For many of us, the joy of being an entrepreneur lies in our interactions with customers. There’s nothing that can take the place of a one-on-one interaction: Forging connections with our clientele, learning what new products and offerings excite them, and sharing a tiny bit of our own story with them in the process. These interactions feel good, and they’re a great barometer to help us determine both our businesses’ strengths and the places we need to focus extra attention on.
But we’re not suggesting you interact with your customers just because it feels good. Research tells us that these connections will help create your top 20% of customers, the crème de la crème that all successful businesses depend upon.
What’s this have to do with e-commerce? Simple, really: Because a large and growing number of orders originate online, it’s absolutely crucial that your dispensary e-commerce software be welcoming, intuitive, reliable and up-to-date.
Increasingly, the e-commerce space is where you’ll “meet” your customers for the first time; if they have a difficult time navigating to their desired goal, there’s an excellent chance you’ll never even have the chance to make that crucial first impression at the dispensary you’ve worked so hard to make feel just right.
So let’s take a look at some of the qualities and features that distinguish merely adequate dispensary e-commerce software from truly outstanding ones. Our goal is that by the time you finish this blog, you’ll have a strong sense of what software best speaks to your needs and goals. And if you’re still not sure, feel free to contact us for recommendations.
Into the Mind of the Consumer
No matter how simply and intuitively you’ve organized the products you stock, it’s a safe bet that at least some of your customers won’t have any clue what information you’re trying to communicate in the online space.
For example, how does your dispensary differentiate between cannabis strains? Do you use an indica-sativa scale, a cannabinoid ratio model, a terpene content grade, a combination of any of these attributes or something altogether different?
As the brains behind the operation, you’re more familiar than anyone with how your stock is organized and arranged. But when you’re trying to envision your customer interface through fresh eyes, this familiarity can become a handicap.
As much as possible, we suggest you get into a “customer mindset” here, forgetting everything you know about your stock, your terminology, and your organizational and informational structure. Imagine this is your first visit not only to your online menu but to any dispensary menu. What information do you need to know about the dozens of products on offer? And once I choose one—or, ideally, multiple products—what’s the simplest and most intuitive way for me to make my selections and check out?
If you haven’t tried navigating through other dispensary menus, now’s the time to do so. Very quickly, you’ll become aware of what’s working and what isn’t. When it comes time to test-drive e-commerce software of your own, knowing what you don’t want will become as important as what you do.
What to Look For in a Dispensary E-commerce Software Solution
For a system designed to enable you to browse a menu, make a selection and then submit your order, there’s a surprising number of variables built in. There’s a reason user experience—or UX—has developed to become a discipline of its own. You may not be personally interested in design, graphics, or copy, but when all these and other factors are driving sales in subtle (and unsubtle) ways, they can take on real and meaningful importance to your bottom line.
With that in mind, here are some of the top-level concerns anyone researching dispensary e-commerce software should be aware of.
Ease of Use
If nothing else, an online menu and ordering system should be simple and intuitive. Your information hierarchy—in this context, the system you use to help customers find their way between different classes of products—should be made plain on every page. Another term for this is “breadcrumbs,” and while you probably won’t be building the code for your e-commerce software yourself, it’s a good concept to understand and be aware of.
In the same vein, what information does the dispensary e-commerce software display for each product or item? Speaking to our earlier point about how you describe and differentiate between many similar-looking items—like cannabis flower—what’s your strategy for helping customers make informed, validated decisions that not only satisfy their goals but reinforce the perception that you’ll deliver exactly what was described?
There are many reasons online shoppers abandon their carts, and they’re an important consideration when deciding on an e-commerce software solution. But even if those shoppers make it to the end zone by clicking “submit,” there are still plenty of things that can go wrong.
One of the major issues with dispensary menus is faulty inventory integration. No one likes getting an email saying that their order was canceled because a product wasn’t available, especially if they’ve already hopped in their car to visit your dispensary. Inventory integration between your dispensary e-commerce software and your in-store point of sale (POS) system is an absolute must for keeping those customers, well, being your customers. As this Sales & Orders blog points out, a report by Wasp Barcode demonstrated that even as recently as 2017, over 40% of small-business owners were relying on manual methods to track and rectify inventory (if they were tracking it at all).
We couldn’t be more clear on this point: Make sure that any dispensary e-commerce software you’re considering investing in automatically updates inventory quantities in real-time to reflect sales.
We’ve known for a long time that customers are shopping on their mobile phones, but the proportion of mobile to desktop browsers has officially tipped over. From our data, over 75% of all visitors to dispensary websites are browsing on a mobile phone or tablet. Make sure you’re positioned to capture and make use of this ever-increasing traffic flow: Any e-commerce software you consider should have a responsive mobile version of the menu. In addition to ensuring reduced load times, the mobile iteration should enable customers to browse, add products to their carts, and check out with as much or greater ease than they do via desktops, where they’re typically less rushed, hurried, or distracted by the skateboarder barreling towards them as they look down at their phones in the middle of the crosswalk.
At their most basic, site analytics tell you how many unique users are visiting your site and what devices they’re accessing it from (see “Going Mobile,” above). But analytics reports typically deliver a great deal more information than that, and as you might guess, we’re huge believers in the power of this data to drive your marketing, sales, and management decisions.
At the very least, any e-commerce software you evaluate should give you actionable information about where your visitors came from, what actions they’re taking there, and—just as importantly—when and where in the process they might be leaving because they’re not finding what they want.
We’ll be blunt: Sifting through analytic reports can be intimidating, especially to those unfamiliar with processing this wealth of information. But increasingly, making use of this data isn’t an option, but a necessity for staying competitive and fine-tuning your e-commerce and marketing practices to grow your business. If digesting data leaves you cold, reach out. We’d love to help.
Bells and Whistles
As you’ve probably learned by now, success in this industry typically comes from many small, incremental steps combining for the big win. That’s why whatever e-commerce software you choose should be able to handle the “little things” that add up to a lot. These include:
- Integration and implementation of customer loyalty programs
- Order and delivery tracking
- Email management
- SMS / text marketing
- Customer chat/support
The more you can do to demonstrate that your business is a single, unified, and robust entity, the further along you’ll be towards gaining the authority you need to gain market share and the competitive advantage in a crowded, fast-moving, and increasingly technology-dependent industry.
Wrapping it Up
As you can see, there’s a lot of depth to the deceptively simple question “Which dispensary e-commerce software should I entrust my business to?” Because the online ordering space is often the first opportunity to make contact with a potential customer, it’s absolutely essential that it sends the right message about what kind of business you are and whether you’re an establishment they can feel confident about interacting with.