What do you think of when you hear about e-commerce? Amazon? eBay? These are the powerhouses, the 700-pound gorillas in e-commerce. What you probably don’t think of are cannabis dispensaries. After all, federal law doesn’t allow dispensaries to ship their products. (Note: Selling cannabis online doesn’t require shipping.) However, if you dismiss e-commerce as an essential strategy for your dispensary, you’re sealing your fate. Online ordering is huge! In this guide, we’re going to teach you strategies on how to increase online orders.
Why focus on how to increase online orders? Quite simply: there are no successful dispensaries — that we know of — who have built a successful business without developing an e-commerce strategy. Online sales are critical to the success of your dispensary. By implementing an online ordering strategy, you can provide enhanced value to your customers. They can see your online menu, pay for product from their iPhone (or Android), and then pick up their order when it’s convenient (or in some states, they can have their medicine delivered). No lines. No waiting. They get what they want. You make more money. Pretty simple.
Here’s why you should invest in an online menu solution:
- Provide a superior customer/user experience (UX)
- Boost revenue and average order size
- Understand your customers’ purchasing behaviors and preferences
There are numerous well-designed online menu solutions, each with their own unique features and varying pros and cons. Feel free to contact us for a recommendation!
It’s Marketing 101. If you want to generate new customers and increase online orders, you need to drive them to your them to your website. How do you do that? You need to engage them online where they spend their time. To determine where they live online, you’ll need what marketers call “personas.”
A persona is a model marketers rely on to help them get into the minds of their customers. To create a persona, first determine who your audience is and then start pulling together data and demographic information:
- Their backgrounds, including profession, education, income
- Typical buying characteristics of consumers who share their demographics
- What their motivations, purchasing drivers and pain points are
- Communication preferences and social media use habits
Third-party listing sites offer dispensaries a way to reach new customers looking for your products; and, they offer customers a way to get recommendations, learn about strains, and find dispensaries.
There are dozens of cannabis directories, however, two sites that you have to register on are Leafly and Weedmaps. When you register your dispensary on these be mindful of marketing best practices like maintaining cohesive messaging and consistent branding, including logo presentation and store information.
Not being able to be found online is obviously a bad thing. A well-defined and executed SEO strategy not only helps ensure people will find you online, but it also lends credibility to your dispensary. The more you come up in Google searches, the more credible you appear. To successfully build your digital presence and visibility, you need to make content development (like blogging, videos, checklists, etc.) part of your dispensary SEO strategy.
We’ll get into content marketing later in this article. But what you should understand about Google is that they constantly change their algorithm. They don’t change their algorithm to penalize companies that invest in SEO. They do it to improve the searching experience of users. In the process, they reward companies who develop great content that’s relevant to users, while penalizing those who try to “game the system.”
Consequently, avoid black hat SEO which relies on tricking Google. As Google improves their algorithm, those black hat tricks that once helped you will now put you in the naughty corner. And all that money you invested in hiring a less-than-reputable SEO company will be all for naught.
Consumers, particularly cannabis consumers, are increasingly relying on local search to find dispensaries. Search queries like, “Where is the best dispensary near me?” are becoming the norm. Moreover, the overwhelming majority of consumers use local search to find new businesses.
You’ve probably heard horror social media stories of cannabis dispensaries having their social media sites — usually Facebook or Instagram — being shut down. Yes, this does happen, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be investing heavily in social. In fact, social continues to be one of the most effective ways for dispensaries to build their brand, generate awareness, and grow their audience.
The most effective (and lowest risk) way to leverage social media is to avoid overtly promoting your products or cannabis consumption. Instead, focus on educating and informing your audience. That’s the key not only to keep your profiles from getting shut down but for building a one-to-one connection with your audience and establishing your business as a trusted authority who doesn’t only care about the benjamins.
For social media, visual content is king — that means images and especially videos. Leverage the power of YouTube to reach your audience and build your brand. If you follow a solid strategy, you’ll be well on your way to increasing online orders.
We know of few successful dispensaries that aren’t harnessing the power of SMS marketing. SMS marketing refers to sending text messages to drive customers to your store and online ordering system. In fact, SMS marketing happens to be one of the most cost-effective ways to increase online orders and one of the easiest tactics to measure for effectiveness.
If you don’t want to increase online orders, the surest way to guarantee failure is to provide customers with a poor user experience (UX).
To provide a kick-butt user experience, focus on the following:
Customers have little patience for slow websites. If your website and online ordering process are slow or clunky, they’ll bounce quicker than basketball giant, Kevin Durant. Moreover, if your website’s speed and performance aren’t up to snuff, Google will penalize you. Google uses your website’s speed, particularly for mobile, as a key factor in ranking your site. For cannabis dispensaries who get anywhere from 60 to 80 percent of their site traffic from mobile, this is a case of do or die.
Making sure your website is “responsive” means that it’s optimized for mobile users. Given the fact the majority of your traffic likely comes from mobile, making sure your users can easily use (and enjoy) your site on their iPhone or Android is more important than the desktop experience.
If customers can’t navigate your website, they’re going to get frustrated. And it won’t take long. We live in an era of instant gratification. If they can’t quickly find what they want, they’ll bounce. The way to make sure they can find what they want is to create a site structure that makes it easy. What does that mean? Use proper markup. Minimize redirects. Handle site errors. Make it easy for Google to index your site.
Content marketing has become the preferred online marketing tactic for digital marketers, particularly in the cannabis space. Why?
- Content marketing is one of the most cost-effective online marketing tactics.
- Positions your dispensary as a trusted source of information while elevating your credibility.
- Drives more traffic and qualified prospective customers to your website than any conventional form of marketing (source: Hubspot).
- Helps boost your conversion rates (from prospect to paying customer).
- Boosts online sales (and your bottom line).
Content marketing includes everything from blogs, infographics, and checklists to video. In the eyes of the consumer, Video has emerged as consumers’ favorite form of online content. By 2021, Cisco Systems predicts video will make up 82% of all consumer internet traffic by 2021. Likewise, according to YouTube, 70% of YouTube viewers watch videos for “help with a problem.” Helping solve a prospective customer’s problem (e.g. “is cannabis good for chronic pain?”) is a great way to earn trust and loyalty while boosting your online conversion rate and increase online orders.
The online social environment today is hyper-competitive and review-obsessed. 11 out of 12 online users are reluctant to buy from any company that has fewer than four stars. Your reputation has a greater impact on your success than anything else. If you do it right and manage your reputation the way you should, you’ll reap the rewards.
Creating a sense of urgency is a fundamental sales and conversion tactic. By providing time-bound incentives like time-sensitive special offers, you’ll reduce consumer procrastination while significantly boosting online sales and conversions. And the more you can eliminate risk in the eyes of your consumers, the more likely they’ll buy from you. So when you create these time-bound incentives, make sure to eliminate anything that might dissuade your prospects from buying with you online.
Your salespeople are your best advocates for getting your customers to use your online ordering system. Make sure they’re trained in how it works so they can ask customers if they’ve used the online menu. If they haven’t, that’s a great time for them to show the customer how easy and efficient online ordering. This tactic is especially effective when your store is busy and the lines are long. Having your budtenders offer customers an alternative way of ordering that allows them to bypass waiting in line is a win-win. Your customers will appreciate you providing a solution (no one likes to wait in line), and you’ll get more customers using your online system!