Swift and sweeping changes to customer behavior and business regulations have left many in the red. But in spite of the upset, cannabis retailers are on pace to beat 2019 sales by 40%, predicting $15 billion in sales by year end.
No stranger to flux, this sector has shown its ability to adapt quickly, embracing new technologies and updating operations to push forward in any climate. From online menus, digital ordering, reservation systems, curbside pickup and delivery to contactless payment methods, many things ushered in by the COVID era will permanently change the way they do business.
However, the fiscal benefits of operating as an essential business and renewed momentum for legalization – namely providing jobs and badly needed tax revenue – are not guaranteed. To remain competitive and sustain operations, cannabis companies will need to master the balancing act of staying on top of consumer behavior and acting quickly to acquire and retain business.
Since 2017, we have built up our roster of cannabis clients, creating strategies for some of the biggest names in the business including: MedMen, Canna Provisions, Pharmacannis, LivWell, and LOVA. Here is a look at the top five strategies we recommend to grow revenue and build up a base of loyal, repeat customers:
1 | Segment from the Start
Cannabis companies have a unique advantage in that customers must identify themselves before making a purchase. As digital menus and online ordering become the norm, an ID plus email and SKU level transactional data can power an effective segmentation strategy.
Segmentation can be especially effective for cannabis retailers who:
Operate across state lines with different regulations
Want to tailor content for medical consumers vs recreational users
Serve a contingent of tourists or out of state visitors
Want to reward VIP customers
Provide updates about new or discontinued products
Geo-target customers with notices about COVID related closures or other updates
2 | Get SKU Specific
Using SKU data, we can identify (and segment) customers based on what they purchase. This is perhaps the most powerful personalization method in use today. For many dispensaries, people who buy flower represent regular, loyal customers while those that purchase edibles or vape pens are often one time shoppers or tourists. But within a given product category there are numerous SKUs that align with specific preferences and open the door to increasingly relevant and timely communications. Not only can SKU-level data improve engagement with communication, it can help predictably forecast demand, revenue, and volume.
3 | Prioritize Flexibility + Speed
COVID happened fast. Sudden changes in customer behavior combined with new regulations had to be addressed and implemented quickly. All of this underscores the need for adaptable marketing systems that don’t require teams of people and weeks of delay to change campaign rules, content, or schedules.
Previously a one-off, the need to create and send out a communication in seconds became a regular occurrence. As such, many of our clients use SMS messages to relay timely information like new policies + procedures, updated hours, store closures, inventory updates, and even COVID shopping incentives.
For many customers, lockdowns meant fewer trips to the dispensary but larger baskets when they did make a purchase. Responding to this, we were able to stop expiring loyalty points for several dispensaries, so customers could have more time to redeem them.
4 | Offer Contactless Payment
The perils of payment in the cannabis industry are well documented, but COVID has ushered in a new demand for contactless payment methods. Digital gift cards are a creative way to improve customer experience while adhering to new safety regulations. Customers can purchase a gift card online and have the value assigned to their account. Any subsequent transaction, whether in store, curbside, or at checkout can access the value associated with the customer’s ID, drawing down the amount as appropriate. This method provides flexibility, security and safety for customers.
5 | Support Google Reviews
Positive Google reviews are critical for cannabis retailers, and especially in markets that are saturated such as Denver and Portland. Potential customers – especially tourists – will execute a basic search to see which dispensaries are near them and what people have to say about the quality. We recommend sending an email 3 days post purchase asking customers to leave a review on Google. In the email, we can include specific links to target recipients based on the location they visited, the types of products they purchased, or any other desirable attribute to encourage relevant and informative reviews.
Cannabis has already proven to be a resilient, forward thinking industry. Now that COVID has accelerated innovation in several areas, customer expectations for streamlined ordering and delivery, payment options, e-commerce and real time communication are here to stay. No matter what the future holds, strong technology partnerships will mean the difference between staying one step ahead and falling behind.