Omni-channel Retailing Explained for Students Interested in the Cannabis Retail Business

As the cannabis industry is still very young, the retail business side of things is constantly evolving. Similarly, customer behaviours and patterns change over time—particularly with the advent of new technology and updated regulations. There is a growing trend that aims to bridge traditional and digital retailing together, leveraging these channels to create the ultimate customer experience.

This is where omni-channel retailing comes in, with its aim to upgrade business operations while providing customers with an enhanced service to keep them coming back. Although applying omni-channel strategies can be difficult under regional and federal regulations, cannabis retailers can still learn about how this method has the ability to significantly impact dispensaries. 

Here we provide an overview of how omni-channel retailing works and how it improves the cannabis retail industry.

How Omni-Channel Retailing Works in the Cannabis Retail Context

A pleasant customer experience usually succeeds in drawing more customers in, which is why optimizing retail is so important. The term “omni-channel” refers to a multi-level strategic sales system where customers can make a purchase through different platforms, or “channels,” including:

  • Online
  • In-store
  • By phone 

By implementing omni-channel retailing, businesses can also provide customers with the choice of delivery tailored for their convenience, ranging from in-store pickup to at-home shipping. The key aspect is to completely integrate the online and offline retail experience while maintaining brand consistency across channels. This can impact the store’s website, marketing, inventory, and point-of-sale practices.  

In the cannabis retail context, omni-channel retailing can be seen in action when customers visit the store’s website and place an order for a specific product. Instead of waiting in the main line, the customer can directly stop by the pick-up counter to pay for and receive their order—resulting in a smooth customer experience. Additional features can include “reserve online” or “express checkout” options.

Omni-channel retail is designed to promote a smooth customer experience to produce repeat business

How Omni-Channel Retailing Improves the Cannabis Retail Business 

This type of retailing is ultimately designed to decrease or eliminate the barriers that could prevent customers from making a purchase. Relying on digital solutions can greatly improve retail systems, particularly store inventory. 

For example, by using specific digital software, those who own a cannabis retail business can begin syncing their digital menus and product lists. This means that no matter how customers access the store’s inventory (via website or at an in-store “self-serve” kiosk), it will always contain reliable information—reflecting actual item availability and pricing accurately. In doing so, customers have the ability to purchase and explore your products without any obstacles. Here, an increase in customer retention can also be expected as a result of a pleasant overall customer experience.

Omni-channel retail systems can help enhance store inventory

Notable Considerations for Those in the Cannabis Industry

The main benefit of omni-channel retailing is its inherent flexibility. Companies with existing omni-channel systems can operate with fewer challenges, serving clients remotely. In the current pandemic climate, this feature is particularly useful. However, anyone who wants to become a cannabis retailer must keep all regional and federal regulations in mind to stay compliant:

  • Some provinces in Canada allow for in-store pickup and home delivery
  • Others only permit government-run retailers to offer those services 

These limitations significantly hamper the impact and efficiency of omni-channel retail systems where these services are heavily regulated. That said, the industry is constantly evolving, and working towards a centralized system through an omni-channel framework may prove to be beneficial in the future. 

Cannabis retailers should check regulations to ensure compliance

Cannabis retailers who do not face these restrictions can also use analytics to maximize their efficiency and learn more about their customers, developing a personalized experience to increase customer loyalty.

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