With Amazon, DoorDash, and traditional courier services, mainstream consumers already were living in the age of home delivery bliss. In some parts of the country, just about anything could be delivered to your door. COVID-19 is many things, but it is also a bit of an awakening. While some never gave any thought about the journey their orders took or the people who made it happen, we all are thinking about them quite a bit now. Especially in the cannabis industry, where more states are allowing online ordering and delivery than ever before.
In this week’s installment of mg‘s ongoing “Changing Habits” series, we delve into the pandemic’s effects on cannabis delivery services. Here’s how Sava, Driven Deliveries, and Blackbird are helping keep the industry functional and allowing it to live up to its “essential services” designation.
For Amanda Denz, co-founder and chief marketing officer at Sava, adapting to shifting realities within the cannabis industry is nothing new, especially as regulators often have failed to see the bigger picture.
“We’ve been operating in the cannabis space now for five years, and those years have taken us through recreational legalization and several accompanying waves of major policy changes that completely transformed how we function,” Denz told mg.
For Sava, the changes necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic certainly come from a new source, but the company’s employees are demonstrating a resiliency Denz has seen before.
“It’s not a new experience for us to need to pivot how our operations function with little notice,” she said. “We have an awesome, nimble team and we were able to adjust our operation and delivery protocols quickly to accommodate all best practices for sanitation and social distancing.”
The increased reliance on delivery services placed an immediate strain on the company, but Sava quickly adopted new practices, some of which will remain in place long after the pandemic.
“In the first few weeks products continuously went out of stock and delivery slots filled up several days out,” Denz said. “We’ve started making bigger product orders and scheduling more drivers and are better able to accommodate the demand now. As California begins to reopen we’re going to continue operating with all COVID-19 precautions in place, including touchless delivery and social distancing in the office.”
Christian Schenk, chief executive officer at Driven Deliveries, which operates across multiple states including California, Oregon, and Nevada, noticed an immediate change in consumer behavior when the virus started to spread. “Covid-19 increased demand for online cannabis sales and home delivery,” Schenk said. “Our online retail businesses grew by over 100 percent since mid-March and continues to increase week over week.”
COVID-19 has shown how so many aspects of our society that seem unrelated are co-dependent. Closing schools is an essential component of fighting a fast-spreading virus, but what happens when an employee has to stay home to take care of their children?
“Initially the largest negative impact was back-filling employees unable to work due to school closures,” Schenk said. “We were able to stay ahead of these capacity issues and have met all consumer demand by updating our operating procedures.”
Schenk, like many other business leaders, knows that precautionary measures to protect customers and workers may cost additional time but represent the only way to operate safely.
“We have been able to release technology to enable contactless payments and delivery which has had a slight impact on delivery efficiency but has provided a safer delivery experience for both our customers and employees,” he said.
Blackbird, a cannabis delivery service in California and Nevada, operates like other popular direct-to-consumer delivery services such as Uber Eats or Postmates. Before the pandemic, a customer would place an order for delivery and a Blackbird driver would pick up the order from a dispensary and then deliver it directly to the customer.
“This would happen within two hours or less,” Jamal Barghouti, interim marketing director at Blackbird told mg.
“On March 20th, Governor Sisolak of Nevada restricted all cannabis sales to delivery-only as part of his Stay Home For Nevada response to limit the spread of the coronavirus,” Barghouti said. “We saw a 600 percent increase in our deliveries almost overnight. This came with layers of complications.”
With such a drastic and immediate increase in demand, meeting the two-hour delivery window consistently was out of the question for Blackbird.
“We moved to a next-day service model where any orders placed would be delivered the following day,” Barghouti said. “This allowed us to complete many more deliveries in a day without expanding our operations team immediately.”
An increase in deliveries during a health crisis also equates to an increase in routine, preventative measures.
“In addition to shifting to a next-day model, we had to increase the frequency of routine car cleanings, implement social distancing in our work spaces, shifted anyone who’s able to work from home to do so; limiting the interaction our teams had with others,” Barghouti said. “We also ensured that our staff had the necessary tools to abide by CDC guidelines including face coverings, gloves, hand sanitizer, and disinfectants.
“Every single employee of Blackbird stepped up in a huge way for their community and their colleagues,” Barghouti concluded.