staff, educating consumers, and driving sales.
One of the collaborations is with Novus MedPlan, which offers supplemental cannabis health insurance for THC and CBD users. The company works with Enlighten to educate patients about its packages and their use at dispensaries. Premium cable channel Showtime also collaborated with Enlighten: In January, the channel previewed the comedy Black Monday inside dispensaries.
Where will Enlighten go from here? As the cannabis space expands internationally, the company intends to expand along with it. In June, Enlighten announced completion of an oversubscribed Series B funding round for more than $6.5 million. Among other things, Jacobs said the funds will be used to finalize new technology and data solutions and extend the Enlighten Wellness division, focused more broadly on alternative health. “Having already solidified our company in place-based cannabis advertising, we will strive to continue to innovate and build upon our marketing and technology solutions to ensure this rapidly growing industry has a robust platform to reach and educate the cannabis consumer,” Jacobs said. “We feel strongly about our market position as the industry continues to mature and know this capital infusion will allow us to continue to grow and serve the industry.”
And continue to innovate. “We see a way to take our massive dataset and create a product that will truly change the way cannabis companies acquire and retain consumers,” he said, “taking all the guesswork out and activating marketing and media based on real-world intelligence driven by [artificial intelligence].”