Cannabis And Covid Strategies
The effects of COVID-19 modified businesses across the globe. Sudden lockdowns and limiting crowds destroyed the business model they once relied on.
The cannabis industry was lucky, and almost all cannabis professionals would agree. While we had our fair share of hard times, cannabis was deemed essential business, and we were able to adapt. The cannabis industry didn’t just survive. We thrived, and the industry as a whole did fairly well last year, with data showing Americans bought 71% more cannabis in 2020 than in 2019.
But just because we prospered doesn’t mean our business tactics can return to pre-COVID times. COVID-19 has changed your cannabis business in some way, no matter how successful it is. Once bustling and fun, dispensaries are now forced to tend to their customers outside and keep them six feet apart. You won’t see anyone’s face because of masks, and the overall experience just feels different. The cannabis consumer’s experience impacts everything, and your strategy should always reflect that.
Here are some ways to pivot and not just survive but flourish during COVID-19:
Hold Online Gatherings
While the dispensaries may not be bustling anymore, the internet still is and more than ever before! The cannabis industry is among the thousands of enterprises moving to an exclusively online platform for networking, and online events are booming. According to Wild Apricot, the number of organizations planning online events doubled last year.
Online events are great, and they’ve even been shown to generate revenue. But only if they’re done effectively. Remember, it is not an in-person event. You’re at the mercy of every individual person’s laptop, cell phone, and internet connection. Throw in some people’s less-than-savvy technology skills, and you might have a disastrous online gathering.
Audience engagement was the number one complaint among those hosting an online event. It’s hard to keep an audience fully engaged online. Still, the research found that holding a pre-event live hangout (or after!) was shown to be among the most effective strategies to keeping online audiences engaged. And hello, this is the cannabis industry. Have a virtual smoke session before or after your online event! You know, for audience engagement.
Here are some other things to keep in mind:
- The best time to hold an online event is said to be 11 AM PST
- You’ll likely spend less on a virtual event than an in-person one, increasing your potential ROI
- Guest speakers have been shown to increase online attendance
- Technology might be a problem for some to attend live. Offer another way for people to attend, such as calling-in or watching the event playback
Keep Offering Curbside Pickup At Cannabis Retail Locations
Listen. Curbside pickup is a blessing for some people! It’s a great option that should stay forever.
Whether you’re serving a busy parent, a disabled individual picking up their medicine, or someone who just doesn’t want to leave the car - it’s great to have curbside pickup. It’s different from delivery because guests can still get out of the house and be productive, especially if they have additional stops to make throughout the day. It beats the line hassle, reduces contact, and saves your customer time. Who doesn’t want that?
Target said on November 12th their web orders fulfilled through curbside pickup went up 734% in Q2 2020. A technology company, Medallia Zingle, surveyed over 1,000 users via text last summer. The survey wanted to know what they thought about curbside pickup and if it’s something worth keeping around. Well, 87% of those surveyed said they want to see retailers continue to do it. Answer the call of your consumers, and bring their weed to the car!
Keep in mind: even when the virus has slowed down, the way people interact with each other has changed forever. Even if we aren’t all wearing masks or being strict about maintaining distance, there will be some who choose to do that forever. And that’s okay. This time in history won’t be forgotten, and we should accommodate those who want to live their life a bit differently from before. This becomes especially true in our industry, where we have many immunocompromised individuals who use cannabis and need to be safe.
Strengthen Your Team While They Work From Home
We’re about a year into working remotely, and for some, it’s not any easier. Even those who have adjusted may find themselves feeling depressed or burnt out. It’s essential to boost your team’s morale for them to be productive.
You want to make sure the work gets done; we get it. But your team deserves space to breathe. Unfortunately, many people are now meshing their home and work life together. When that happens, it can become hard to separate them. This is still true, even a year into working remotely. Instead, set reasonable deadlines for your team. Then, leave them to it. Your team can work as they need, and you’re showing your trust for them.
To expand upon that thinking, don’t have daily Zoom calls unless it’s imperative to your line of work. If you find yourself rambling on and on about the same thing every meeting, hop off Zoom. Zoom fatigue is real, and this neuropsychological research explains the science behind this new phenomenon. Keep Zoom meetings brief, and once or twice a week at best.
Most importantly: ask your team what you need to fix. Genuinely listen to their answers, and implement them where it fits.
Survey Your Customers
Last summer, an idea came about to allow senior citizens to shop at the store alone during the first part of the day. This way, they can shop in minimal crowds before other customers have been there. This idea quickly took off, and most stores promptly adopted it to allow the most vulnerable to shop in freshly sanitized, low-traffic environments.
Your customers are full of ideas, and who better to tell you about the customer experience than them? Make an effort to obtain feedback from your customers about your COVID-19 policy. Do they have any ideas for you? What could you do better?
If you decide to implement a customer’s suggestions - tell your audience the fantastic results! This encourages them to share future feedback with you and makes them feel their voice will be heard. Also, consider telling them how long the survey will take. This way, they know it won’t take too much of their time and will be more likely to complete it.
Tailor Your Ad Strategy
Are your ads still appropriate? Many marketers were forced to change some of their ads to reflect the new climate. Ads featuring large gatherings, physical contact, and sharing food and beverages were quickly removed.
Especially in the social cannabis industry, you need to make sure your ads are appropriate yet creative. Social smoking is no longer a thing, so figure out what is a thing. Uber, for example, creatively said: “Thank you for not riding with Uber” at the end of one of their early-pandemic commercials.
Do you remember when COVID-19 started? The ads were almost unbearable after a while. The melancholy music, the empty streets, and people inside became repetitive and reminded us of what was happening. Everyone was jumping into the conversation simultaneously, though, and at the time, that’s all companies could offer.
Now, a year into it, we don’t need the sad, somber music anymore. We need effective, clear-cut marketing that responds to the current climate. Domino’s, for example, showed their pizza being made and said, “After it hits the box, the only hands that touch it are yours.” This is a simple yet effective way to show they are being diligent with minimizing contact. Light humor surrounding our current situation is also being introduced into advertising, and companies are playing on the funny struggles that come with the lockdown.
Listening to your consumer will always be the best way to tailor your business’ strategy, especially during these times. Make space for their thoughts and feelings - and you’ll be just fine.
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