If there is one thing I have learned in the past 7 years of cannabis business pursuit is that the industry remains incredibly immature. Not the people mind you. Most people I’ve met in the cannabis world are smart, sober and hard working professionals doing their best to navigate through a system with nearly 40 different regulatory regimes and laws across the country, with the feds always threatening some level or constraint that is about to be added to operators’ already full plate.
I am talking about immaturity from the branding practices, operational processes and digital toolsets that other businesses doing millions of dollars in annual sales (or 10s or 100s of millions) have regular access to. Cannabis operators continue to suffer with as yet hardened tools like meaningful brand strategies, customer management communications tools and best-in-class supply chain practices.
Why is this? Blame the feds. Why isn’t IBM or Micros building POS systems for cannabis retailers? Why isn’t Fivestars or Belly producing a cannabis specific retail loyalty program? Why does Mailchimp close down accounts in cannabis with no warning? Same with Instagram. And think of all the ad money being foregone by Facebook and Google, neither of whom accept ad money from legal cannabis operators.
This situation has enabled a quasi-ecosystem to develop out of a raft of startups looking to provide consumer experience business consultation and software solutions selected and integrated specifically for cannabis operators. But there are, for instance, over 40 Point of Sale Systems approved for integration with State sanctioned seed to sale tracking platforms, with widely varying sophistication, maturity and operational value. For retailers alone, there are (for instance) multiple digital live menu systems that integrate with most leading cannabis dispensary POS systems. There are a number of customer messaging apps tuned to be compliant with each state’s various rules regarding customer data collection and usage for marketing purposes that work with varying ease with other systems. There are different platforms vying for primacy in the wholesale marketplace for buyers and sellers.
In our experience, all newly licensed cannabis retailers will need at least three things to get started compliantly and successfully
Yet just standing up these three integration-oriented systems is incredibly complicated, not the least because of the over 40 POS systems alone in the cannabis marketplace today.
While spending 2 years recently embedded in a vertically integrated cannabis operation in Western Massachusetts, I was the lead on sourcing, evaluating and integrating a variety of software as a service platforms that would add value to this operator’s customer experience as well as the dispensary’s operations efficiency. My experience integrating a variety of software solutions into a seamless marketing eco-system for the retail team included:
As you can tell, operating a cannabis retailer’s digital infrastructure can be a truly overwhelming process of discovery, evaluation, selection, and integration into one’s retail operation.
A few key points to consider:
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