Cannabis retail has always faced challenges; from the exhausting processes to get a retail license, to the full build-out of the store, and then finally the restrictions for what these stores and brands can and cannot say out loud to the public.
But with destigmatization on the rise and the growth rate of our canna-curious consumers continuing to boom, retail stores should really consider how they can work towards building a lifetime following.
One major curveball is understanding how to differentiate your store from your local competition while selling the same products, but another is navigating and executing a plan to connect with your customers amid the ‘new normal’ that has stemmed from COVID-19.
Today, with brick and mortar shops less accessible than e-commerce solutions, initiating a CRM (customer relationship management) plan will help you build customer loyalty and repeat business. Just like any retail business, loyal customers are significantly more cost-effective than new customers, because not only do they have repeat business, but their average order size is higher and they’re likely to refer you to their friends with nothing but great things to say!
CRM strategies for cannabis retail can really help dispensaries convert one-time or occasional buyers into regulars that will ultimately sustain the business long-term and help you gain that edge to make sure that your store will stand the test of time as the retail market grows larger.
Before we dive in, let’s take a look at what the AGCO (Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario) has laid out for what we can and cannot do (in Ontario) in terms of advertising or communicating as a canna-business (at least here in Ontario, that is).
On top of societal stigma, cannabis is still very much an adult-use product or something used medicinally, which means that there are some boundaries that canna-businesses cannot cross when it comes to showing off their store, products, and offerings.
So what can retailers do to help improve their CRM strategies for cannabis retail?
Especially considering the state of the world today and the importance of establishing a strong online avenue for your store, the #1 tip is to ensure that you’re building a positive relationship and brand experience with your customers.
Embed and optimize the experience on your own site
Creating a relationship from your brand to your customer is really the first step for any kind of CRM strategy, and it is critical when it comes to how you begin building a following to reach out to in the future. Not only can you host your e-commerce on your site, but you can also encourage customers to subscribe to an email list, or sign up for things like loyalty program/
Your site is just the first piece of the puzzle when it comes to building a user experience that will resonate with your customers and keep them coming back for more.
Introduce incentive and loyalty programs to your checkout
When you’re adopting an e-commerce solution, look for one that works with cannabis-specific CRM platforms like SpringBig, and ensure that both have integrations that work directly with your POS system to really build out an automated checkout experience for your customers.
This not only improves customer experience, but it also helps your store build insight to how your customers shop, and what you can do to push sales through your funnel and earn lifetime loyalty.
Launch email campaigns initiatives
By introducing a CRM platform, you can gain very useful insight into purchasing patterns and create dedicated email campaigns! So for instance, customers who have bought pre-rolls in the past could be perfect candidates for product updates when it comes to getting new products in-stock similar to their purchase, or simply remind them that their favourite pre-roll is back in stock and how they can place their order.
Providing education makes them more likely to click
It’s important to highlight that email campaigns are great when the content is what interests the consumer, but unless they can provide ongoing value to consumers as well, it may go unread.
So while offers and product updates are certainly a way to get customers to come back and shop, providing your canna-curious shoppers with an education along with the product offerings could be what sets you apart from the rest.
Consider including product tips, a budtender’s ‘top pick of the week’, advice from your experienced budtenders that can go miles, or something more formal — there are unlimited possibilities!
Create landing pages that relate with your customers
Similar to dedicated emails, dispensaries can opt to dedicate landing pages!
When it comes to cannabis, many customers are shopping in the dark. So launching initiatives with connected products could be a great way to upsell items and keep the shopping experience fresh for your consumers.
Consider, for example, launching a “Work from Home Essentials” landing page, which is made up of the products that are trending since we’ve been spending more and more time at home.
Proven to gain traction and action, these dedicated landing pages act as the perfect entrance to your e-commerce and yet another way to put your brand in front of your customers in a way that they’ll resonate with.
Join a marketplace
When you’re a business in the cannabis industry, the more opportunities you have to direct online traffic toward your brand, the better, especially as paid advertising isn’t permitted.
By joining a marketplace for legal retailers, like verda.com, you can actually increase the likelihood of a local consumer finding your store and shopping. It not only helps to expand your store’s presence online, but it can also create more avenues to help customers find you organically.
Multi-tier marketplaces help you sell
We always advise retailers to seek out and set up their information on these legal marketplaces so that there is accurate information for the world to see, while also giving the user a path that leads them to how they can shop.
Marketplaces such as this become popular landing pages for organic customers, and retailers can approach their directory listing in a number of ways.
- Simply add your store details
- Integrate your POS to show your customers a live menu
- Add options to host an e-commerce portal in the directory.
There are select marketplaces in the industry, like Verda’s, that focus on the legal, safe and regulated sale of cannabis. Tailoring its audience toward individuals seeking a safe place to purchase, where quality and safety of their products is never in question, creates more traction for driving in genuine consumers looking to steer clear of products sold on the streets, and in turn, they’re stimulating their own local economy!
Start a newsletter
There’s nothing that builds a brand community better than having an engaging newsletter!
Keep your customers coming time and time again through a timely announcement about all things involving your brand! This could be when you add new products, recommend products based on trending topics, show off some educational pieces, and even provide exclusive offers!
When creating a newsletter, consistency is key! You’ll want to stick to a schedule and continue posting on that scheduled date. By doing this, your brand becomes a trusted source of information, education, and the go-to spot when it comes to items, deals and in-store promotions.
Meet major players in your community like the Chief of Police, the Fire Chief, and Ministers at local churches. It’s important, especially in the cannabis industry to have your community on your side.
Aim to participate in local events where appropriate, and make a point to educate your community about the lengths of security you go through to operate and how the main objection, aside from just keeping the business running, is to ultimately take money out of the hands of criminals and the illicit market and put them back into the local economy and toward community initiatives from the tax revenues earned.
You want to be presenting yourself in the best manner to support your community. You’re aiming to educate the citizens and make cannabis a safer topic overall. By creating the right persona around yourself, your presence in the community, and your brand, you will be lessening potential legal concerns that arise in other areas, and replacing the worry with the incentive to run the best business you can for the sake of your community and the cannabis industry as a whole.
Another route you could go when it comes to CRM strategies for cannabis retail is creating short video clips. Assets like these are easy to share online; not only do they showcase your brand in a story-telling perspective, but it also gives your customers a way to share your story and tell their friends with ease. While you can’t incentivize the social activity with these posts, they still provide opportunities to pass your story around and get discovered!
There is an opportunity to build now, in a less overt way and prepare for our ‘new normal’ that will settle as soon as we recover from COVID-19 as an industry. With tactics like the ones we mentioned today, and the motivation to continue these online touchpoints going forward with your customers, your store can finally tell your story, outline your services, and showcase your knowledge in a way that will capture your consumer’s interest and drive them to return again the next time they’re running low.