The Canadian Cannabis Industry is rapidly growing and has been since its legalization, October 2018. In three years, we’ve seen the industry face many success stories, challenges, changes and growth. Recently, more and more local cannabis retailers have opened shop, expanding the marketplace, and making the industry even more competitive. Now more than ever it is important retailers create an engaging, connected cannabis experience that relates to consumers on a deeper level. As the industry continues to grow, it’s the retailers who can separate themselves from the rest that will truly make an impact with their customers and establish themselves as well-known cannabis retailers.
Does your cannabis store stand out from the rest? We’ve interviewed leading partners in the industry to provide their valuable perspective on how to distinguish yourself as a top shop in your neighbourhood. From building a brand to creating a purposeful customer experience, budtender education and connecting with brands, check it out!
Build Brand Recognition
Creating a strong brand identity has become increasingly important as a Canadian Cannabis Retailer. The number of cannabis retail stores continues to climb to just over 2,200 stores in business as of the end of July – a 123% increase compared to July 2020. With this increasing number, retailers must identify their brand story, audience, and values to make a strong connection and stand out to the cannabis community. In the cannabis market, when there are so many options, without a strong brand behind your product offering, it will be tough to compete with others and build customer loyalty with your audience.
“In a crowded market, establishing a brand is more important than ever for cannabis retailers in developing customer loyalty. By developing a unique cannabis brand, retailers can differentiate themselves from competitors and engage with consumers that match their values.” – Lisa Campbell, Founder, Mercari Agency
Strong branding gives your store and products offerings an identity and a purpose for consumers to choose your retail location every time. Establishing relationships with customers begins with creating an experience that sets you apart from your competitors. With so many things to consider: product, price, promotion, experience, staff, and so on – how do you ensure a customer walks into your store over another?
“The days of just being affordable is a race to the bottom,” added Campbell. “By focusing on building a brand, you’re not cutting your margins, you’re establishing relationships and selling not just on price but consumer sentiment and loyalty. It is important to keep in mind that decisions made should go beyond your personal preferences and who you are as a person but reach a mass market and those outside the cannabis community, such as the canna-curious.”
With that said, branding in cannabis can be challenging compared to other industries with strict regulations, a broad audience, constant changes, and not to mention, a new industry with few best practices. Thinking beyond the product goes a long way and will help you build success in the future. A good brand can help you differentiate your offering from a competitor and generate the kind of loyalty that keeps customers coming back for that consistent experience.
Creating a Purposeful Customer Experience
Along with solid, authentic branding, a seamless customer experience is another critical aspect of running a successful cannabis retail store. A purposeful, consumer-centric experience is an effective way to keep customers happy and loyal to your business. To reduce customer tension and eliminate pain points, cannabis retailers should understand the best systems and tools that accommodate their retail stores.
The customer experience is the process a customer takes when researching, experiencing or purchasing a product. It should be consistent across all channels, whether buying in-store or online and consider the customer’s perceptions and feelings with each interaction along the way. A consumer journey should be well planned and thought out in advance to be successful with your customers.
“Making the customer experience simple and easy to understand, while also highlighting attractive marketing opportunities, is critical for cannabis retailers to support their in-store and online sales. With customer options growing every day, what’s going to matter most is how easily customers can navigate their options to make the right purchase decisions.” – Andrew Smyth, Senior Executive, Buddi
One of the most important tools a dispensary owner can invest in is a solid Point-of-Sale (POS) system with integrated software, like Buddi, to manage opportunities such as click & collect, delivery and digital menus. Your store’s POS system allows you to manage inventory, process sales, and perform other critical functions. A proper POS system can streamline your work processes, ensure your staff maximizes sales opportunities, significantly reduces your time, and keeps track of potential compliance issues. An integrated software system allows retailers to seamlessly share compliant, real-time product information and branded content with the end customers while they shop.
“Cannabis dispensaries have a unique opportunity to deliver a customer experience that is completely new and different from what other retail experiences offer,” said Smyth. “One way to deliver an enjoyable experience is to offer interactive tools that customers can interact with in-store. Since cannabis products (besides smell jars) aren’t accessible to the customer in the retail environment, providing digital tools to learn about products, brands, and other content is an excellent way to increase customer engagement,” he added.
Although many retailers may have experience with POS systems or marketing software from other industries, it is important cannabis retailers understand that not all well-known, typical platforms best serve the cannabis industry. With that said, as a retailer, do your research and make sure you move forward with a trusted partner who understands the cannabis space and functions that simplify cannabis operations.
As we all know, in this new industry, budtender and retail education is another critical aspect of providing a positive and consistent customer experience. Budtender education ranges from laws and regulations specific to each province, product knowledge, dosage, consumption and more. However, the role of the budtender goes beyond education and includes fostering a valuable customer service experience that will have customers returning in the future. While many people might consider themselves cannabis experts, the range of knowledge that budtenders must have is extensive. With so much information for budtenders to consider, what is the best way to keep your staff educated with updated resources?
“Consumers, especially new consumers who fuel industry growth, will rely on budtender recommendations, so it’s important that we make it as easy as possible for them to stay up-to-date on the latest products, formats, trends and research. If the Licensed Producers, technology providers, and other educational partners all work together to support retail teams, we’ll have a greater impact.” – Chris Snoyer, CEO, Spiffy
With the industry constantly adapting, it can be challenging to keep up with budtender education. That’s why it’s important to have the proper partners and tools in place to ensure your budtenders feel confident in providing cannabis knowledge to your customers. Direct access to up-to-date information will ensure customers feel confident in their shopping experience. Best practices to ensure your budtenders are well educated with new and relevant knowledge include:
- Province Compliant Training (CannSell, SellSafe, Smart Choices)
- Brand Education Certifications (PAX Certified)
- Educational Cannabis Partnerships (Spiffy, Budtenders Association)
- Direct relations with Brand Marketing and Sales teams
“We talk to retail teams all the time who try to stay current by constantly crawling Reddit, Instagram, or even paying for access to education. Why not have it in one central place and make it easy for them,” said Snoyer. “That’s exactly what Spiffy does. If we can offer a free platform that centralizes the collective knowledge of the industry and puts it at the fingertips of the budtender, it opens up so much growth potential,” Snoyer remarked.
Connecting with Brands
Establishing a brand connection is a win-win for cannabis retailers and consumers. Reflecting a brand’s values in your retail strategy can help you build a stronger bond with consumers as well as the budtenders in-store selling your products. In today’s retail environment having access to marketing assets such as in-store merchandising, or educational displays are likely to inspire customers to connect with the brands in your store. In addition to in-store retail assets, it’s important for retailers to leverage omnichannel strategies through social media and online to further connect with their audience. Consumers shop in-store for experience but shop online for convenience and it’s important your retail store be able to provide a consistent experience through both sales channels.
While it can be a struggle to track down the proper sales rep for in-store and online marketing assets, there are tools to simplify the process and ensure your store has what it needs to be successful. O2O is an easy solution that bridges the gap between cannabis retailers and brands. Free to retailers, it allows you to shop new and noteworthy brand assets for your store, whether in-store POS, merchandising displays, digital assets, swag and more. To learn more about how to set up your store with a free O2O account, visit https://useo2o.com.