If you are trying to learn how to open a dispensary, or already running one, you know it will require integration with technology. But what technology do you really need, and how can you find the best fit for your needs?
In this article we will cover what technology you need, why you need it, and how to find the best technology for your cannabis retail store.
As a dispensary owner, you will need to purchase software to help with daily operations such as sales, inventory management, and security.
You need to invest and leverage technology for several reasons. First, it will help you manage your people, and streamline your operations, saving you time and money. But also, cannabis dispensaries are heavily regulated entities and, as a result are constantly required to submit documentation to prove their compliance with the regulations.
Some of the documentation required from dispensaries include:
With all those regulatory requirements, staying compliant can be both labor-intensive and time-consuming without the aid of relevant technologies. Technology can help your dispensary lower the incidence of human error that would inevitably occur if your team had to manually record and manage all the required documentation. Those human errors could cost you a lot of money in penalties for failure to comply with the regulations.
With this in mind, we have prepared a list of the various technologies you might consider installing in your dispensary to operate efficiently and compliantly. However, before we go into that, let's highlight what you should look for when choosing technology for your dispensary.
The first and most important thing to look for when choosing technology for your dispensary is how easy it is to use. Complicated software often creates more problems than it solves. It requires time and money spent training your employees to operate effectively. In addition, complex software makes it easier for your employees to make mistakes that could put your dispensary out of compliance with the regulators.
For those reasons, investing in easy-to-use technology is the right way to go for your dispensary. Easy to use technology will reduce the time spent on-boarding new employees and increase your operational efficiency as well as profitability due to a reduction in employee errors.
As mentioned above, cannabis dispensaries are heavily regulated entities. This level of regulation means you will spend a lot of time and effort ensuring that all the business' operations are compliant with the rules.
Therefore, your dispensary needs to invest in technology designed with the regulations of the cannabis industry in mind. In addition, you need technology that helps you remain compliant. For instance, a POS system that tracks your daily sales to ensure you don't exceed your sales limits would help you remain compliant with that specific regulation.
Technology is only as good as how reliable it is. For your cannabis dispensary to run smoothly, you need technology that is dependable.
A software crash during business hours could have serious adverse effects on your dispensary. It could cost your business thousands of dollars in lost sales and render your dispensary non-compliant with the regulations. Many dispensaries learned this lesson the hard way when MJ Freeway, a Denver-based POS system, was hacked and had to suspend its services for some time. This hack affected over a thousand cannabis dispensaries in 23 states. Due to the potential costs of a technology breakdown, you should take care to find reliable technology.
One of the things to look for when choosing software and technology for your cannabis dispensary is the potential for that technology to improve your customer experience. With so many cannabis dispensaries popping up everywhere, retaining customers can be one of the hardest things. Customers have gone from having zero options to multiple options offering multiple products in just a few years.
This rapid growth of the industry means that retaining customers is the key to long-term survival and profitability. And while customers will come to your dispensary for the first time out of curiosity, they will only return because they had a good experience the last time. For that reason, your dispensary needs to invest in technology that helps it give customers a good experience. For example, that could mean setting up an e-commerce website with a menu for convenient ordering and shipping.
We are living in the era of big data and data privacy. And given that cannabis is still a sensitive topic in some circles, customers need to trust that their data is safe for them to feel comfortable giving you the information you require to complete a sale.
Now that you know what to look for when choosing technology for your dispensary, we can look at the various technologies you will need to install in your dispensary to remain compliant and competitive with the rest of the industry.
Every cannabis dispensary needs good inventory management software. Inventory management systems ease the process of making orders from your suppliers and verifying inventory numbers.
Cannabis dispensaries often have tens of thousands of dollars in inventory. That could be tempting for criminals and employees if not well managed. With inventory management, you will be informed in real-time whenever there is a discrepancy between your inventory management software and the results of a manual stock inventory.
Furthermore, inventory management systems will inform you when you are running low on certain strains and products and invite you to order a new shipment from your supplier directly on the platform.
If you are in a state that allows dispensaries to have e-commerce stores, you should invest in a website with e-commerce functionality. This means having a marketplace on your website for customers to make purchases for pick-up or delivery from the convenience of their homes.
Your e-store should have all the compliance protocols of your brick-and-mortar dispensary. In addition, you should be able to gather KYC information from your customers to verify their identities and eligibility to purchase cannabis products.
