Loading...

COVID is Changing How People Buy Cannabis

COVID has changed consumer behavior and how people interact with and purchase from dispensaries. Find out how you can stay ahead of the curve.

What We're Learning About Cannabis Consumer Behavior

Search Intent is Still Local

Regardless of your profession, it is almost a given that COVID has thrown some significant curveballs your way. The cannabis industry is no different. A lot of things have changed; from the way dispensaries are able to operate to how we optimize our campaigns. It’s safe to say we’ve all had to make some serious adjustments. 

With that being said, one thing that hasn’t changed is local search intent. If anything, COVID has impacted search intent in the form of exponentially more local search queries. The reason is obvious, people don’t want, or are not allowed, to venture outside their immediate neighborhood to get the supplies they need. While the local search intent has gained traction, we’ve noticed the way people are searching locally has made major shifts. 

Cannabis Delivery & Pickup Options

As COVID unfolded our team was keeping a close eye on what seemed to be never-ending piles of data. All this data was revolving around local search and consumer behavior and what we found was somewhat expected. 

As COVID spread, delivery and pick up based search terms skyrocketed as people were looking for solutions that allowed them to stay in the comfort of their home and still get the service they needed. Since the initial spike, we have seen a slight decline however delivery and pickup terms have remained some of the most recent break out searches according to Google Trends. 

New Data, New Opportunities

Capitalize While You Can 

We believe that there are always positives to be found even in the most uncertain and challenging situations. We think COVID is no different. While your competition are all wondering how they can survive, if you can adjust you mindset and business, you can win customers for life and surpass your peers for good.

All the shifts we’re seeing are presenting newfound opportunities that, if capitalized on, can make a significant impact on revenue and your business. If you’ve been slacking on your SEO or digital strategy this is the perfect time to pivot and attack the new search terms with an aggressive HyperLocal strategy that makes sure people in your area know you’re the best solution to their problem. 

For example, say you were a long time go-to dispensary in your neighborhood but since have been surpassed by a newer, more modern dispensary with a better location. COVID is presenting you with the perfect opportunity to win back your customers and boost your revenue by capitalizing on the new consumer behavior and providing the best online shopping and delivery experience possible. 

Actionable Advice 

  1. Online Menu & Ordering - If you don't have an online menu and ordering process, now’s the time. 
  2. Carve A Clear Path To Checkout - Use the homepage on your website as a tool to funnel people to your menu to capture as many online orders as possible. Think to make your menu as easy to access as possible. 
  3. Delivery or Curbside Option - The next step is to use some type of delivery method to get your product to your customers without them having to leave their homes. This is the real opportunity you should be trying to capitalize on. If you can’t find a delivery option, curbside pickup is the next best thing. 
  4. SMS & Chat - There has never been a better time to communicate directly with your customers. Go the extra mile now, and you might just win a life long customer. A great way to establish this connection is with an SMS or chat function. Google My Business offers a free chat solution that we highly recommend to connect and answer questions for your customers. 
  5. Loyalty Program - A loyalty program is a great way to give your customers something to look forward to right now. Even the smallest things can brighten someone’s day and a deal hard to pass up may do just that while helping boost your sales. 

Overall, we think its a really great time to put your customer first and before everything else, provide a great service. Going the extra mile now can result in loyal customers for years to come. If you liked this brief summary feel free to check out the recording below as well as the full transcript! 

Helpful Links:


100% Free Digital Footprint Analysis
& Strategy Session.

See what your current digital footprint is like and how your dispensary stacks up against the competition.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Full Transcript

Jack:

All right everybody, thank you for joining us on our first run of our new podcast. On this podcast our goal is just to deliver value to local business owners in any way, in any form we really can. So today I'm joined by my two colleagues and great friends, TJ Cooper and Justin Latham. And if you guys want to go ahead and jump in and introduce yourselves. That'd be great.

Justin:

I am Justin Latham. I've been with Strattex since 2018 so I'm going on my two year anniversary. I work on the back end of all of our Hyper-Local clients, and making more people go to their locations, and giving them more money and that's what gets me excited.

Jack:

Awesome. TJ?

