COVID, Cannabis and Contract Tracing
Contrary to belief, COVID-19 has had some silver linings. Having been declared an “essential” business, recreational and medical cannabis dispensaries and delivery retailers were spared the consequences of their businesses being forced to lock down. While cannabis delivery companies have seen some spikes in sales since the pandemic outbreak, their brick-and-mortar counterparts have seen drops in foot traffic yet up-ticks in average basket sizes.
Winter Is Coming
As COVID-19 cases are about to climb to a new high of 10 million cases, President-elect Joe Biden gave a sobering prediction of a “dark winter” looming on the horizon. Biden, who has described mask-wearing, social distancing, and contract tracing as necessary tools needed for businesses to reopen until a wide-spread vaccine can be developed and made available.
To reiterate this ominous warning, CBS News recently reported that, Dr. Michael Osterholm, a member of Joe Biden’s new coronavirus advisory board, is already warning Americans of a “perfect storm” amid the rising coronavirus cases in parts of the country and that the United States is “about to enter Covid hell.”
Already we are seeing states like Michigan, issue new rules requiring restaurant owners to record the names and phone numbers of all patrons. Violations of the order which is considered a misdemeanor crime, is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 or up to six months in jail. Is Governor Gretchen Whitmer setting a precedent for other states to impose similar orders?
Important Questions To Be Asked
Will other businesses including the cannabis industry be required to do track and tracing on their customers? One must wonder what that impact may be knowing that many cannabis consumers prefer to be discrete about their consumption. More importantly, the real question that begs to be asked, is the American consumer going to be comfortable with these privacy evasive track and trace measures and will they shift their shopping patterns to curbside pickup and delivery only? We are already seeing Americans refusing the mask guidelines. What will happen to commerce when they are required to give up their contact information?
The lessons learned of the previous lockdown are well documented. Entrepreneurs were forced to adapt the way they conducted business by embracing online shopping, curbside pickup and delivery services. Those who didn’t have an online eCommerce strategy in place were forced to scramble or shudder their doors. Nearly 100,000 businesses that were temporarily shut down due to the pandemic are now permanently closed.
According to data published by Headset.io, the average spend of consumers in California, Colorado, Nevada and Washington state increased, while the number of visits to brick-and-mortar stores and dispensaries dropped. There is little doubt that consumers across the country are suffering from COVID-19 fatigue and that may be impacting the data reported by Headset.
Prepare For The Worse, Hope For The Best
Recently, we spoke with the founder of a Texas-based chain of CBD/Hemp stores. WUNDERWORX had conducted a complementary SEO audit of his website and we shared our findings and recommendations. It was obvious to us, his website’s mobile performance was dreadfully underperforming. Many non-tech savvy business owners don’t understand how important is your website’s responsiveness is to the user experience. The old saying “speed kills,” does not apply to the Internet when it comes to mobile eCommerce—its actually just the opposite.
The consequences of not having a mobile first optimized website could have an enormous negative impact to decreased sales and abandoned online shopping carts. Google claims that for every one second delay in mobile load times can negatively impact conversions by 20%. Online shoppers who have a negative experience on your website are 62% less likely to purchase from you in the future.
Adapt And Over Come
As businesses of all shapes and sizes adapted to the first wave of lockdowns, many business owners we talk to fear a second lockdown may be coming. We believe dispensaries, retail stores and restaurants must prepare before another lockdown may be forced upon them. In the coming days, we will expand on this subject in future blogs, but we’ve assembled a simple 5-point checklist you should consider:
- Make sure your website is SEO optimized
- Make sure your website/eCommerce is mobile friendly
- Consider investing in marketing, rather than relying on social media and word of mouth
- Implement a loyalty rewards program
- If you dispensary is geared up for delivery, consider implementing a subscription model
While it appears that cannabis sales have been somewhat recession proof, brick-and-mortar dispensaries must be prepared for an uncertain future and the consequences of a future lockdown.
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