As a growing number of states legalize recreational and medical marijuana, dispensaries have become a rapidly growing and potentially very lucrative business opportunity. There is a large, proven market of people eagerly awaiting the chance to purchase cannabis legally.
However, like any other retailer, dispensaries cannot simply open their doors and expect customers to appear out of nowhere. Cannabis storefronts must have a solid business plan in place and need to be innovative and creative to attract and retain customers in a very competitive industry. In large cities especially, several — perhaps dozens — of dispensaries will battle to rule the market.
A robust advertising plan is essential. Advertise locally and post on social media. Also, reach out to local doctors who specialize in pain management and oncology to let them know you’re available to help any patients who are interested in trying cannabis products.
Once you begin to attract the marijuana-buying public, the most critical aspect of the business is to grow customer loyalty. Customer service and complementary offerings are two powerful tools in any retailer’s arsenal. In addition, you can leverage your point-of-sale (POS) system with on-screen ads, loyalty club rewards programs, and store credit.
Cannabis and CBD shops have strong competition. To succeed in the market, make sure your prices are competitive and offer surprise promotions to keep customers on their toes. Differentiate yourself from other shops with unique offerings. Offer a diverse product line.
Strain selection is very important, because cannabis customers come in all experience levels. Make sure you provide something for everyone: light THC content for beginners, more potent marijuana for moderates, and extremely strong strains for serious smokers and medical patients. If permitted in your jurisdiction, also offer CBD products for people who have never used cannabis and may not be ready to try it. Offering free samples for customers to try at home is a surefire way to expand customer loyalty, generate word-of-mouth promotion, and show your confidence in your products.
Customer service and staff product knowledge also are vital. Dispensary employees are the new baristas. They must be experts about everything you sell and be ready to answer questions. It should go without saying staff must treat customers like royalty. Great customer service will impress patrons, who will become loyal customers and tell their friends about their positive experience.
Cannabis needn’t be all you offer to shoppers. Think about adding a café or snackbar in the store (if legal in your area) or hosting live performances by local musicians to attract more foot traffic. Depending on your location, perhaps provide bike racks outside and water bowls for pets.
Carefully research the best point-of-sale (POS) system for your business. A POS is more than a simple cash register. Ideally, find one with integrated credit card processing that’s approved for cannabis and CBD retailers. Due to industry regulations, many processors don’t provide service for the cannabis industry. Research companies that offer the best rates and provide free equipment, limited fine print, and no early termination penalty. A POS ad screen at your checkout counter can announce products and promote impulse purchasing.
Collect customer contact information so you can keep customers updated about sales, new products, and promotions. Offer shoppers rewards for referring friends, and give those friends first-time buyer discounts. Consider a membership program that allows customers to pay an annual fee and receive discounted prices all year long.
The layout and vibe of your store is crucial to sales success. Create an interesting, welcoming place that is conducive to browsing.
Painting, repairs, and renovations can get expensive. A new business with a tight budget might consider a cash advance. Cash advances can be less complex to obtain than traditional bank loans and have a higher acceptance level with lower interest rates. Some lenders offer quick, next-day cash advance options.
It’s an exciting time to be part of cannabis retail. The majority of Americans approve of legalization and many are eager to try cannabis, making products hot sellers. With hard work and creativity, you can carve out your own spot in the green rush.
Elie Y. Katz is founder, president, and chief executive officer at National Retail Solutions (NRS), a division of IDT Corporation. It is NRS’s mission to help independent small and mid-sized businesses survive and thrive amid competition from large and chain stores. The company provides retailers with a comprehensive, integrated point of sale system, including credit card processing through NRS PAY, which may be used as a standalone product.