TJ:

Yeah. So just to start, I just want to let you know that Justin completely understated what he does at one of the highest levels I think I've ever heard somebody do. So I work with Justin on the fulfillment team, and Justin really allows me personally to dive in the numbers and data, and kind of have the opportunity to be creative because of all of the stuff that he does on the backend. He touches every single account. So if he's just like, "Oh, I just do some stuff and pull some levers." That's not true. Just putting it out there.

TJ:

Anyway, we've been working together for awhile, I've been with Strattex for what, since 2016, so kind of like maybe a month after we opened. Help with some of the first launching the first campaigns. And since then it's been kind of a really cool, wild ride and helping customers, get more customers, and really specifically focusing on brick and mortar businesses and how they can grow. And now even more so the transition is like, how do we get these people to take advantage of online opportunities since everybody else is put in a really weird situation with what's going on with the pandemic.

Jack:

Yeah, absolutely. So I think that's a good point to just segue into our first topic here. So TJ, one thing you and I have been discussing a lot is how COVID is kind of changing consumer behavior, how it's changing the local digital landscape and things we're trying to get our clients to do to transition and kind of pivot quickly to be able to take advantage of that. So what do you, Justin and TJ, kind of see on the ground as far as trends in search behaviors and stuff like that?

TJ:

Justin, you want to take this one or you want me to?

Justin:

Yeah. I'll go ahead and start it off. So what we've noticed is that one of the big things that we've really tracked at the beginning, not at the beginning, but when I first came on, is really direction requests. Now that's less of a lead indicator of what's really happening with these businesses now that we're living in a post-COVID world. We've noticed a lot more clicks for calling, and clicks to the website. And those are really like changing the mindset of what we're thinking that businesses need to do now to be able to capture those new clients and those returning clients. And so we've really been moving towards making sure that every one of our clients is online ordering, delivery where available, curbside pickup where available. We work primarily with dispensary, so there's some things that we have to work, some guidelines that we have to work with and whatnot. But these are the things that we've been noticing. And go ahead and dig us a little deeper into that TJ. Did he freeze again?

Justin:

When I say, TJ dig in a little bit more, I mean I'm going to digging in a little bit more. Having those online ordering and delivery options for people right now is super important. Like I said, direction requests are kind of, they're starting to fall by the wayside. And it's because people want to go further or go less distance when they're leaving their house. And so that's what really makes us kind of stand out. And the fact that because our number one product offering is a product called Hyper-Local, we make you hyper relevant in your area and make sure that the people that are looking for your services find you first. And that has been immensely popular pre-COVID-19. And now in this post-COVID-19 world that we're in, it's getting even more important. Because just yesterday I could have gone round the block to go to 7-Eleven, I could've done that. It would've taken me less than 10 minutes to get there and get back. But it was more convenient to have it delivered.

Jack:

Right.

Justin:

It's not just 7-Eleven that's becoming more popular for this, especially in states that are allowing dispensaries to deliver. It's adding this whole new side of the business for all these different dispensers and whatnot.

Jack:

Right. So even with adding new features and ways for customers to find the business, would you still say that search intent is local or do business owners need to be focused on something new?

Justin:

It's still 100% local, or not 100%, that's definitely an over exaggeration, but it's still very strongly local, because like I said, when people are looking for something now it's, "What is right next to me so that I can get it really fast? Or what can I click on that's going to deliver to me?"

TJ:

Yeah. I would say to piggyback on what Justin is saying, local intent is what people are looking for right now. Most states are locked down, so you're not really going to go from place to place obviously. But one of the things I'm noticing is that when people are buying stuff or they're looking for stuff, they want stuff that's convenient, they want stuff that's close, they want stuff that's open. So you're going to find most of those opportunities, especially in the space that we're in locally because Amazon doesn't sell that. But when you look at even other industries, there's an opportunity to really leverage local buyer intent search phrases, especially if your business is set up that way or you're making that transition to get it set up that way.

