Updated: Inside the WeedMaps vs. Leafly Battle

Note: The data in this story previously focused solely on desktop/laptop visitors and did not include mobile traffic. We have now adjusted the story to include mobile.   

WeedMaps and Leafly are duking it out to become the most popular web site and app for consumers seeking medical and recreational marijuana.

At stake: tens of millions of online advertising dollars.

Unlike most industries, cannabis retailers can’t advertise on Facebook, nor can they advertise to more than a very limited segment of Google users. Plus, local regulations in states such as Washington and Colorado strictly limit mass media advertising. These restrictions wind up making WeedMaps and Leafly far more powerful and important than similar sites in other industries.

So which one is winning the eyeball battle? Both are, in different ways.

Although both services allow users to search for dispensaries and strain availability, they’re very differently branded; receive SEO (organic search) traffic from different keywords; and have slightly different visitor demographics. Also, WeedMaps focuses primarily on dispensary locations, while Leafly focuses more on strains available at dispensaries.

According to data from Compete, a data service measuring US traffic for major web sites, both WeedMaps and Leafly have hundreds of thousands of unique desktop and laptop visitors per month. Although the numbers differ from month to month, according to Compete, on average WeedMaps gets significantly more unique desktop and laptop visitors than Leafly does.

However, in the cannabis world, mobile visitors – visitors using smartphones and devices such as iPads – are now more than 50% of traffic. After reviewing visitor traffic data provided to us directly by Leafly and Weedmaps, as well as Quantcast data available on WeedMaps, our analysis is that Leafly is pulling ahead in the mobile battle. And, when mobile and desktop/laptop data are combined, it appears that Leafly had more total traffic for November 2013, with 1.1 million combined unique visitors, while Weedmaps’ total combined uniques were just under 800,000.

Also according to Compete, the two sites’ desktop/laptop traffic also appears to differ slightly by age. WeedMaps is unusually strong in the 45-54 year old age group (which reflects the average age of a US dispensary patient in many states today), while Leafly’s demographics are unusually strong with young adults aged 25-34 years old (which reflects what many suspect will be an average age in the recreational market.)

Both sites receive a great deal of their traffic through Google and Bing organic (unpaid) search. Google Trends data reveals that Weedmaps tends to appear in searches related to retail locations such as “dispensary” and “san diego weedmaps,” whereas Leafly tends to appear in searches related to specific strains such as “kush leafly” or “blue dream leafly.”

The two sites are also going head-to-head on the mobile app front. Here, too, both are winning. In part due to the fact that its app has been around longer, WeedMaps’ iPhone app has thousands more downloads via iTunes… but users only give it an average 3.6 out of five stars. Leafly’s app, called Marijuana Strain and Dispensary Reviews, may not have quite as many downloads, but its users gave it an extraordinarily high average 4.7 stars.

Is there room in the marketplace for both companies to thrive selling what in the end boils down to the same service – online listings for cannabis dispensaries and retail stores? Most likely, in large part because the services are so different in terms of branding, visitor demographic and traffic types. Neither is a “me too” offering.

Both websites currently generate revenue by charging dispensaries to upload information about their shops and strain offerings.

A CNBC.com profile of WeedMaps last week revealed that the company will net close to $30 million in 2013. It’s expected to grow revenues by $6 million in 2014 largely due to an upcoming Groupon-style service it plans to launch to help consumers find local cannabis deals.

Leafly is also on the march. Founded in 2010, the company has grown to have 25 employees. According to co-founder, Scott Vickers, the company will release a new smartphone app in the coming weeks, because half of the website’s visitors now come from mobile users. The company will also will launch an editorial section this coming year, which will house a wide variety of articles and reviews of marijuana strains, products and trends, all written by staff.

Also in the works is a plan to sell the company’s proprietary metrics on market trends to the industry.

Vickers said Leafly can see where there are specific strain shortages in different markets, as well as price fluctuations and other market trends based on the input by its dispensary clients. “There is a need for an educational piece, [for the] industry and in the marketplace,” Vickers said. “We are trying to connect the dots to help people learn about their favorite strains, where they can buy them and market trends.”

As for the future, both sites have significant traffic from states such as New York and Texas where neither medical marijuana nor retail cannabis is legal. Consumers in these states already know and visit the services – for entertainment purposes at least. So both WeedMaps and Leafly already have a strong foothold in potential upcoming markets, which could lock out future competition.

13 comments on “Updated: Inside the WeedMaps vs. Leafly Battle
  1. Rick on

    Leafly is weak. I have products in (25) dispensaries and a search on their site comes back with ZERO matches…… huh?

    Weedmaps also has it’s issues as it’s a minefield of navigation.

    Bottom line ? Both could be wiped out in a single swoop pretty easily with the right app.

    Reply
  2. DanDan on

    Interesting story. What would also be interesting would be to measure how the advertisers enjoy/don’t enjoy either of their services. As a dispensary employee in charge of managing our online presence, there’s nothing we dread more than having to update our Weedmaps page. It is the slowest, most inefficient and hackneyed interface that requires, seriously, sometimes 15-30 minutes just to update our daily menu, which should take no more than a few clicks. At a minimum of $300/month, Weedmaps would do well to improve the user experience. We all kind of feel the same way: we’re on weedmaps not because we like it, but because they’re the biggest and the first to market. Their sales staff even admits it. Anyhow, there’s more to the growth of the mmj market than just statistics.

