No matter where your cannabis store is in Canada, one constant remains: customer expectations are evolving as fast as our legal cannabis market. Thankfully, Canada’s retail cannabis stores are keeping pace. The need to inform and educate customers happens on several fronts, but technology plays a critical role in reaching all of them. The ever-widening array of products and accessories means there is always something new to discover and learn about. Your operation is becoming a knowledge zone for cannabis education. Are you ready?
Meet Customers Online
These days, most of your customers are online. Your online presence should include live updated menus on a dedicated website with the ability to order online, where that is allowed by provincial regulators. Your customers expect their cannabis shopping experience to reflect the norms that they find shopping for anything from a t-shirt to a T-Bird.
Your online presence should include live updated menus.
“Customers have become more accustomed to asking questions and using our online resources like live menus, click & collect, and call & collect,” says Daniel Ngyen, owner of NUMO Cannabis in Edmonton, Alberta. “It comes down to honesty and transparency, trying to assess our customers’ needs of value and quality, and being straight forward in representing products to NUMO’s customers within an evolving market.”
Muse Cannabis in North Vancouver, British Columbia meets customers online with the blog on its website, sometimes even before customers step through the door.
“There are some people who have never seen cannabis in their life so they have questions about the basics like ‘How do I consume?’, ‘What’s the healthiest way to consume?’, ‘What’s the difference between smoking a joint or eating a candy?’,” says Frida Hallgren, General Manager at Muse’s Deep Cove location. “Then you have people from the legacy market who are used to getting just weed, so sativa and indica are new vocabulary for them, too.”
Using All Avenues Available
Canada’s retail operators are not only meeting the challenge of integrating technology into their operations, but demonstrating solid leadership in a developing industry.
NUMO Cannabis meets the challenge by featuring up to 10 large screens with live menus, which are updated regularly by staff to ensure online accuracy for customers. Coupled with a knowledgeable team, these practices drives sales, build customer loyalty, and help to represent NUMO as a place to go not just for cannabis products, but as a source of reliable cannabis information.
Meta Cannabis’ Pembina Highway location, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, takes a mixed approach to educating customers by providing paper menus along with electronic screen menus. Although the hardcopy is appreciated, their screens remain the primary focus of most customers.
“While technology is a powerful tool in educating Meta Cannabis customers, in the end it is the face-to-face, in-store communication that makes for an excellent customer experience,” says Jamie Tan, spokesperson for Meta Cannabis. “Online resources may lay the foundation, but it is our people that ultimately put the smile on the customer’s face.”
Muse Cannabis uses mixed media as well, utilizing the store’s wall space to educate, with educational posters to help explain the basics to cannabis newbies.
According to Hallgren, though, the best customer education comes from a conversation. Many licensed producers include educational materials with their products so that budtenders can effectively talk about them, but meeting customers at their level is important.
Nothing Beats Human Contact
Frontline staff remains the most important point of contact with your customer. Hiring the right people and ensuring that ongoing training keeps their information current, accurate, and relatable is key. Supporting employees with the resources and materials to educate customers is critical to your success. Your crew receives the bulk of questions and can be a huge resource in building customer knowledge simply by being equipped and ready to answer the questions that your clients bring.
Supporting employees with the resources and materials to educate customers is critical.
With more medical users turning to the recreational market for convenience and variety, budtenders have to know how to educate while still staying compliant with the rules. Hallgren says that Muse Cannabis sees quite a few customers looking for relief with their medical issues, however, she and her fellow budtenders have to be careful with their advice.
“We can only really talk about products and recommend that customers talk to their doctor,” she says. “We have to be clear that we don’t have any medical education, so we can’t talk about specific treatments, but a lot of customers say that they come to the store because their doctor recommended cannabis to them.”
Be Open to Feedback
Education flows both ways. Paying attention to customer feedback online and in-store is critical, and where possible, respond quickly to that feedback. Customers experience both your physical and online stores in ways that you don’t, and their feedback can help you, but you have to be open to it. Your customers will use these platforms to voice concerns they might not be comfortable telling the staff, and may alert you to trends or demands that are just surfacing. Being responsive also shows current and potential customers that your store cares about their input. The value of this feedback is determined by your response to it.
Your store and especially your frontline staff are key components in encouraging cannabis consumers to not only learn, but to continue to learn. Meeting the challenge of informing customers is worth the effort and time, not just for your store, but for our nation’s exciting move into legalization. You are not just educating customers; you are building the foundations of how cannabis will be sold and enjoyed as part of Canada’s cultural richness.