From loyalty programs to emails about specials, dispensary owners share tips that keep customers coming back

Whether it’s shopping for groceries or cannabis, everybody loves getting a good deal.

That’s why loyalty programs – whether they come from your local grocery store or your neighborhood marijuana dispensary – are an effective way to get customers into the shop and keep them coming back.

Many marijuana retailers offer points-based loyalty programs in which their customers accumulate a certain number of points on each visit. After reaching a milestone, they can cash in those points for discounts on flower, concentrates, edibles or whatever else the store has to offer.

“People love getting discounts,” said Myles Kahn, chief executive of Renton, Washington-based Buddy’s Pot Shop. “There’s no doubt about the effectiveness of it. The person who’s buying a $60 gram of concentrate would like to get 25% off just as much as the person who’s scraping quarters together to buy a pre-roll.”

Customized Pitches

The Buddy’s loyalty program is offered through Baker Technologies’ customer relationship management system for the cannabis industry. Using Denver-based Baker’s platform, dispensaries can customize their loyalty programs. Buddy’s, for example, offers a 5% discount when customers sign up for the loyalty program.

Customers, who check in with a phone number at a kiosk or iPad at the point of sale, are awarded 20 points each time they check into Buddy’s. They get a 20% discount after they earn 200 points or a 25% discount for 400 points. There is also a 10-point bonus for online orders, and Buddy’s offers 1.5 times the points on Tuesdays and Sundays.

“We don’t scan driver’s licenses,” Kahn said. “We only use cellphone numbers for the check-in, so people can be anonymous. Some people volunteer additional information.”

That additional information includes what kinds of products they prefer, whether it’s concentrates, edibles or flower. The information allows Buddy’s to cater their messaging to individual customers.

“We use that to send out SMS messages with regards to specials on the products they prefer,” Kahn said. “People always have the option to opt out. Some people don’t want that information coming through their cellphones.”

Denver-based dispensary Simply Pure moved to a point-of-sale loyalty program from a punch-card system after some of its cards and stamps were stolen. Customers in Simply Pure’s loyalty program earn a point for every dollar they spend. When they reach 300 points, they get a $15 in-store credit.

Exploring Cross-Promotion

Simply Pure hopes to revive a cross-promotional program it had when owners Wanda James and Scott Durrah also owned a restaurant a block from the dispensary. A customer who spent $35 or more at the restaurant could take the receipt to Simply Pure and get a pre-roll for a penny. The restaurant would also stamp the customer’s Simply Pure loyalty card. A customer who spent $35 or more at Simply Pure would get a stamp and could take the dispensary receipt to the restaurant for a complimentary drink. Customers who amassed 10 punches (for a total of $350) would get a $35 discount at either the restaurant or the dispensary.

Simply Pure has been talking with three restaurants and bars that are less than a block away from the dispensary about implementing a similar program. The dispensary also has drawn the interest of a nearby alternative and holistic wellness center.

“We’re trying to work out good relationships with other businesses in the neighborhood,” he said. “I’m fairly confident we’re going to have some cross-promotions in place this summer. We also are considering a neighborhood discount based on ZIP code to help with local traffic.”

Simply Pure also sends out emails promoting specials. A recent Mother’s Day promotion offered 50% off flower to customers who bought a piece of marijuana-inspired Genifer M jewelry, which translated to an ounce for $75. The same email promoted the 1906 New Highs three-pack of chocolates with a buy-one-get-one offer or a microdose pack of chocolate-covered beans for $2.50.

Customers who order online before they enter Simply Pure are immediately allowed beyond the lobby and into the store, where their orders are waiting, rather than waiting their turn in the lobby before entering the room where products are sold. Simply Pure also plans to remodel the store to make the layout more customer friendly. The remodel will include an express lane for loyalty members.

Providing the Personal Touch

But it’s the dispensary’s knowledgeable salespeople who keep customers coming back.

“Our training program is pretty robust,” said Brian Nowak, general manager at Simply Pure. “We make you take three quizzes and a 50-question test.”

The test and quizzes cover everything from compliance and sales limits to knowledge of the store’s products.

“They have to pass that with flying colors before they’re ever allowed on the floor,” Nowak said. “We’ll also take the time to educate our customers. We’ll take 20 to 30 minutes if that’s what it takes to make sure they know what they’re purchasing and that they’re aware of how to use it.”

Special Events a Draw

Like other dispensaries, Seattle-based Ocean Greens operates a points-based loyalty system (one point per visit and 10% off when a customer accumulates 10 points). The company also has events in its stores — concerts, glass blowing and artist demonstrations — as well as vendor days, during which growers or edibles manufacturers are invited to discuss their products with Ocean Greens customers.

“Vendor days are very cool and a must for the industry,” said the store’s owner, Ocean Greens (yes, he legally changed his name). “It’s nice for them to explain directly to patients how their products work.

“We also sponsor concerts and pingpong tournaments outside of our store,” Greens said. “We have pre-roll tournaments, but instead of using marijuana – because it’s illegal – we use parsley.”

Ocean Greens, which is open from 8 a.m. until midnight, also offers specials at certain times of the day: early bird, happy hour and late-night munchies.

Luring Customers into the Store

Denver has more than 300 dispensaries, so competition is steep, particularly if the cannabis retailer is off the beaten path like L’Eagle Services, which has a points-based loyalty program and sends text messages and emails that alert its customers to specials the store is running.

“Someone has to drive by a minimum of seven dispensaries to get to our store, so they really have to want to come here,” L’Eagle owner Amy Andrle said. “Feet in the door is tough, and it’s something we really have to focus on. We reward them with quality.”

And by quality she means that L’Eagle offers the only Clean Green Certified products in the city – the cannabis industry’s equivalent of the USDA Organic seal.

“That speaks to a certain type of consumer, and there’s value in that,” Andrle said, adding that loyal customers may write reviews on platforms like Yelp, Leafly and Weedmaps. “If someone only shops with us, they’re likely talking about our products and why our products are different.”


Neighborhood Passport

Simply Pure is handing its customers passports to savings.

The Denver marijuana dispensary has teamed up with other businesses in the city’s trendy Lower Highland neighborhood to offer discounts on everything from donuts to kombucha in Passport to 420, a green booklet designed to look like a passport. Participating companies paid to be part of the passport, and the money went toward the design and print costs.

Simply Pure customers get a pre-roll or single-serving edible for every stamp they score from one of the five participating businesses. The participating businesses in the ultra-walkable neighborhood also offer specials: a margarita for $4.20 from a neighborhood Mexican restaurant; 20% off drinks on tap at the kombucha establishment; or a buy-one-get-one-free donut.

“As soon as this passport book was out and finalized, there were three or four other businesses in the neighborhood that came in and said, ‘We should be a part of that,’” Simply Pure General Manager Brian Nowak said.

Other cannabis businesses offer specials in the book. OpenVape is advertising 15% off Craft Reserve cartridges, and CannaPunch is offering 10% off its products purchased at Simply Pure.

And, of course, Simply Pure advertises its own specials in the Passport to 420 booklet. There’s a coupon promoting happy hour prices any time, which allows customers to get 20% off Simply Pure concentrates or $4.20 pre-rolls.

Like any passport, this one also has an expiration date, so Simply Pure is already looking at what’s next.

“We want to follow it up with a similar passport book,” Nowak said.

– Margaret Jackson