The end of cannabis prohibition has raised an important question: What's the best formula for a retailer’s storefront in terms of display, sale, and ultimately buyer experience? As Quantum Mob delves into the space, we want to ask key questions for each sector.
Many retailers have chosen conventional brick and mortar stores, like Toronto’s first retail location, The Hunny Pot Cannabis Company at 202 Queen Street West. Other options include modular options like POPCANN’s prebuilt stores, or ignoring some or all regulation to open a grey-market dispensary. The variety of stores will decrease as the industry matures, but the new market is currently a free-for-all of ideas on how to provide a better consumer experience than the competition.
A big part of the experience is the physical sale, which needs to be comfortable for the buyer and comply with regulations. Popular POS technologies include Cova, Treez, Greenline, and Green Bits, but retailers are finding custom solutions much more fulfilling. The legalization of cannabis acted as a stress test on many of these systems. Consumers were frustrated when demand overwhelmed stores and slowed down purchasing or stopped it entirely. Stability and customer experience while purchasing is a major concern for retailers, and will continue to be an issue until the market stabilizes and more POS options have been tested.
Differentiating legal and illegal retail experiences is a high priority for cannabis retailers. Some choose to maintain a conventional ‘head shop’ atmosphere, while others try to escape the negative associations of illegal cannabis by providing a completely different "Apple-style" store experience. A key part of this second approach is the use of digital systems to manage information and transactions without having cannabis directly available on the floor. This makes theft difficult and keeps odour to a minimum. Grey and black market retailers face a similar dilemma now that more options are available, leading to both approaches being used.
Because of the relatively rapid end of prohibition, many retailers had to use what was available, rather than creating a system that met their needs. In our interview with Roman Kliotzkin, a senior manager of software development at Canopy Growth Corporation, he addressed the sudden time crunch for developers. “The changes came really quickly… there was a lot that needed to happen before legalization. Before you make your first sale, you have to ship your cannabis to the store… but we had no system set up to do that.” This challenging beginning for cannabis retail was felt across the market.
Between store opening crunch-times, differing retail experiences, and unique transaction and brand needs, it's not easy to identify the winning software strategy. Only time will tell.