TJ:

I would say another thing, and I don't know if Justin touched on this or not, thank you Xfinity. But one of the things that I'm noticing on top of just the customer search trends are some of the things that small business owners need to be aware of as well, and it is just kind of, and it's a shift for some businesses. I think if you're doing it right, you probably already look through this lens, but what we try to get people to think of is kind of this idea of service, especially right now. You want to figure out how, it's not just about like how much you can get while the getting's good. It's really like, "How can I serve this person, make their journey, make their experience a little bit better, and make this something that they can remember." Not only that, how easy it was for them to get what they needed during this time, but maybe later like, "Hey, this was a really good experience and I want to do this again."

TJ:

So I think right now that's kind of a really important thing. I know especially in our space because there's people trying new places for the first time. And there's people who didn't get to experience the products that our clients sell, maybe because of work situation that are now doing it because they're at home. There's people who maybe doesn't necessarily smoke, but they're dealing with a lot of stuff like anxiety. So they're trying new things. So really focusing on that customer journey, that customer experience early on, making sure that they're served as holistically as you possibly can, I think, is a super important thing. And I think right now especially that's what's going to make a really good brand stand apart from just an okay brand, right, is that that focused on service.

Justin:

Right.

TJ:

Sorry-

Jack:

So TJ, not to put you too quick on the spot, but what are some easy ways that the local businesses right now can better service their clients?

TJ:

Easy ways is obviously being able to be easily found. But on top of that even, focusing on those engagement opportunities that you have. Especially in the local space, customers have questions and if your business, like if you're ignoring those questions that they have or if you're not set up to take those questions, that's a huge opportunity that you're missing out on. Every interaction, every question it all counts. And if it helps to look at it in the lens of... And for a lot of people who look at data the way that I do, you can look at an LTV of a newly acquired customer. You can look at what that's going to cost you over the course of the years and whatnot. Being nonresponsive can actually ultimately end up costing your business. You could lose one of your most loyal customers just because you weren't responding.

TJ:

And there's so many different ways to do it. Like you can do it right on Google if you have that brick and mortar location or service area business because your people are going to have questions like, "Are you open? What time's your hours? What kind of stuff are you... Is COVID affecting or impacting you? Are you an essential business?" They're going to have all those questions, but even if that's not your thing, if you're not in that space, and you're in a totally different space, you'd be amazed at how many websites I'll walk across that don't have an interactive chat feature, that don't engage people from the very beginning.

TJ:

And that's kind of a far reaching thing. I think search has changed a lot based off of what people think. I think engagements, onsite interaction on site, time on site, all those things are going to be... they're weighted higher from what I see. And those are things that are immensely important, but those are the things that actually give you the opportunity to convert somebody from just a browser to an actual shopper. And that's what's really important in my mind. Hopefully that answered your question.

Justin:

And just to piggyback... Well, to be a little add on to that, TJ was talking about messaging directly inside of Google. We're actually going to include in the notes down in whatever form you're listening to this, check the notes. There's going to be a link to the Google My Business app for both Android and iOS. Get that installed and enable the messaging feature because there are people who are going to be looking up your location that have questions, even though the answers are going to be right there in sight, sometimes people just, they want an answer to a question, they don't want to look for it themselves. And in this kind of world that we're in now, I think that the businesses that are going to stand out are going to be the ones that stand out on the customer service level especially.

TJ:

I agree with that. I think people are looking for that human contact. When you're isolated you want help however you can get it. And I think a large part of all the reach outs, it does help to have a human on the other end answering your questions and making you feel good about the decisions that you're making believe it or not. So I think that's a part of it as well because I'm seeing a lot of onsite engagements. I'm seeing a lot of people going to websites. I'm seeing a lot of people, some cases what 500, 600% increase in phone calls.

Jack:

Wow.

TJ:

That can get overwhelming for a business. And if you have these other things in place, you can reduce that. So your people who are actually in your stores, if that's a thing, they can focus on being safe and serving the customers there, and you can reduce the amount of volume on those calls just by being engaged at the first swipe.

