If the global COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything—besides how to while away long stretches of time alone—it’s that online shopping is a must. The current data indicates that some 14% of total retail sales occur online. Even if you’re a brick-and-mortar store with an online sales component, you need to be leveraging this fact.
This goes double for cannabis dispensaries, which overall saw phenomenal growth in 2020—by some reports, up 67% year over year. But there’s more: Those dispensaries with online ordering capabilities saw an additional 22% leap in sales compared with those who didn’t. The writing is on the wall: Dispensaries need to be selling cannabis online. In fact, many dispensaries—perhaps taking a page from the restaurant business—are moving to an online-only model, at least in those municipalities that allow cannabis delivery.
Regardless of your specific format, we want to help you supercharge your online sales. That means two things:
- Maximizing the returns from your online menu
- Making sure you’re using all the tips and tricks of digital marketing to reach the broadest pool of consumers with the greatest possible impact
With those major action items established, let’s move into some specifics about leveraging the online space for selling marijuana!
Selling Cannabis Online: Maximizing Your Menu
If online menus were a once flashy add-on, today they’re something much more vital: A constantly updated, trustworthy, and accurate representation of your dispensary stock. Anyone who’s ever had to manage an angry customer who’d driven to your dispensary only to find his or her item “out of stock” knows how crucial this aspect of online ordering is.
Menus stay up-to-date by making use of a dedicated and purpose-built POS system. What does “purpose-built” mean in this context? It means that your system is optimized to
- Communicate seamlessly between online and in-person terminals so that your live menu is always accurate
- Work well with the majority cash-only nature of retail dispensary transactions
- Integrate with your state’s particular cannabis regulations and reporting requirements so that you’re always in compliance
If that sounds like a lot, don’t sweat it. Using a well-designed POS system is easier than describing it. What’s more, a robust POS system will be working behind the scenes to gather essential customer data, providing essential business insights, and helping you develop more effective customer personas and segmentation strategies that allow you to learn from today so that you’ll sell more cannabis tomorrow.
Of course, from the customer’s point of view, all these elements are invisible; all they see is your menu. With that in mind, what are some of the steps we can take to ensure our menus are supporting maximum conversions?
Offer Unparalleled UX & Superior Website Design
Ensuring great website UX—the “user experience”—is absolutely critical if you want to create a virtual experience customers will return to. According to marketing maestros Hubspot:
- 90% of people have left a website because it was badly designed.
- 93% of people have left because a website didn’t load quickly enough.
- 93% of people have left a website because it didn’t display properly on their device
We’ve written about what makes for great website UX; it’s good advice that only gets better with time.
Be Quick About It
No, really, we mean it literally. Load times have a huge impact on customer satisfaction; some data suggest that nearly half of website visitors don’t revisit poorly performing websites. The same report attributes a 1-second delay in load time with a 16% drop in customer satisfaction. Yikes! That’s not a lot of seconds to mess around with, is it? Trust us: You don’t even want to see the stats when we‘re talking about the mobile device users who make up an increasingly vital part of the consumer pool. They’re pretty grim.
Be Clear & Concise
Words matter, especially in the realm of the screen. When you’re trying to choose products, order, and check out, the website and menu copy needs to be sharp, descriptive, and above all useful. Describe products fully but concisely, and make sure you’re providing visitors with all the necessary guideposts, including:
-State-specific tax collection information
-Any other specific state-mandated data or information
For In-store Pickup:
-Email / text notifications
What’s more, a well-designed dispensary website menu will include intuitive search and filter functionality, clear and sharp product photos, and detailed information including packaging and weight for each and every product.
Make Use of SMS
A well-designed dispensary menu integrates with your SMS / text marketing database, allowing you to share menu links with those customers who’ve signed up for offers and updates. Why SMS? Because most people open texts very quickly, text marketing can deliver a remarkably high open and response rate. It’s a simple and effective way of sharing content you’ve already generated—your menu—for maximum impact. SMS marketing is a deep topic in and of itself; it’s worth it to learn the basic elements on their own merits.
Earn (and Leverage) Customer Loyalty
We write a lot about generating and then leveraging customer loyalty. Why? When it comes to selling marijuana, it’s one of the single most important tools in your kit. Like SMS marketing, it’s a topic in its own right—begin here to learn the basics—but when a loyalty program is fully integrated into your online menu, it can give your sales an enormous lift.
