Six Musts to Keep Your Dispensary Competitive in 2018

We’ve spent our fair share of time in dispensaries, particularly in the last few months as California neared full legalization. Now that we’ve had some time to go over our notes, here are six musts to keep your dispensary competitive in 2018.

1. Frequently Update Your Online Menu

Integrating your menu with sites like Weedmaps isn’t enough anymore. Your menu needs to be updated at least once a day – both your selection and pricing. Customers do not want to read one price online only to find a more expensive one once they’re in your store.

Real Customer Complaint 1:

I was finally called to the budtender just to find that the $65 price of the cartridge … was raised to $75. … Still feel cheated about the $10 price increase…

They will (rightfully) feel cheated and misled. Even if you don’t lose a purchase then, you’ve most likely lost any repeat business – and repeat business is good for business.

TIP: Consider upgrading to a cannabis-specific point of sale system that automatically updates your inventory and menus as they change.

2. Offer Call Ahead or Online Pre-Ordering

Offering call-head or online pre-ordering adds flexibility to the purchasing process. We prefer online ordering systems, as they eliminate issues like mishearing a customer or having illegible handwriting (it happens). Customers can browse and compare products at their leisure, and then pick up their purchase at their convenience.

As an added bonus, because you can only accept cash, you’re not responsible for names and credit card numbers being stored online.

TIP: Add express parking and/or an express checkout counter for pre-order pickups. Bonus points if you create a separate lane or counter for medical users.

3. Remember Your Medical Patients

For all the wink, wink, nudge nudge that went with California’s medical marijuana program, there are many qualified people who still have their med cards and need their medicine.

Real Customer Complaint 2:

I didn’t realize it would be so crazy to get meds. Getting in the shop is a effort with all the masses of people there. It’s stressful for someone with PTSD.

In cities like San Jose, your medical patients made your business, and they expect to be treated with the same level of customer service as before. Don’t forget them.

4. Keep Your Wait Times to 10 Minutes and Under

Your customers, and particularly your medical users, should not wait in line for more than 10 minutes. We understand if your business model includes highly personalized, in-depth service, but consider re-examining your staffing levels if you consistently have long lines.

Real Customer Complaint 3:

Almost an hour wait for overpriced products.

If you’re staffed to capacity, take a look at your dispensary layout. Are you using your space optimally? Instead of free-for-all seating, could your store benefit from more organized queuing with rope barriers or stanchions?

5. Set Up Loyalty Programs, Deals and Specials

Why do the best dispensaries promote repeat business through loyalty programs, discounts and weekly specials? Because loyal customers:

  • Spend 60% more per visit
  • Are 5x more likely to refer friends to a business
  • Account for 80% of a dispensary’s revenue

These customers become what’s known in the marketing world as evangelists. The more your dispensary has, the better. There’s also an opportunity to get creative with your cannabis loyalty program.

If you’re not sure where to start, we suggest checking out cannabis-specific loyalty programs, like Baker’s.

NOTE: Check your state’s laws regarding discounts, giveaways and combined purchases.

6. Offer Delivery Service

Cannabis delivery provides a vital service to people who cannot leave the house easily or at all,  do not have transportation to a store, or dislike crowds (see Real Customer Complaint 2). Or maybe it’s raining and they don’t want to risk the trip with all the other drivers who have no clue how to drive safely in this weather and hey come on! Your wipers are on so turn on your lights, buddy! It’s the law here.

Charge a minimum, have a strict delivery area, limit delivery to medical and/or disabled clients – whatever you need to do to make it work for your business. Marijuana delivery is a must for 2018.

TIP: Set clear expectations for delivery on your website, including delivery times (and how they will most likely vary depending on location and/or time of day) and your company tipping policy. Hint: Forgo tipping and pay your drivers a living wage.

Almost a Must: Include Applicable Taxes in the Prices You Display

California marijuana taxes are high to borderline absurd – San Jose’s total tax on each purchase is 34.25 percent – and you’re better off letting people know the full cost up front. No customer should gasp when you announce a total.

Save everyone the trouble of doing the math, and put the full total, with tax, on your menus. By being able to see the full cost before making a selection, customers will feel less cheated by the high taxes.


2018 is going to be an exciting year in the world of legal cannabis. Make sure your dispensary joins in that excitement while staying ahead of the competition.

What is your dispensary or cannabis retail store doing to stay on top of the competition in 2018? Leave your tips in the comments.

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