    Reply
  3. @chrisco on

    @Rick and @DanDan, great comments. If either of you might be up for a call (Skype or Google Hangout) to discuss, please get in touch with me. We are working to bring a new/better/different platform to market in 2014.

    Reply
  4. medical garden solutions on

    i would be interested in exploring a way into these markets. a killer app is easy enough if the proper perimeters are in place. I personally do not know what is needed to fix the current apps, but i’m not averse to learning and implementing new tricks. my email is [email protected] if chrisco, DanDan, or rick wish to brainstorm, email me with mmj biz in subject line.

    Reply
  5. Waingro on

    We all know weedmaps does not serve the patient or the dispensary. only their own pockets. Raising prices 100$ in a single month with no added services or features has caused many friends of mine in the industry to discontinue using weedmaps. Not to mention that weedmaps will literally NOT SHOW YOUR DISPENSARY DELIVERY SERVICE IF YOUR EXISTING PATIENTS SEARCH YOUR NAME DIRECTLY. Unless of course you pay huge sums of additional money…thereby selling off YOUR CUSToMERS TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER EVERY MONTH! Combine this with the fact that Weedmaps will remove negative reviews for a price and is chock full of fake positive reviews, its easy to see how
    it might be one of the biggest factors affecting the consumers pocketbook and the dispensaries bottom line. Its absolutely atrocious that the industry cant pull together behind protecting both patients and consumers from this vampire squid.

    Reply
  6. Ken on

    Do not depend on these products for long term growth and customer retention. Start branding your name like Coke and Pepsi then you really do not need to use the Weedmaps or Leafly sites. I have done this with our Cooljarz packaging line. We have the best packaging because we branded our jars. Also, because they are the best at what they used for and our customers are fully aware of it.

    The apps should be used as a place to get your start up footing then when you have your brand cut back on them or just get rid of them.

    Reply
  7. LANCE MACDONALD on

    The fake positive reviews are getting out of hand on weedmaps and I no longer use it. They let the shops with gold, silver, and bronze listings write duplicate positive reviews. I have seen the same user write up to 40 verbatim reviews in a row and each one counts. Huntington Beach Care Givers have over 7600 reviews and it is a joke because 90% of them are verbatim duplicate reviews and since they pay Weedmaps over 1 million a year in advertising revenue, weedmaps just looks the other way. Check it out for yourself and look through these reviews… https://weedmaps.com/dispensaries/hbcc

    Reply
  8. David Freund on

    I’d like to thank the author for posting this article. Our company has used it for metrics and analysis since our beginnings. Over the past year we have been developing a product for the marijuana industry called Vibeleaf, which simplifies marijuana for consumers. Our product prompts users to select a desired feeling and matches them with marijuana products and strains from our database of over 10,000 items as well as where they’re sold. We’re very excited to hear feedback from current users of Weedmaps and Leafly.You can subscribe to hear about our launch over at http://www.vibeleaf.com // Discover your Vibe.

    Reply
  9. Leafly Patient on

    WeedMaps, the cartel with no real management, just fools out of college that think of themselves as Zuckerberg wanna-bes. The bigger they are the bigger they fall, I’ll tell you right now 2016 around the corner, I can sniff multi-million dollar law suits, can see it coming! Their are ZERO professionals in WeedMaps (just good actors,Leafly (they try hard) I’ve done many years of business with Leafly and WeedMaps, along with their extra promotional fees (marques, icon upgrades, etc). I know the business and I love it. I started doing this for my daughter she passed away from cancer back in 2013 and cannabis oils helped preserved the last few years of her life, I was never around much for her I was prior military 12-B (combat engineer) and 11-B (infantryman), combat deployed (not sitting around), and proud but it took a toll, I think God for the amazing Greens he has provided, it preserved my daughter, every last moment mattered.

    For all those consumers best hint I can give you never pay more then $35 1/8th for real bomb shit IF YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT BOMB STUFF LOOKS LIKE just stick with the price at $25 a 1/8th California Buds are no joke! If your getting a delivery stick around $40-45 for the bomb stuff.

    Owners/future owners: be careful with the salesmen of these companies and check the software, Weedmaps lags and sometimes will not display your ad, BTW if they see your making it they will most likely scheme you into more services both WeedMaps and Leafly, if it works stick with what you got! Big promotions can lead to your end! Patients like non-profits not for profits (gold icons you know what you do). Leafly is expensive for the amount of traffic they get but they are well advertised in local areas so make sure you know about them before you actually go sign something, patients will always let you know. Professionals reading this please jump into this market, their are nothing but idiots out here, if I can do it you can do it! P.S. I was that private sniffy, now look at me now.

    Reply
  10. Willow Duke on

    I have always used weed maps but I’m in Colorado twice a year . I’m leaving The natural state to settle this dispute tomorrow night! Let the game begin!!;) I will be prepared to be charmed. When I return next week I will present the one woman settlement! Until then…take advantage man, take advantage!

    Reply

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