Why? A loyalty program that’s integrated with your menu helps you present a seamless experience. Your customers earn valuable points towards rewards, and you gather actionable data that will allow you to better tailor your offerings to them. Making your best customers even happier? That’s a no-brainer. This is especially important in those markets that allow cannabis delivery (and if you haven’t yet explored that option, now might just be the time).
Selling Cannabis Online: The Power of Digital Marketing
We’ve said a lot about how well-designed and executed dispensary menus make selling marijuana online seamless and easy. But menus are only half of the story. What about the digital marketing efforts that drive customers to your website in the first place?
The topic of digital marketing is both broad and deep. We’ll break it down into a few digestible chunks as they relate to selling cannabis online:
Let’s take just a moment to dive into each.
Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Advertising
In many regards the cornerstone of digital marketing, PPC ads are those hosted on search engines or other websites that consent to host such ads. Their cost is determined by the actual number of consumers who actually click on them. That’s a big difference compared with traditional ads, which are charged based on the number of impressions—essentially, the eyeballs who see your ad—regardless of whether they’re actually paying any attention to it or not.
Here at Foottraffik, we help dispensaries maximize their sales by designing can’t-miss Google Ads campaigns tailored for specific results, like increasing brand awareness or driving customers to the door. Ask us how!
You may have heard such terms as Geo-advertising, Geo-fencing or Geo-targeting. They’re refinements of the basic PPC model, but they use sophisticated tracking and geolocation tools to only deliver ads in specific locations, such as near your (or a competitor’s) dispensary. We can also run these types of display ads for you.
Social Media Advertising
Though some dispensary owner/operators believe—incorrectly—that they can’t market via social media, that fact is that this can be a remarkably effective strategy. Especially after a year-plus spent in a pandemic, social media has arguably become the single most important arena in which businesses interface with potential consumers.
That said, the rules of engagement can be counterintuitive to some traditional businesspeople. For one thing, there’s no actual selling cannabis on social media (not unless you want to get flagged and banned, that is). For another, most platforms disallow product and consumption shots, leaving some to wonder just what you can share there.
A lot, as it turns out. Because cannabis is increasingly a part of our self-care, wellness, or leisure regimens, sharing imagery and other content relating to pursuits like hiking, yoga, sports, cooking, pets, community events—in other words, nearly anything!—can cement the natural relationship between dispensaries and healthy, active lifestyles.
And if you read our blog with any regularity, you know we spend a lot of time focusing on influencer marketing, or marketing via those who have the power to affect the purchasing decisions of others because of their authority, knowledge, position or relation to their audience. Especially when it comes to selling cannabis, it’s an increasingly vital and effective approach when it comes to marketing on social media.
That’s a mouthful! If you want to learn more about the core principles of social media marketing for dispensaries, start here.
The Power of Good Branding for Selling Cannabis Online
Many of us think of branding as a strictly real-world endeavor: Creating logos, signage, and all the other visual cues that tell potential customers who you are. But good branding is an essential element of digital marketing, and it’s so important that it bears a closer look.
In essence, your branding is everything about your business that tells people your story. Using words, imagery and other design elements, it’s the very first point of contact between you and the general public. Needless to say, branding is a deep topic in its own right. But as it relates to digital marketing, here are a few points to consider:
Branding Defines The Entire Spectrum of Your Business Identity
Especially when consumers are interacting with your online properties, it’s essential that you present a consistent, unified, and above all trustworthy presence. Good branding signals that you’re a business that can be relied upon to provide value, service, honesty and a consistent product. Does your branding—including your PPC and social media content—signal these attributes, or does it suggest disunity or disorganization?
Branding Speaks to Your Specific Audience
Many retailers like to think that their business appeals to everyone, but in real life that’s both impossible and counterproductive. Identify your target audience, and focus on creating an identity that speaks to them directly, whether it’s through the language on your website and menu or the images you post on Instagram.
Keep Your Branding Simple
At the end of the day, you’re in business for a simple goal: Selling marijuana. As such, being honest, direct (and tasteful) goes much farther than a complicated or obtuse branding scheme. Using clear messaging—whether it’s in the form of text, images, or design—helps eliminate uncertainty, builds trust, and generate that essential relationship between consumer and brand. And that, at the end of the day, is what it’s all about.