Skip to main content

Launching into cannabis retail in Canada takes a lot of patience, a little perseverance, and a great deal of innovation. Navigating the many layers of regulation, security, and compliance is like peeling back the layers of the onion. Each new layer represents a new puzzle to solve, and at times a new set of frustrations.

To make it in the Canadian marketplace is to work new technologies into your business model. These technologies improve compliance, reduce inefficiencies, and ultimately boost profits. Moving towards advanced tech within a retail setting connects inventory to POS systems to signage and back again.

Why introduce tech into your retail space?
With the right combination of technology, repetitive and redundant tasks, like data entry, can be eliminated almost entirely. With less mundane tasks to complete, staff can focus on improving customer satisfaction and boosting sales.

How do you, as a small business, decide which ones to implement? Which are vital to success in today’s competitive cannabis marketplace, and which technologies are just fancy gadgets? You aren’t alone as you try to navigate from one option to another.

Should you invest in digital signage to increase sales? Or look for options that improve compliance reporting, which will free up labor costs? What are the key technologies your retail location should focus on to see the highest return rates?

5 Tech Systems for the Modern Dispensary

1. POS System

Arguably, the pivotal investment any retail location should make is in its POS system. The argument for smart POS technology is even stronger for cannabis retailers, whose POS is also typically responsible for compliance, inventory control, and store management.
It is no longer economical for a retail cannabis location to rely on a general-purpose, out-of-the-box POS system. The requirements in cannabis are drastically different than other retail businesses. Cannabis POS systems must offer smart features, to seamlessly integrate with compliance reporting requirements and up-to-date inventory levels.
The smoother the connection between inventory and sales, the better the customer experience. No more digging around for product in the back room, when in fact that product was sold out hours ago. Product availability needs to be automatically reflected in the POS interface, as a seamless integration.
A POS system should also provide intuitive reporting, giving valuable sales intel to management. What reports alleviate the paperwork for store management? Retailers should explore POS systems which provide at the very least Business Insight Reporting (including sales, profits, inventory, etc.) as well as the required compliance reports.
The more information is made available to both the management and the regulators, the easier business becomes.
Finally, the perfect system is, at its core, all about customer experience. A system that is slow to respond does nothing for customer satisfaction — the faster and more seamless the transaction, the happier the customer. Speedy sales mean your staff can serve on a daily and hourly basis.
2. Digital Signage
Investing in smart digital signage offers many improvements for the in-store customer experience. These include better engagement, longer customer interactions, and greater information recall than traditional signage.
A bright, digital display grabs customers attention within the store, and provides detailed information on current inventories. In the cannabis sales, especially, you’ll already know the pains of changing strain menus and stock listings. Even for stores who already have digital signage, these daily updates can be frustrating and delayed as they get funneled through a seperate system or, worse, a designer.
That’s right, many unintegrated systems are separate from the POS and separate from inventories. Want to change the menu? It can take time as all changes flow through a designer or a seperate interface.
Businesses can save all the frustration by moving into a merged digital system. This means handsfree updates to menus based off real time inventory numbers, and in-store transactions. No designer required, no additional data entry.
Digital displays also allow for immediate reaction to customer demands. For example, do you find customers seem to be enjoying a new strain you carry? Add it to the signage quickly and easily. According to recent studies, it can help drive sales through this increased engagement and impulse purchasing.
Imagine updating price point, strain, and product selection at the touch of a button—rather than painstaking adjustments to non-digital displays. Customers are drawn in by digital signage. The efficiencies are apparent, and the possibilities endless.

3. Express Checkout

Depending on the location and the layout of your storefront, investing in an Express Checkout option may improve your customer experience. Express checkouts speed up each transaction and reduce the space requirements for the checkout counter, all while providing a customer-friendly up-to-date database of information.
When exactly does an Express Checkout option makes sense?
The answer: if you maintain a small physical space, see long lineups in busy locations, have an extensive product menu, or simply want to deliver knowledgeable service. The express checkout, usually a handheld tablet or stand mounted screen, can meet all these needs and more.
An effective Express Checkout integrates with all other digital displays, online store, and inventory management systems. The same updates applied once through the POS, immediately translates through the entire network. No additional tinkering required.
Finally, an Express Checkout option is more than merely another sales portal. It provides customers the unique ability to browse a comprehensive menu, without the pressure of speaking with a budtender. It gives them more options and more product detail than a busy salesperson could.
As the industry evolves, customers are still learning about the plant and the products. The more information you can provide them, the better their in store experience. Even bud tenders can rely on the express checkout as a go-to resource for product information.
You’ll find customers leave happier, because they avoid long lineups and receive consistent information from one end of your business and back again. You’ll see results by increased hourly transactions and increased revenue, and better business ratings where it counts.

4. Web Menu

Giving your customers more ways to shop through an Express Checkout is only one way to boost revenues. Even in provinces prohibiting online sales, retailers may still showcase all products to help shoppers browse before arrival, or sell accessories. When legal, businesses may consider opening up a web menu to reach more customers.
Initially, the idea might seem like a technological nightmare for the small-business owner, but out-of-the-box web stores require no setup. In fact, it should be a breeze to manage, or else it is not beneficial to the end goals of your business. Again, integration with the in-store POS and inventories are what make this a savvy business decision. A well-designed web store relies on the inventory, staff, and branding you already have.
An online shop extends your reach from your street frontage into the homes of your customers. Same product both in-store and online with almost no set up. Meeting your customers online serves as a great introduction to your brand, and a perfect place to show them whats in store. This is especially the case if you’re based in a region with a sizeable rural population or serve customers with disabilities.
With the right true integrative technology, adding a web store doesn’t mean additional resources to manage the online inventories. In store or online, instantly change inventory and product information within a single integrated solution platform.

5. Security Cameras

Security cameras are one of the only technologies mandated by law for cannabis retail. As per compliance procedures, retail locations need coverage of the retail sales area, entrances, and exits as well as storage locations. Businesses must hold recordings for 30 days (60 in some provinces), and regulators have the right to use surveillance recordings as evidence.

Retail surveillance systems are nothing new, but there have been a few innovations worth noting for your cannabis-specific business. Instead of installing an off-the-shelf, convenience store model, consider how an intelligent enterprise surveillance system can work for you.

Which Technology Combo is Right for Your Business?
While the big names in Canadian cannabis may have the capacity to apply any and all technologies within their retail locations, a small cannabis retail has to be savvy. Small retail locations need to choose the right combination to see the maximum returns. A mixture of personnel and technology helps smaller retailers to compete with big name brands.
No matter what technology makes sense for your business, look for one key characteristic: true integration. One system needs to talk to the other, sharing information and updates without additional data entry or staff time. The more integration, the more automation, the less manual tasks and therefore more time and cost saved for your store.

Without this pivotal piece, adding more technology will only serve to increase the frustrations of your staff and customers. If a favorite strain runs out, you’ll want inventory updates across the board—from the POS and express checkout to digital signage and online webstore. It is integration that reduces redundancies and labor-intensive updates. Seamless technology integration improves customer satisfaction and will ultimately boost revenues

Kathy Kashef

Author Kathy Kashef

More posts by Kathy Kashef