Jack:

So TJ, I heard you kind of touch on opportunities. And I think when we have these huge shifts in consumer behavior and these large events kind of take place and shape new norms, we're all conditioned to look at all the negatives and the difficult things we have to deal with. But undoubtedly there's definitely new opportunities that present themselves. So Justin, TJ, what do you guys kind of think as far as new opportunities, if you are a local business owner, what would you be trying to capitalize on right now?

Jack:

You want to handle this Justin, or I got some ideas on this.

Justin:

I've got some quick ideas on it.

Jack:

Okay, go for it.

Justin:

I'm going to be like two more seconds to build up a more robust opinion very quick. But the opportunities are capitalizing on what is available and what is legal to you. Like I said before, we're in the dispensary space so not everybody can do delivery dispensary, it's not possible. But there are states that do allow it. And if you're not set up for it, getting that, taking those steps to make that happen, there are so many businesses out there that are positioning themselves to be that solution for you. And combining online ordering, delivery, and then utilizing things like curbside pickup and whatnot. Those are really important.

TJ:

Yeah, I agree with that. I think making that buyer experience as easy, and as pleasant, and as contactless as you legally can is definitely a good step in the right direction. I would also say this is an excellent opportunity if you have downtime and you're a small business owner, and you're not like extremely busy, it's a great time to get your back and your money mechanics in place. And I always speak to that. But if you don't have an email newsletter, it's probably time to get one together so you can reach out to people. If you just have this collection of emails that you hadn't been really engaging, this would be a really good time to leverage that. If you've been lapsing on content, I think you know you should be creating content, but you just don't have the time to create it.

TJ:

This is a great time to start doing that. It's a great time to move into video and pick up that skill if you haven't, just because I feel like, hey, first of all, videos an extremely flexible format. It's a great way to create a human connection. It's a great way to tell the story of your brand. And it doesn't have to be a high production value to be interesting people. People really focus on how you can help them typically, not so much what the video looks like. So I think using that as an opportunity in this downtime as a way to strengthen the marketing of your brand is going to be really important if people hadn't thought about that. So you'll have a lot of businesses that are shut down completely, right? And some of them are shutting their doors, but we do have clients who've kind of tried to pivot and make a transition at least from an entertainment value to stay connected to their audiences, and to keep them engaged with their brand as they work their way through this pandemic.

TJ:

So I do think that this is an excellent opportunity to get a lot of your marketing together. If you've been neglecting the online piece of your business and brand, definitely a really good opportunity to figure out how you're going to leverage this and grow, just in case this, and knock on wood, but you don't know how long these shopping behaviors, these human behaviors are going to last. This could be the new normal for a while. And so you've got to set yourself up to be ready to thrive in this environment. And I think, first of all, content assets are going to be really important. And then having a backend where you can reengage people is going to be really important, I guess.

Jack:

Awesome. Yeah, I definitely agree with both of those points. I think it's super important not to come out of this crazy time empty handed. But let's talk about kind of the data that we're seeing that's driving those types of opportunities. I know in the cannabis space we're kind of seeing it switch from more cannabis near me, dispensary near me searches to delivery near me, cannabis online ordering.

TJ:

Curbside.

Jack:

Curbside, that kind of stuff. So what's your input on that?

TJ:

I do think that if your business is able to do that, I think those are trends that you need to try to capitalize whenever you can. And this could be like in your GMB, they have it locked down, a lot of the features, right, so you can't really say anything. But if you have a message open and just speaking to that point earlier, that's a great opportunity to talk about those things. And then also on your website when people actually visit your site with the influx, it's a great time to shout those things out. If you're doing anything, if you have any process level change that you want to shout out because you know it'll be helpful for your customer, that's the perfect place to do it in preferably something that they can actually read, it's big enough for them to read and understand.

