MJBizMagazine September 2021 - 42

Retail Revoution
FROM NOVELTY
TO NECESSITY
By Omar Sacirbey
Retailers double down on technology such as
online ordering and data-backed product
suggestions as Amazon and federal legalization
of marijuana appear on the horizon
T
he future of cannabis retail is
technologically exciting-think
ubiquitous online ordering and
sophisticated consumer analysis-and
fraught with potential challenges,
including federal regulation and
competition from corporate behemoths
such as Amazon.
That's the assessment of Rick
Maturo, associate director of cannabis
client services at Nielsen, the national
consumer-analytics company based
in Chicago, and Bethany Gomez,
managing director of the Brightfield
Group, a cannabis-focused consumerresearch
firm.
New technology could amplify business
opportunities for cannabis retail. And
in order to prepare for mainstream
competition, today's cannabis players
must be technologically savvy.
Here are five things today's marijuana
retailers should know about tomorrow.
1. ONLINE ORDERING
Ordering cannabis online has
been possible for several years, but now
it's becoming universal. Most retailers
have their menus online, meaning
even in-person consumers can educate
themselves about the products ahead of
store visits.
" In terms of technology, there's been a
big shift away from requiring people to
touch things or interact as much face to
face, " Gomez said.
42 MJBizMagazine | September 2021
Bethany
Gomez
To be competitive in the future,
marijuana retailers will need to learn
about and deploy new technologies
while preparing for market changes
and potential federal legalization.
Some factors to consider include:
* Marijuana consumers increasingly
will use online ordering. Retailers
lagging in this department should
incorporate online ordering
software as soon as possible.
* Some major cannabis brands have
started bypassing brick-and-mortar
stores and are using a combination
of direct-to-consumer sales and
marijuana delivery.
" We see a lot more dispensary-level
innovation just in terms of 'click and
collect' or ... purchase through the apps, "
she said.
As part of that trend, Gomez says
cannabis retail stores are employing
more vending machines and kiosks.
The technology has evolved to monitor
seed-to-sale tracking while dispensing
products, she said.
Mike Bibbey, vice president of marketing
at Philadelphia-based multistate
operator Ethos, said the company uses
kiosks with iPads or Microsoft Surface
tablets in some of its stores.
" The software is a simple internet
browser that displays the menu software
(from Bend, Oregon-based Dutchie), " he
said. " We have plans to develop our own
software in the future, but we are using
off-the-shelf products today. "
* Retailers can look forward to new
technologies such as AI-assisted
product recommendations,
vending machines and more
sophisticated sales analysis.
* Some observers believe federal
marijuana legalization will lead to
cannabis sales at major retailers
and drugstore chains. Others say
strict government regulations and
limited distribution channels will
limit sales to dedicated marijuana
storefronts.
* Amazon could be a disruptive
force entering the industry, or
regulations could squash the retail
giant's plans before they get off the
ground.
* Retailers in state markets
transitioning from medical-only
to adult-use marijuana sales will
need to make tough decisions
about how to serve existing MMJ
patients. The transition requires
updated software, new SOPs,
extensive training and possible
changes to product offerings.

MJBizMagazine September 2021

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