Recreational marijuana industry keeps growing.
Need proof? Look no further than Colorado, where from 2014 – 2018, the number of dispensaries increased from 147 – 509. Furthermore, profits skyrocketed 120% from $684 million – $1.5 billion between 2014 – 2017.
And despite some bumps in the road in 2018 because of federal obstacles, Q3 sales results were promising for recreational marijuana sales in California.
With 10 states, along with the district of Columbia, approving the distribution of recreational cannabis, the projected $21 billion in marijuana-related sales by 2021 is more than attainable.
These numbers and projections are great but, as proven by Colorado’s influx of dispensaries, the market is already saturated. It’s no longer enough to simply open up a dispensary then rely upon the novelty of readily available legal weed and other cannabis-infused products to drive conversions. Plus, all dispensaries will be selling top-notch products—the market will accept nothing less, so you can’t rely on quality alone to set you apart.
With all of these factors in mind, how will entrepreneurs involved in this extremely competitive industry stand out?
The answer lies in digital presence and design.
The Digital Growth Operation
Why is digital so important to the cannabis game?
Well, according to a study done by Headset, the majority of the cannabis market is millennials at 51% of the share, as of 2017.
As discriminating as millennials’ tastes can be towards marijuana strands, it’s twice as discerning when it comes to slow load times and bad web page designs. Marijuana retailers can’t afford to have websites stuck in the late 90s.
Design Your Own Destiny
It’s 2019, and the first impression most customers will have of your dispensary is through your website.
Clichés tend to stem from wisdom and the old phrase “first impressions are everything” is no different. Also, Adobe’s 2015 report on the State of Content shows that with 15 minutes to consume content, 66% of people prefer viewing beautiful designs over something simple and plain.
The possibilities are endless with your web design. Remember, it’s a chance to establish your brand identity and to truly capture consumers’ attention.
Don’t hamstring yourself with antiquated layouts because of funding. Anything extra you spend on a great design will pay off big time in the return.
Need some inspiration? Here’s an example of an award-winning design for a cannabis retailer.
Find Your SEO Guru
Search engine optimization is an elusive element many businesses struggle with.
It’s not a matter of keyword stuffing—instead, it’s about appealing to the preferences of search engines. Google, for instance, uses automated bots to crawl links and websites. Search engine developers utilize an open-source language called Structured Data Markup. Your website will appease these bots by, for lack of better phrasing, learning to speak their language.
The goal here is to help you qualify for “rich” results such as:
The above examples increase click-through rates due to an enhanced appearance on the results page while decreasing bounce rates because the results are more relevant.
Be Ready to Convert
In today’s climate, your website needs something akin to a sales associate at the helm, ready to help users at the click of a button. It can be the difference between an unimpressed visitor and a lifelong customer.
Potential purchasers can be helped via automated chatbots to which you may add scripts, keywords, and pre-written answer buttons when site visitors require assistance.
Chatbots can also provide incentives. In setting the appropriate conditions, you can automatically send promotions such as “by 1 get 1 half off” to a visitor debating on a purchase. The technology is such that it’ll strike when the iron is hot (i.e. right when a potential customer’s decision can go either way).
Studies from Salesforce show 69% of consumers preferring chatbots for quick communications with brands. It makes sense since immediate help from a chatbot is more convenient than waiting on an email or making a phone call.
Cultivate a Community
Consumers want to see the personality behind the brand. Particularly with something alternative like cannabis, your target market won’t get behind a stale corporate image.
Starting an email newsletter with product information, updates, exclusive offers, and sales trends is a great way to engage your community. Blogs on your website are another way to show off your knowledge, personality, and expertise. Also, in the age of Reddit, adding a Forum on your website can really drive interest in your brand (Discourse is a great tool to start your forum). Or, you can get involved in other forums—just make sure to interact authentically, i.e. sharing your own experiences, as opposed to plugging branded material.
Social media is a little bit tricky when it comes to recreational cannabis. Facebook and Instagram outright won’t advertise most marijuana products (or even CBD).
This doesn’t mean you can’t use Facebook or Instagram for organic community building, sharing educational content, or plugging blog posts etc.
Similar to forums, there are various groups on Facebook in which you can post and interact with relevant communities. According to Mark Zuckerberg himself, Facebook’s algorithms actually favor group posts—which is particularly important since regular organic reach is down to 1-2% on the platform.
Instagram is known for brand advocacy. This could prove vital as 92% of individuals trust word-of-mouth recommendations while 82% of consumers seek peer referrals before making purchasing decisions.
Make Analytics Your Friend
You’re going to have to get familiar with Google analytics in order to optimize your digital presence.
It’ll help you monitor user engagement on your website. Tools such as Fullstory provide valuable insights on how users interact with your website like where they click, hover, and highlight etc. You’ll see what’s working and what isn’t working.
Analytics will provide information that will help you make informed decisions that’ll bolster your website’s overall performance.
Conclusion: Digitize Your Dispensary to Stay On Top
The recreational cannabis landscape is about to become ruthlessly competitive. In a day and age where the internet reigns supreme, you’ll need to abide by the above principles to stay ahead of the digital pack.