Are you sensing the post-holiday lull after clearing out your inventory for the new year? Optimizing the dispensary sales process is more important than ever. Having the right strategy in place is often the most critical factor in determining the overall success of any business—cannabis dispensaries included. We’ve identified five of the most important revenue-boosting plans and organized them into a simple list to boost your sales during slow sale periods.
5 things you could be doing right now to jumpstart sales:
Many of today’s customer behaviors are going to remain in place for some time. Tomorrow’s most profitable cannabis dispensaries are going to be the ones who accommodate these changes today.
1. Get your dispensary on the map
If your dispensary is not on Google Maps or Apple’s Maps app, you are losing sales. Google Maps is the biggest one by far, with 67% of the market cornered, but every pin counts. Adding a business listing to Google Maps is easy, and it pays off significantly in the cannabis industry. Many customers and patients value location above every other consideration when choosing a dispensary, so make sure they know where you are.
Even in our digital world, Choosing a dispensary: how customers choose a favorite store reminds us that maximizing your location will always provide shopping incentives. Make yourself known to every local so they are aware your store and your delivery routes are very conveniently located to them.
As an added bonus, your map listing will gradually become an informal testimonial gold mine as happy customers leave positive reviews. If you get any negative reviews, you will know what you have to work on to improve sales in the future.
2. Implement a loyalty program
- What is a loyalty program? Perks or points offered to frequent customers.
- Why are they a good strategy for cannabis sales? With the strict rules and regulations of cannabis marketing, loyalty programs can increase basket sizes and turn occasional shoppers into returning customers.
Patient and customer loyalty programs have a history of increasing revenue in US markets. Happy customers have every reason to come back to the place that delighted them with high-quality cannabis products. Many dispensaries give up on loyalty programs before they have a chance to deliver, while many others cripple their attempts by making avoidable mistakes.
Make sure your loyalty program is easy to sign up to, easy to opt-out of, and simple enough to sum up in a single sentence. Giving your budtenders the right talking points can help drive loyalty plan adoption and increase return customers in ways no other single revenue-boosting strategy can.
Known as member programs in Canada, the market has different rules regarding creating incentives for your store. To adhere to this regulation, you can use other tactics like retail value propositions, curated customer experiences, and long-term value outlined in How to drive customer loyalty for cannabis retailers in Canada. If you tread carefully, you can create a membership base by hosting educational events and seminars. You can’t offer points that translate to a direct dollar amount, but you can connect membership points with creative ways to widen your audience.
Like most things in cannabis, the rules may vary based on your area. Make sure to check your state laws around loyalty programs, especially in regards to privacy and data-sharing.
3. Get smart on social media
Social media remains one of the most powerful ways to connect with customers in any industry, and it is especially effective for driving sales in cannabis dispensaries. Knowing your customers is key to succeeding on social media—the better you can identify them, the more engaging and compelling your content can be.
Not surprisingly, there are many social media marketing tools and techniques at the disposal of most businesses in other industries—but once again, cannabis falls in a gray area, and directly promoting sales of cannabis products is a no-no in most channels. Social media can be more than a place to promote your dispensary’s products, though. Instead, you can use it to promote your store’s brand ethos, understand your customers, and connect on the topics that they care about to build brand love and loyalty. Consider including them in the process of developing organic content, like UGC (user-generated content), staff stories, and customer testimonials. Customers like to see real-life examples and results.
For paid advertisements, educational content offers the best approach in the US because of the rules set by social platforms. As CannaBiz Media states: “If your ads don’t promote cannabis or cannabis products in any way and they’re strictly educational (including the image or video, the message, and the landing page that the ad leads to) or used to further the cannabis movement, then you might have a chance to get your ads approved by social media sites.” Advertising on social involves a manual approval process. Make sure that the linked website doesn’t directly promote the sale of cannabis.
Organic content is always best and lends a hand to our friends in the Canadian market. They can be straightforward and show their product, but Canadian cannabis retailers can’t advertise that it is for sale in any way, or show any advocacy for the use of the plant (the law even states by real or fictional characters.) Consider creating a marketing campaign that doesn’t focus on consumption. Again, educational materials work well and you can share your business’s blog on social channels. You can also set up an in-store display background for photos with branded props to get your business noticed by social media users.
No matter the market, social media companies still reserve the right to take a profile down if they deem it necessary—so be prepared to back up your favorite content for when the laws continue to lessen. For right now, worry about carefully gaining some brand recognition and adding an age disclaimer to your cannabis business’s profile.
4. Invest in email & text message marketing
Email marketing might sound like a relic of a bygone era, but it’s not. In fact, email marketing earns some of the highest returns of any single marketing channel available today. According to the latest data from Litmus, every $1 spent on an email marketing campaign averages a return of $36.
We can help with win-back campaigns and other digital marketing strategies through our Dutchie Ecommerce integration partner options. Alpine IQ is one of our partners that notes you can continue driving interest and loyalty through omnichannel marketing, including text messaging.
CEO Nicholas Paschal says, “Text messaging in the cannabis space has been plagued by bad technology and telecom blockades. We set out to make it easier than ever to reach customers across the channels they love the most without hiding delivery metrics or giving clients false hope. We are committed to being your keystone partner in the ongoing carrier dual.”
In the US market, dispensaries can use this feature to announce new product drops and stir up excitement from their shoppers. SMS has among the highest open and engagement rates of all messaging channels. According to a report by Harvard Business Review, 99% of all marketing text messages are opened and often, opened quickly.
5. Give away free (unmedicated) samples & swag
Most states and provinces don’t allow cannabis dispensaries to give away free samples of infused medical or recreational products. Many edible manufacturers have responded by making non-psychoactive versions of their flagship products, specifically as sample treats. Giving away a free, unmedicated chocolate bar is compliant in most states, as long as you still check IDs to avoid advertising cannabis products to minors.
Outside of consumables, you can also earn marketing points by finding other promotional products to give away. Apparel and swag are a mainstay for many dispensaries and cannabis brands, especially those that pride themselves on being at the heart of local cannabis culture. In Canada, you are not allowed to do anything that promotes the sale of cannabis, like purchasing a certain dollar amount to earn a free hat or t-shirt. But, you can offer something like: "Free hat for all first-timers! Bring a friend and get a free t-shirt!" When used in combination with social media and email marketing, this approach can lead to significant gains in brand awareness and sales, even during slow months.
Expect cannabis retail changes to last
Customers and patients who have now experienced more convenient purchase options may never return to their previous shopping patterns. The push for curbside service and home delivery was already pronounced before the health crisis, and it now shows every sign of picking up more speed, like the delivery option that recently became permanent in private Canadian provinces (BC, AB, SK, MB, ON).
Cannabis dispensary owners that pay attention to these trends and position themselves appropriately (digitizing the retail experience, enabling order-ahead service, and emphasizing convenience) are going to have the best results moving into a post-crisis world. But, as most of us in the industry know, the times—they are (always) a-changin’.