TJ:

And let them know how things have changed. And I think that's a really important piece of it is just the communicating how things have changed, and how things have shifted, and how you're serving people. And I think, I can't stress that word enough how you're serving people during this time, it's really important to think of it through that lens, I guess. There are a few other trends that you could capitalize on, but I'm going to let Justin, I'm going to let him go right here and then we'll circle back. I'm sure he's got tons of ideas. I don't want to-

Justin:

No. You really kind of hit everything there. Like I said before, the main changes in data... To clicks for calls and clicks to the website. And so like kind of everything we've been talking about, having... Is going to be something that is going... That influx. Having a chat bot or a chat widget on your website is also going to be able to give you that... They're wanting, because everybody's separated right now. Everybody wants to be more connected to somebody. And you can do that for them right now. And in these hard times, people are going to remember the businesses that they deal with that make them feel the best. So if you're not doing absolutely everything that you can, that you have the capacity to do to make your customers feel taken care of right now, that needs to be priority number one in your brain as a business owner because when this is all over, people are going to remember that.

TJ:

I agree. I really agree. I also think, and this is why I didn't want to jump into it because I knew he's going to say something that was good. And I'm going to say something a little bit more tactical right now. So I would also say that there's an innate opportunity for clients who are getting an influx of customers that are online. So really start carving a path to their checkout, right? So if you know that a person is coming into your website with a goal to buy something that you have, you'd be amazed at how many sites are just not structured with process level call to actions or they're just not structured to let somebody get into the action immediately. And that would be a fundamental shift I would start focusing on is, now you have this traffic, how do you engage the people that are on your traffic? And if your business allows it, that means we've got this concept called the brain that I was talking to you guys about yesterday, where you got to get all your conversion pixels set up so you never lose a customer.

TJ:

You got to plug all the gaps in your marketing so you don't lose people. A lot of different ways you can do that. Acquiring more emails and all of those things are super, immensely important. But I would say carving that path to checkout, and looking at what you want that customer journey to look like depending on where they are on your site, and what they do on your site, it's going to be immensely important as well because you have an opportunity to create this guided experience for them. And that's huge. If you take, let's say, an onsite conversion rate from 1%, which you see a lot in e-comm space, or let's say, they're a decent site and they're converting right now like 3.5% on their e-comm shopping cart.

TJ:

Well, if you can take that from a 3.5% to, let's say, a six or 7% conversion rate simply by carving a path to checkout, removing the friction points, and making it easier for a person to do business with you, I think that is definitely worth your time as a business owner. So I would say that's another big opportunity that I'm seeing with a lot of brands. And we have some customers that are aggressively working with us to help them implement those things. But that's something that everyone can do. And all it takes honestly is a pen and some paper for you to think through the process of what you want to do, and then you can get somebody to implement those things if you can't do it yourself.

Jack:

I think that's a great piece of actionable advice for sure that local business owners can kind of focus on right away. I know we have a couple others listed here. Justin, do you want to dive into one of these and give some more advice that they can action today?

Justin:

Kind of touched on most of the stuff that I see there but I'm going to hit on one thing that isn't on that list that I got from talking with the CEO of PotGuide this morning. Totally random.

Jack:

Do it, that's awesome.

Justin:

But there's so many tools out there that I'm going to be talking specifically towards the dispensary community rise in a second. But there's going to be more that you can take away from this. But like right now PotGuide for example, has a deals option that's completely free to other people, that is essentially additional listing on their site about your dispensary that you can get even more eyes on your stuff. And I think that utilizing those types of features with the Weedmap's, the Leafly's, all those types of services is really important right now, making sure that what you do have going on is getting blasted out there as much as possible.

Justin:

Social. I think social media can't be emphasized enough on how important it is right now because that's another touch point that your potential clients or your current clients can have more interaction with you. I can't hammer it enough, the more you do for them now, the more loyal they're going to be in the future. Which that opens up things for SMS features where you can have a loyalty program that sends text messages out to your clients, things like that. This is really setting people up for an immense backend of loyalty programs after all this is done.

Jack:

No, I agree with that for sure too. I think, we're all in stay at home orders, we're all cooped up inside, I think that human interaction is a really easy way to win a customer right now. And if you serve well right now, I think you can win customers for life. And Justin, you kind of hint on a loyalty program right now, I think if you do have the spare time, it's a great one to kind of double down on just because I think with all the uncertainty people are looking for a consistent place to go find what they need. And if you serve them well you can kind of win them for life. TJ, what do you think about that? Do you have anymore to add? Justin?

