Cannabis dispensaries have occupied a unique niche throughout the Coronavirus pandemic. People have made it clear that they consider them essential businesses, even when politicians have tried to define them otherwise. Be it from ‘panic buying’ as stay-at-home orders went into effect, or record sales as the orders were extended, demand for medical and recreational marijuana is booming and is expected to reach 37 billion in revenue by 2024.
Because of this, it’s imperative that dispensaries continue to evaluate and evolve their safety measures. This is particularly important for the estimated 3 million people in the US who are dependent on medical marijuana, as a large percentage of this population has compromised immune systems.
To help with these efforts, we’ve created a guide to providing a safer shopping experience in cannabis dispensaries during COVID-19.
How to Make Your Cannabis Dispensary Safer During COVID-19
#1 Make Use of Virtual Waitlist Software that Allows for Contactless Check-in
The days of shopping worry-free for necessities and amenities may feel like they’re in the past, but businesses are helping make them a reality once again with additional precautions, such as the use of digital appointment systems or virtual waitlist software. Digital appointment systems provide an online platform that shoppers can use to schedule an appointment prior to their arrival so they receive same-day service on a first-come first-served basis. They also help business owners gain insights into their day-to-day operations so they can streamline their staffing requirements and prepare for a safer environment from open to close.
At NextME, we’ve taken our software one step further than appointment platforms. Our virtual waitlist software is a new category of service that helps cannabis dispensaries stay connected to their guests at all times through text communications and engagement with your store’s website. It enables more flexibility in scheduling, the ability to communicate real-time status so your customers feel seen and acknowledged, a platform that you can use to advertise new products or educate your clientele about your new waitlist process, and it allows for curbside pick-up for those that feel safer staying in their cars.
Here’s how it works. Upon arrival, customers can either check-in and join the waitlist from their phones via your store’s website, or by scanning a customized QR code at your storefront. Both options allow for contactless check-in that can either be completed online or while standing at a safe distance outside your store. While waiting in their cars or outside, they can use the virtual waiting room to see their position in line and interact with your store’s online content. As soon as it’s safe for guests to enter or it’s their turn in line, they receive a text message notification. Same thing applies for those that prefer curbside pick-up.
Already have a preferred appointment system? No problem. NextME’s online waitlist can easily work as an added feature in conjunction with your existing system. As an added bonus, since our platform is SMS-based, your guests don’t need to download a separate app to use it!
#2 Use Virtual Waiting Rooms to Communicate with Customers
Signage may be one of the oldest forms of advertising, but it’s still one of the most beneficial – especially when it’s digital. Dispensaries can use NextMe’s guest engagement page to communicate more than just the waitlist and check-in process to clientele. Specifically, you can use it to make up for the lack of customer-employee interaction that’s required by COVID-19’s enhanced safety protocols. For example, you could use our engagement page to:
- Outline your new waitlist and check-in process
- Showcase products that help with certain ailments;
- Educate your customers on medical marijuana benefits; or
- Relate to your clientele with patient success stories.
Strategically-implemented digital signage will let your customers know you’re there for and with them during these trying times, and can help make up for a lack of face-to-face interaction with your employees.
#3 Employ Social Distancing Inside and Out
Social distancing is our new reality and several practices can be implemented to create more space for guests as they engage with your business. Due to the sensitivity of health concerns and the privacy of containing individual’s medical information, many cannabis dispensaries already restrict the number of customers within their retail store with physical waiting rooms, and upon entry they use aisle markers to section off the flow of traffic to well spaced out checkout stations. They also tend to utilize touchless surfaces to showcase their products and/or contain the bulk of what customers buy in a separate storage space. If you haven’t already implemented these practices, now is a good time to do so.
In addition if your store is limited in square footage, please factor that into how many people you allow in at the same time. Offering curbside pickup is an excellent solution to remedy the situation in a responsible way.
Lastly, another form of a physical barrier that is globally becoming well known during COVID-19 is a face covering or mask. Encourage and require both your customers and employees to wear face coverings while interacting within and around your cannabis dispensary. You can even utilize NextME’s text messaging system to let those waiting in their cars know when your staff will be delivering products so they can reapply their mask if needed. This will help protect everyone against the spread of potentially infectious germs, and is in alliance with the CDC safety guidelines.
The keys to making cannabis dispensaries safer during COVID-19 are effective communication and a welcoming environment.
The keys to making your dispensary safer during COVID-19 are effective communication, which NextME’s waitlist software encourages, and a welcoming environment that offers a variety of purchasing options. Using our technology allows you to minimize crowds within your store to improve your guests’ overall experiences, strategically implement digital signage which helps make up for a lack of customer-employee interaction, and receive real-time data that shows actual wait times and customer retention rates. When these tools are combined with valuable social distancing protocols, face masks, and the option of curbside pick-up, your customers will feel connected and confident enough to keep coming back.
If you’re interested in learning how NextME’s virtual tools can help your dispensary operate safely and efficiently during the COVID pandemic and beyond, follow this link to reach out. Together we can make the difference in your clients’ new shopping experience.