In an industry subject to ever-changing regulations, product offerings, consumer preferences, and predictions about the future, dispensary owners constantly seek ways to adapt their retail stores to the landscape while being smart about how they spend their hard-earned, heavily taxed revenues and where they can invest to get the best returns.
When considering improvements at the retail level, technology options are often in the mix. In the digital age, we sometimes find ourselves expecting technology to be the answer to all questions. Would a custom smartphone app help me attract more customers? Can I reduce my operating costs by automating part of my workflow? Should I produce digital content to educate my clientele about my product offerings? Would beacon technology help increase my average sale and sell more to my current customers?
Sophisticated, innovative, customer-facing technology easily can cost in the mid- to high-six-figure range and take months to develop, only to require constant updates and monitoring to keep pace with the fluctuating cannabis retail environment. That’s why I rarely advise cannabis retailers to pursue these types of technology. At least not this year.
However, there are excellent opportunities for dispensaries to incorporate certain varieties of consumer-facing technology that enhance and add value to the customer experience, improve the bottom line, and don’t require a new round of fundraising to launch.
Integrate digital signage at key touchpoints in the dispensary experience to entertain, engage, educate, and upsell.
In most dispensaries, having to wait—even for only a few minutes—is a necessary part of customer flow. In your lobby area, take advantage of the captive waiting audience by using digital signage to provide entertainment and education. Producing branded video content not only provides good-to-know information, but also engages soon-to-be purchasers with your brand in a meaningful way. If you don’t have the ability to play filmmaker, there is no shame in leveraging the power of the internet to provide entertaining video content. Just be mindful of copyright and licensing laws.
In your showroom, digital menu boards are a great way to communicate an ever-changing list of available products. Place the boards at eye level or slightly higher, near budtenders and patient consultants so they can be referenced during the selection process. Less than half of the digital screens in your showroom should contain your menu. According to Paco Underhill in Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping (Simon & Schuster, 2008), more than 60 percent of the time spent reading menu boards takes place after customers have made their purchase, while their order is being filled and cash is changing hands. So, be sure you dedicate digital real estate to other messaging, like product knowledge or information about upcoming events you’re hosting.
Digital screens also provide a non-permanent canvas for photography and artwork. Instead of living with the same image of a gorgeous cola for months or years, you can cycle through dozens of images loaded on a flash drive without having to print, store, and protect tons of artwork.
Milk your POS software for all the data and insight it collects so you can truly know your customer and your business.
POS software is critical to your retail business. It has a direct impact on your efficiency and throughput. A good POS software platform should provide sound inventory tracking to aid in developing the proper product mix for your location and help guide you toward effective promotional campaigns based on your sales trends. It should allow you to churn through the data it gathers on every patient and transaction in your shop, telling you what, when, and how much customers buy, as well as the mix of products they purchase, what they medicate for, if they use your coupons, whether they are a picky customer, and maybe even what their dog’s name is.
The software also should integrate with third-party applications and allow for online pre-ordering. Pre-ordering is one of the biggest trends emerging in established cannabis markets nationwide, as well as in the broader retail landscape. Don’t believe me? Google the phrase “buy online pick up in store,” or look at the signage on the door at Macy’s, Nordstrom, Best Buy, Target, or Wal-Mart.
If you offer online pre-ordering, serve these customers properly by dedicating a cashier station to serve them when they come to pick up their purchases. This “express counter” is a great location for digital signage to aid in add-on sales. More than one-third of customers who come in to pick up what they ordered online also buy something else while they are in the store. According to Underhill, 60 percent of what people buy in stores wasn’t on their shopping list, so don’t miss out on this opportunity for incremental sales.
Invest in your employees. They are your front lines in the battle for customer loyalty and profitability.
Seasoned retailers know about an indispensable piece of technology that is customizable, adaptable, and repositionable. It can provide instantaneous reactions to a customer’s questions. Most importantly, it has the ability to empathize with customers and provide a deep connection with your brand, creating the valuable customer loyalty every retailer craves. That piece of technology is a well-trained staff of human beings. There are no digital gadgets or software that can compete with top-quality retail employees. Invest time and money to train your staff on product knowledge, customer service, security, and compliance—not to mention how to operate your digital signage and POS software to their fullest potential. You will won’t be disappointed with the investment.
Megan Stone, owner and principal of The High Road Design Studio, is an award-winning interior designer who specializes in crafting incredible cannabis retail experiences. Since 2013, her studio has designed both medical and adult-use retail stores for cannabis businesses in eleven states.