TJ:

Yeah. I would say like right now, if you don't know your numbers, now's the time to start learning your numbers. Like if you don't have your actionable metrics like your average order value, or AOV, or a lifetime value for a customer dialed in, you need to understand that. And if you don't know how many times that customer comes back into your business, either pre-COVID or like even now, then you need to figure that out. If you don't know what they're doing on your website, what pages they're visiting on your website, what that journey looks like, you got to figure that out now. It's a really easy thing to start focusing on and it'll give you a lot more awareness on what activities are driving the bulk of what's happening in your business.

TJ:

It'll tell you where to engage people with your SMS sign up page, right? If you understand a customer journey path, it'll tell you like what to offer as a loss leader, an incentive in your loyalty program, if you understand what offers you've had historically that move the needle for you. Or if you know who your loyalty customers are and what they actually buy. It'll help you bundle packages, it'll help you increase average ticket all from the idea of, "Okay, well let me look at this numbers and see how it can serve these people at a higher level." For me it's so important to understand your numbers. I spend a lot of time going through our client's numbers and kind of trying to help them figure out where those pockets of opportunity are. And this is the time, like if you're slower, this is a great time to get in there, roll up your sleeves and kind of figure out the metrics and the numbers that matter, and how you can use those, leverage those, move the needle and really dial in and focus on what you're going to do to increase this number, right? Does that make sense, what I'm saying?

Jack:

Yeah, absolutely.

Justin:

100%.

Jack:

For sure. So I'm going to kind of put you both on the hot seat here and ask one final question here to close this out. If you were a local business owner right now and all of this shifting just happened, COVID just hit, what is the first thing, if you haven't done anything yet, what is the first thing you focus on?

Justin:

I would focus on making sure that you have all your communications in line. I would make sure that you have your GMB messaging set up and make sure that you have at least someone that's monitoring your social channels and getting a chat with your own website.

Jack:

Awesome. Cool. TJ?

TJ:

I would probably reach out to my internal database and let them know that we're still in business. "Hey, I'm in business, I'm here to serve you guys." And then I would ask them, "What do you need? What can I do? How can I help?" Because I feel like that, first of all will get you some kind of feedback. But it's really important to know when you get the opportunity to figure out what they need... Where you are. They're telling you exactly what you need. So I think that's super important. If you have an internal customer base, that will be the first thing I would do immediately. Tell them what you're doing to combat this. It's kind of the same fire drill we did, right?

Justin:

Yep. For sure.

Jack:

No that's awesome. So for you guys who are listening, there's probably the two most important pieces of advice you can kind of get out there and do today. One, being set up clear lines of communications and new mediums with your prospects and your current customers. And then the second being anybody who you already have on an email list or anything like that, reach out to them and be transparent about what you're doing to deliver the service when times are tough. So Justin, TJ, do you guys have anything else you want to add before we kind of close this out?

Justin:

Just everybody continue to stay safe out there. Keep growing and good luck.

TJ:

Yeah. For me it's definitely be safe, take care of your families, take care of the things that matter the most first, and then let's look at how you can be of more service. I keep saying that, but that's kind of where I'm at these days. I definitely think that the service first mentality is something I started off with, but it's definitely something that's become more and more prevalent in how important it is to do constantly. So don't want to sound like a broken record. I do want people to be safe out there, but just when you have the opportunity, the lens to look through things at is when you see a problem, how can I serve a person to solve this problem for them? How can I serve my clients more? I keep a notepad. I literally, you guys know this, I keep a crazy note pad and it is full of ideas on how I can be of more service, usually. So I try to eat my own dog food.

Jack:

No, we definitely have eaten our own dog food, think, that's what we did when all this kind of took place, that was the first thing we did was double down on our internal client base and make sure they were taken care of before anything else. So I definitely think we've eaten our dog food for sure. But cool guys, thank you for tuning in. Like I said earlier, we're here to kind of help you and be as much value and a service as we can. So any questions you have that arise regarding digital marketing feel free to drop them in the comments, email us, reach out, whatever way you prefer. And we'll answer them on the upcoming episodes. But thanks again for tuning in, and be well, and stay safe. Cool.

Justin:

Good stuff.