Brick-and-mortar dispensaries have evolved considerably since the early days of Dutch coffeeshops and private patient collectives in California. Nowadays, storefronts exist across many cities in North America and abroad, taking the cannabis retail experience to the mainstream consumer.
When you first step through the door of a dispensary, you should have a good idea of what type of experience you’re about to have. Between atmosphere, staff, and menu selection, cannabis retailers with high reputations have many ways of standing out from the competition.
For the uninitiated, finding a dispensary worth visiting may not come as second nature. Here are some elements to look for when searching for a dispensary to buy cannabis.
Many pieces come together to create a great ambiance in a dispensary. All of these elements will hit your senses when you first walk in the door:
- Interior design
- Merchandise placement
- Staff presence and attire
These all fuse together to create a mood and feel that, if done correctly, will ensure a comfortable experience for the consumer, from picking a product to buying one. Good dispensaries work hard and use a lot of resources to develop the right ambiance for their customer base. As you leave the store, plunder in hand, every one of your senses should have been catered to.
Friendly and Knowledgeable Staff
Dispensaries are charged with connecting consumers with cannabis, and this experience is far more complex than walking into a convenience store and grabbing a six-pack of beer. A friendly, patient, hospitable, and knowledgeable staff of budtenders makes all the difference.
A well-trained budtender should be knowledgeable about all the various types of cannabis products, how to consume them, and be able to answer any questions you have about cannabis. They’ll be able to recommend an array of products that will meet your specific needs, whether it be flower, concentrates, edibles, tinctures, topicals, or any other cannabis product that they carry. They’ll also be able to tell you how to properly dose products.
Some dispensaries carry seeds and clones, so it’s important to have a budtender with cultivation knowledge at those stores. They should be able to help inexperienced growers get started, as well as be able to guide advanced growers through a library of genetics to help them find the right addition to their garden.
Broad Menu Selection
Having a comprehensive menu is imperative for a dispensary to capture the market. This includes having high-demand cultivars and specific brands and products in stock. Purchasers at dispensaries work tirelessly to create an inventory that captures what consumers want. A customer wants to walk into a single store and find specific brands, strains, or products all in one place.
An expansive inventory of products should include flower and concentrates, as well as various edibles, tinctures, and topicals. Consumers want variety and dispensaries usually offer similar products at various price points as well. This is to appeal to both the customer coming in for an inexpensive half-ounce of flower as well as the customer looking for a gram of top-shelf live resin and everyone in between.
Aside from cannabis products, some dispensaries also sell accessories like pipes, dab rigs, vaporizers, grinders, lighters, torches, papers, and more, to be a one-stop shop for anything a cannabis consumer may need. Not all dispensaries carry accessories though, so be sure to do some research ahead of time.
There is no secret recipe to success in building out a dispensary menu. Research and market data help, but a large part of curating products relies on purchaser intuition. Successful dispensaries rotate their menus and respond to feedback from their community about which products to carry and which to get rid of.
Competitive Price Points
Passing off savings to the customer hasn’t always been easy for dispensaries, especially for stores in states that tack on lofty excise taxes for cannabis products. However, saturation of product in the market forces many retailers to lower their prices, benefitting customers at the end of the day. Dispensaries have to provide their products and services at reasonable and competitive price points.
Dispensaries stay competitive by offering consumers reasons to return. This may include disseminating deals through advertisements, offering loyalty programs for frequent shoppers, and even discounting older inventory. With these tactics, a dispensary can capture and retain customers by giving them reasons to keep shopping at their store.
As the market continues to fluctuate, maintaining consistency in pricing is as important as keeping prices low—customers want to trust that a dispensary will always have certain prices for certain products. Referrals and word-of-mouth advertising also rely on maintaining consistent pricing.
Visibility is a key factor to help a dispensary stand out among the competition, and a lot of dispensaries promote themselves through community outreach. By offering services other than the sale of cannabis products, businesses have a chance to give back to their local community.
Some examples of community outreach include adopting highways for cleanup, participating in local fairs and gatherings, and facilitating donation drives and fundraisers.
Many great dispensaries may also provide extra—and often free—in-house services for customers and patients. Wellness services such as acupuncture, aromatherapy, massage therapy, and yoga are some examples of additional offerings you may find.
Some retailers even provide cultivation seminars, cooking with cannabis classes, and even lectures from educators, activists, and prominent members of the cannabis community. These extra services aim to drive community participation and engagement, and make a local dispensary stand out among the competition.