Profitability is a key indicator of a dispensary’s success, but a recent industry survey found only about 60 percent of cannabis operators are profitable. Providing reliable products and services at good prices is only part of the profitability puzzle. Employing the best people and establishing a healthy marketing plan are two more. Arguably, the most complicated part is creating that nebulous intangible known as “community.”
How does a dispensary attack all those objectives while remaining compliant with relevant laws and regulations and keeping an eye on the bottom line? Fortunately, automation can help even the smallest operator, and automated tools become more sophisticated by the year.
Here are the top 4 tools every dispensary needs in order to run a successful business.
1. Data and analytics
Day-to-day operations involve thousands of data points, each representing a crucial piece of information about a dispensary’s performance. Finding a way to represent that data clearly is imperative, and a retail analytics system does just that by transforming complex data into easy-to-understand visualizations that help owners track product performance, assess the success of promotions, and monitor customer behavior. These broken-down analytics help dispensary owners make data-backed decisions and answer the questions they should ask as they assess their business. For instance, “How is that new product I added selling compared to its competitors?”
Successful dispensaries do not operate on game-time decisions or gut instinct. Rather, they need everything backed up with solid data. Investing in quality data-reporting metrics is vital.
2. Point-of-sale systems
A point-of-sale (POS) system is the backbone of any retail business. It is the central operating system that creates and adjusts product pricing as well as tracks all products from point of entry through processing, sales, and store exit. A POS system holds together key aspects of a retail business and helps sales associates do what they do best, so it is crucial to pick the right one.
How will you know when you have the right POS system? A great system does more than enable smooth transactions. It also has a larger focus on consistently keeping retailers in compliance with their state traceability platform via automatic integration and data-syncing. A great POS provider will stay on top of changing regulations and connect with each state’s track-and-trace system to help operators adhere to all the compliance requirements. In addition to smoother transactions and shorter waiting-room times, dispensaries often see an increase in transactions and orders prepared while gleaning better insight into what inventory sells and what doesn’t.
A strong POS system scales to each retailer’s specific needs and lets them reconfigure and adjust the system as their business changes. A robust system should include a few vital characteristics, including inventory management, compliance, and multistore management.
Ecommerce is a digital extension of traditional brick-and-mortar retail. Treez data indicate the average dispensary is able to increase its sales reach by 30 percent with a well-built and expertly managed ecommerce system or partnership.
When choosing an ecommerce platform, look for three things: online menus, an online ordering facility, and a delivery service. Key features within a platform include high-quality images, real-time inventory sync, easy-to-use interfaces on both front and back ends, search-engine-optimized menus, the ability to pre-schedule specials, customer convenience, and good filter options.
Two major types of platforms are available for ecommerce: marketplace and dedicated solutions. Marketplace solutions host many third-party sellers under one roof, operating similarly to Amazon or eBay. (Weedmaps and Leafly are examples.) Sellers usually have access to much, but not all, of the data the platform generates, which typically is owned by the marketplace. Dedicated solutions, on the other hand, empower retailers to own all their customer data by providing the infrastructure for a separate and distinct independent virtual store. Dedicated solutions come in two varieties, iFrame and native, each of which has advantages and disadvantages related to cost and complexity.
Successful dispensaries show up in the top five search results and have ecommerce sites that are shoppable, accurate, and easy to navigate.
4. Loyalty and customer engagement
Customer loyalty is one of the most important tools in building a successful dispensary. Profitability isn’t merely about attracting new customers. Stores must build strong clienteles that return every time they want more products.
Loyalty may be built through rewards, after-hours events, promotions, coupons, and discounts designed to encourage repeat business. According to data from Alpine IQ, loyalty programs account for about half the revenue generated at dispensaries that offer them. Those same dispensaries often notice a 15-percent increase in average ticket size. As a bonus, loyalty programs provide valuable data about consumer preferences and shopping behaviors, which retailers can use to create community and increase customer engagement through precisely targeted communications.
One way to communicate with customers and boost brand loyalty is through a customer-relationship-management (CRM) tool. Integrated with loyalty programs and POS systems, a CRM can help dispensary operators gather, parse, and deploy data in ways that seem organic to customers and are much less labor-intensive for employees. They’re especially valuable for large operations and those with multiple stores, as they also can facilitate dealing with customer-service requests. Well-known CRMs include Salesforce, HubSpot, and Zendesk, but purpose-built, integrated platforms for the cannabis industry exist, as well.
Elling Hofland is the director of product management at Treez, a leading enterprise cloud-commerce platform providing point-of-sale software, retail analytics, cashless payments, and integrated partner solutions to high-volume retail operators in the cannabis industry. Treez’s innovative technology and insights help retailers streamline growth, increase returns, and drive efficiency in their operations.