Furthermore, your website should indicate other compliance information like your license number, your business hours, customer eligibility information, and the products you have in your inventory.
Perhaps the most helpful technology you need in your dispensary is a POS system. Your POS system enables you to process sales transactions and the various modes of payment available to the customer. However, that is not all a dedicated cannabis dispensary POS system can do.
Your POS system could also be responsible for inventory management and compliance with the regulators’ requirements. A cannabis POS system can aid compliance by managing customer check-in, rejecting transactions after closing time, or when the daily sales limit has been reached. This can help you avoid getting penalized if your employees are not vigilant enough to enforce the regulations.
Furthermore, a compliant POS system will also automatically produce sales and customer reports that will be available for regulators to assess your compliance whenever they need to. Cova is an example of a great POS system that cannabis dispensaries can use.
To effectively manage your employees and extract maximum productivity, you will need a sound employee management system. Employee management systems help you design shift schedules and track employee time logs. However, great employee management platforms like KayaPush go even further than that.
KayaPush offers an all-in-one HR, scheduling, and time tracking system that integrates with payroll. With KayaPush, you can access powerful features like employee clock in, employee surveys, self-onboarding services, employee license tracking, and digital renewal. The Push platform also allows you to pool your sales and labor data to track your store's performance in real-time, thanks to the POS integration.
If you plan to hire a team and pay them, you need integrated payroll software. Your payroll software helps you manage employee payroll, calculate deductions and make contributions to the IRS directly. If you are using KayaPush to manage your employees as recommended above, you also have access to KayaPush's payroll software.
The KayaPush payroll software integrates with your other systems—such as employee management—so that when an employee clocks in, their hours are automatically recorded and billed in payroll. This system also makes automated payroll tax deductions and pays employees via direct deposit.
A customer relationship management system allows your dispensary to engage with the customers even after the sale is made. This enables you to know and serve your customers better.
With a customer relationship management system, you will maintain real-time information on your customers' preferences and be better placed to give them the exact products they want to see. You can also use the data you gather to design customized and targeted marketing content for your customers.
As we mentioned above, retaining customers is one of the biggest challenges faced by most cannabis dispensaries in the US as more states legalize cannabis and give out more licenses. A customer relationship manager could help you increase your customer engagement and thus generate loyalty from them.
Most states in the US require strong security measures to be in place for cannabis dispensaries to remain compliant with the regulations. For that reason, you need a security system equipped with cameras that monitor both the interior and exterior (without any blind spots), electronic locks, and an easy way to notify the police in case of a security breach.
Furthermore, as part of your security, you should integrate track and trace technology into your inventory logistics so you can track your shipment from when it leaves the supplier’s stores to when it gets to yours.
You cannot know what the best technology is for you if you don't know your needs. Therefore, before you begin engaging technology vendors, understand what you need. Find out what other dispensaries your size with similar products are using.
Furthermore, find out what the regulations and requirements are in your area. While you might not need some services, they may be required by the law.
You cannot find out what technology is best for your dispensary if you don't know what budget you’re working with. Begin by identifying how much you want to spend on each technology and see what is in your price range. This process is also suitable for identifying what features you need and which ones you can do without.
Before you commit to a technology service provider, try and find social proof of its functionality and effectiveness. Take the time to gather evidence from other users like you regarding the effectiveness of that tool. Look up reviews from other users, and visit the customer page on the company’s website to see if any reputable brands or competitors of yours are using the service.
It is crucial to assess the technology brand's after-sales support and maintenance once you have narrowed down your search and are down to your last two or three options. As we mentioned earlier, reliability is essential when choosing what technology to use in your dispensary.
Make sure to review the support services offered by the company. For instance, is there a support team available 24/7? Is it an automated electronic support system, or can you talk to a human being? Can you call, email or text? How long do they take to respond? Answers to these questions will help you decide whether you can rely on a company's support or not.
Where possible, sign up for a free trial to get a chance to use the service before you commit to it. This will help you assess whether the technology does what you want the way you want it. This is a better way to know whether a product suits your needs than doing research online since no other client has the exact needs you do.
Want to learn more about opening a dispensary? You'll need to hire some staff! Check out our ultimate hiring guide below.