THE WORLD HAS CHANGED

As the cannabis industry rolled into 2020, markets were already seeing a steady increase in online ordering and digital engagement, even as many brands still had nascent digital strategies in place to address this growing channel. BOPIS (Buy Online, Pickup In-Store) purchasing was saving consumers and retailers major queue time and markets like CO finally passed laws to allow the slow rollout of home delivery in the state.  But the global Covid-19 pandemic threw gasoline on that fire, and overnight, twenty-four states including Florida, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and New Mexico, permitted curbside pickup outside of dispensaries.  Nevada made drastic moves to enforce cannabis by home delivery-only, statewide. 

This presented unique challenges for brands who were accustomed to in-store activity and budtender relationships delivering the bulk of their consumer messaging.  But it also gave brands a huge opportunity to connect directly with consumers.

 

ENTER: THE VIRTUAL BUDTENDER

If a budtender recommendation figures into 80% of all purchases (Brown, ElevatedInsights 2018), delivering the knowledge a budtender or in-store experience might deliver, and much more, presents unique challenges in this new digital cannabis economy.  Enter the virtual budtender, who can deliver product authentication, full product descriptions, dosage guidance, processing standards, and actual COAs for the product the consumer is holding in their hand.  As importantly, it paves the way for a true digital connection with consumers, providing information for brands to understand how consumers are using the brand’s products, channel-building tools to activate the digital direct to consumer (DTC) channel, and other features to allow brands to cultivate true brand affinity and loyalty.  Better yet, the seamless integration of this capability on-pack has made ROI nearly automatic –  just pennies per package and virtually no additional operational overhead.

 

HOW TECHNOLOGY ENABLED THIS TRANSFORMATION 

The first tech challenge was operational:  How can we get the codes on every package at scale, without disrupting production?  Innovations in digital print management and identity management allow brands to integrate serialized QR codes into the regulatory labels they already place on products.

The second tech challenge, and probably most importantly, was the poor user experience of forcing a consumer to download an app in order to engage with digital packaging.  But by 2019, all iOS and Android phones had native QR code reading built into the camera itself which is 99.6% of smartphones.  Anyone that knows how to pull up their camera and click a link can now engage directly with the brand and product in their hand.  

It no longer matters if the consumer had a brief encounter in-store, home delivery, picked up curbside, or simply forgot everything their budtender told them. The guidance is always easy to access, accurate, and consistent because it is coming straight from the brand for an exceptional product experience – every time.  Brands are taking this digital shift as an opportunity to connect directly with the consumer, joining the leaders of other industries in taking control of their brand and product communication.