Hoping for a speedy end to the COVID-19 pandemic? Believe us: So are we. But while the race to develop a vaccine is yielding some promising results—with some prominent health experts cautiously predicting relief in 2021—the fact is that we’re hardly out of the woods. Infection rates are already on the rise in the United States, and with colder weather forcing us indoors, many of us are bracing for a tough fall and winter.
Cannabis dispensaries have played an important role in the pandemic thus far. Because so many Americans rely on cannabis as a vital part of their medical care and wellness, they’re essential businesses. And as we enter what will certainly be months of greater isolation, it’s more important than ever that dispensary operators make sure they’re staying connected with their customers.
Think it’s impossible during a lockdown? Think again. Here are three low-impact techniques that deliver high returns on your investment. Add them to your toolkit now (so you’ll be ready for the dark days of winter).
Staying Connected with Customers: Offer Online Chat
In general, we’re all for simplifying websites to make them cleaner, more intuitive and functional. But especially these days, adding chat functionality is a no-brainer. Why? Let us count the ways:
1. Faster Response = More Leads
Especially because dispensary customers often search for locations, specific strains and deals on the go, the early bird—that is, the fastest bird—really does get the worm. As a survey by marketing firm Drift found, the odds of making contact with a lead decrease 10 times after 5 minutes. If you can afford to let all those potential consumers slip away, you probably don’t need our help.
What if no one’s on hand to respond? While they’re not a perfect solution, chat bots have gotten a lot better over the last year or two. Because they can customize their responses to common questions, they can stand in for you during that essential first conversation. Even if they don’t always close the sale, they often do well enough to establish contact (and help your potential customer push a little deeper into the funnel).
2. Overcome Last-Minute Hesitations
Let’s face it: Most dispensaries don’t do a stellar job of keeping their product descriptions compelling, informative and up-to-date. And we get it: With an ever-changing list of hundreds of items, it’s a tall order.
So when an unclear or incomplete product description causes a potential customer to hesitate, chat can save the sale. Even a simple response like “Yes, that strain is known for its strong cerebral effect; it’s great for daytime use” can seal the deal, all without your leaving your seat.
3. The Next Best Thing to In-Person
As we mentioned before, dispensaries have played an unusual but important role in the pandemic thus far. In addition to providing essential medicine for countless millions of North Americans, dispensaries and their staff often serve as touchstones in these isolated and socially distant months. And while chat will never replace a real-life interaction, the immediacy and conversational nature of chats can help remind our valued customers—and ourselves!—that there’s really someone out there on the other end of the line.
Staying Connected with Customers: Virtual Appointments
One by-product of the COVID-19 pandemic has been to accelerate what was already a growing trend: The move towards virtual appointments in healthcare and other industries. Before COVID, many patients (and even some doctors) had their doubts; now, they’re an established and fairly robust part of clinicians’ toolkits. If your dispensary is located in a state that requires an initial consultation or assessment, it’s time to jump on the bandwagon and get set up for virtual appointments.
Compared with traditional healthcare (which entails a more stringent set of requirements such as Electronic Health Records and Practice Management Software) setting yourself up for virtual appointments is relatively painless. In addition to installing patient self-scheduling software, you’ll want to set up a process for sharing instructions on how to join virtual platforms like Google Meet, as well as sending automated appointment reminders.
And remember: Virtual appointments aren’t all business. Like chats, they serve an important secondary function in providing a human touch, these days more than ever. It’s one of the ways dispensaries can maintain that essential point of contact with their customers, reminding them that we’re all in this singular experience together.
Staying Connected with Customers: Virtual Events
Before about six months ago, virtual events were probably the furthest thing from most of our minds. These days it’s a very different story, as performance venues, conferences, and yes—even dispensaries—figure out new and innovative ways to bring us all together in the era of social distancing. What might those be? Here are a few idea-starters:
- Cannabis education events: Invite your favorite grower or producer to share what makes their product special
- Virtual concerts: Songkick maintains a list of upcoming live streamed shows
- Virtual prom or dance party: Here’s a big-budget take on this idea, but you can still throw a fun and meaningful virtual event on a limited budget
- Virtual sporting and music events: Visit pioneering music festival Tomorrowland or the NBA season restart
- Virtual safaris and stay-at-home tours: Check these epic safaris and World Heritage Sites
If some of these sound a little silly, that’s kind of the point: This is the time to get a little fun and wacky, to bring our communities together for a bit of lighthearted fun during these dark and distant months. And while obviously there are enormous differences between in-person and virtual events, many of the same rules still apply. Read a few of our tips, including reaching out to partners and sponsors, as well as making sure you capitalize on the great SEO and word-of-mouth opportunities hosting events can bring!