If you live in a state where cannabis is legal, especially on a recreational level, have you ever caught yourself accidentally walking right past a dispensary because it blended in with every other store? If so, have you noticed this happening more and more frequently as of late?

It wasn’t always this way, of course. However, those of us in this industry are witnessing this drastic shift right before our very eyes. It’s amazing to take a moment to reflect on how far the reputation of the “pot shop” has come in only a few short years.

Dispensaries have taken multiple pages out of the retail handbook of more mainstream industries and are using them to garner success while further reducing the stigma of cannabis and its consumption. These proven strategies can typically be found under one umbrella term: the customer experience.

The customer experience can refer to any touchpoint along the journey and encompasses a great deal of what traditional retail focuses on to see the best ROI. It includes everything from branding to the store’s layout to the ease of transactions. More importantly, it’s the deciding factor in which dispensaries are breaking away from the rest.

Although many might see the complexity of cannabis as a detriment, it is actually one of the biggest opportunities for dispensaries to nail the customer experience. Along with the confusion comes the chance to set the consumer straight with credible information, as well as allow them to easily explore and compare available products. The most trusted option for this is the implementation of state of the art technology within a high-end retail environment.  

Stores that offer a better customer experience continue to expend the energy on such efforts because they see real results. According to PwC, about 80% of American consumers point to speed, convenience, knowledgeable help, and friendly service as the most important elements of a positive customer experience. For that improved experience, they will pay up to a 16% price premium, not to mention their loyalty to the brand increases.

Think you’re absolutely nailing it? You may want to think again. That same PwC report states that 54% of U.S. consumers say customer experience at most companies needs improvement.

Nearly nine out of 10 people said that a positive digital shopping experience is as impactful as the product or service’s pricing, and 65% claim that a positive experience with the brand is more influential than great advertising.

By now, it’s clear that customer experience should be a worthwhile part of the business equation if you care at all about your dispensary’s bottom line. But how do you act on this knowledge? Luckily, there are a few tangible measures that can be implemented.

Most of these concepts that follow are nothing new; however, they are paying off big time for the early adopters within this emerging cannabis market. 85% of customers are already more likely to shop at stores that have a loyalty program with personalized rewards. Want to improve your percentage of repeat customers but worried such a program would be too cumbersome to maintain? Don’t worry, it’s all digital these days. Enter, springbig (or any other cannabis-centric loyalty program of your choosing).

It’s a good thing that “punch/stamp cards” are a thing of the past. After all, 79% believe stores will need to update their in-store digital experience within the next three years to remain competitive. This is up significantly from 47% last year, according to the 2019 Riverbed Retail Digital Trends Survey. Who wants to carry those cards around in their wallet anyway? That’s right, no one.

Next up is modernizing the product selection and purchasing process. The Reality of Retail Report found that 72% of shoppers feel being able to move effortlessly from one channel to the next is very important, meaning your online presence should match that of your brick-and-mortar.

One way to improve the omnichannel strategy is through in-store digital displays. Customers are more prone to shopping at stores that have self-help tools, like kiosks, to the tune of 79%. Moreover, in the coming year, 46% of shoppers polled responded that they would like to see digital screens that contain product information and recommendations.

These kiosks don’t just benefit the consumer though. They have the ability to increase average order size by up to 25%, as seen in ELO’s report.

There are quite a few statistics about the fickle nature of customers, which may be completely unsurprising to most of you. The most cited reason for abandonment? A bad customer experience. 38% of shoppers will give your dispensary only one chance before ditching you for the competition. What’s more concerning is that 67% of today’s consumers are what New Voice Media coins as “serial switchers”, AKA customers who willingly switch brands because of poor customer service.

There are many reasons why a customer might drop you like a hot potato; however, some of the most common include: feeling unappreciated, not having their questions sufficiently answered, enduring uninformed or unhelpful employees. Unfortunately, each of these aforementioned reasons has a high probability of plaguing a dispensary because of the nature of cannabis and the nascency of the industry.

Although the current lack of reliable education could potentially be used as an excuse by staff who are in a bind and cannot confidently answer questions, it doesn’t mean that it will be accepted by the consumer. That person can (and often does) waltz right out of the store in search of a place that is able to satisfy their curiosity. It is ultimately the responsibility of the dispensary to ensure that employees are well-versed and that there are plenty of educational resources within the store.

There is a multitude of added benefits in having a self-service kiosk as part of these “in-store educational resources”. Firstly, it allows an individual to explore on their own because not everyone is comfortable asking personal questions when visiting a dispensary. Secondly, the interactivity on a digital platform translates to invaluable data and insights for the storefront. Thirdly, it modernizes the aesthetic and illustrates that the brand is forward-thinking and interested in making the space inviting to consumers of all experience levels.

The cannabis industry is decidedly unique when it comes to the plethora of rules and regulations surrounding advertising, marketing, retail, compliance… the list goes on. This can contribute to feeling seriously overwhelmed when trying to strategize ways to improve the customer experience to the point of outpacing the growing competition and satisfying consumers enough that they come back time and again. The dispensaries that have been, and will continue to be, the biggest successes have borrowed proven tactics from other industries in order to perfect the customer experience.

Admittedly, some tactics are more complicated than others. However, implementing interactive kiosks that offer both education and self-service elements is one of the least painful ways to differentiate your dispensary. The payoffs are huge: customer loyalty, increased revenue and better employee engagement, according to Dimension Data’s Recent CX Transformation Report. With incentives like these, it’s no wonder that dispensaries are focusing their attention on creating an enjoyable and memorable experience for their varied customer base.

If you’re interested in learning more about how Seed Technology’s interactive kiosk is helping dispensaries sell more product, you can learn more at getseed.io.

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