Legal cannabis purchases are expected to grow in the United States to $80 billion by 2030. Last year, in 2018, legal cannabis sales totaled almost $11 billion.
The one thing every single legal medicinal or recreational cannabis purchase has in common is that the transaction is facilitated by a dispensary operator, commonly referred to as a Budtender.
Leafly’s Special Report: Cannabis Jobs states that the job of the Budtender is to “Provide excellent customer service to all patients and customers. Provide information to patients and customers on product choices, consumption methods, compliance, and safety.” Despite Budtenders facilitating all transactions Leafly reports Budtenders are at the bottom of the totem pole in pay and earn between $12 – $16/ hour.
Everyday EpicHint automates training for dispensaries, brands, and cannabis support software companies. Dispensaries, brands, and software companies tap into our trainings or use our platform to create their own, publish trainings privately or publicly, gain data on what their teams really know, and use our communications dashboard to take actions that impact the bottom-line.
The bulk of trainings focus on training the Budtender to achieve operational initiatives within the dispensary environment. For a dispensary this can be training new Budtender hires on the daily operational flow or dispensary menu. For a brand this can be training sales teams to provide consistent messaging to possible new dispensary accounts and training Brand Ambassadors to train Budtenders on new products.
Our work training Budtenders for a variety of cannabis businesses has led us to develop a unique lens on the Budtender role.
The Importance of the Budtender
Budtenders are the most important role for a dispensary or brand. It is the experience with a Budtender that a Patient/ Customer will remember. It is the product recommendation from the Budtender that will be loved or hated. It will be the Budtender that drives higher purchase values and customer loyalty.
Patient/ Customer Purchase Decision Funnel
Acquisition, Activation, Engagement, Conversion, Retention, and Referral, are the metrics by which technologists are trained to think about how someone might find their Website or App, engage with it, covert into a customer, use the product overtime, and refer new users. These success metrics are a user flow/ user experience funnel. Good technology companies will track these data points and have hundreds of funnels mapped out so they can validate if the technology is working, what users like, what marketing channels are working, investment into product changes, resources spent, and decisions to scale the business.
Being equal parts Patient advocate, technologist, and data junkie, I spend a ridiculous amount of time mapping out what real life purchase funnels for cannabis Patients and Customers look like for the purposes of improving Patient and Customer experiences while achieving business goals. While mapping out numerous purchase funnels we have seen that no matter how the funnel flows the Budtender is at the center of the funnel and holds tremendous influence. Here’s an example…
In the dispensary Patient/ Customer cannabis purchase decision process above there are five steps that happen before a purchase is made and ten steps total. At the center of the purchase funnel is the Budtender.
Step by step this is the purchase flow above:
The Patient/ Customer discovers a product via a friend and visits the company’s Website to learn more.
From the Website the Patient/ Customer decides they are going to visit a local dispensary to see if they can find the product.
At the dispensary a Budtender presents the product they were curious about. While receiving brand and product details from the Budtender the Patient/ Customer also evaluates the product via its packaging.
The Patient/ Customer decides to purchase the product during the dispensary visit.
The Patient/ Customer consumes the product alone and socially.
While consuming socially they talk about how they discovered and like the product resulting in their friends beginning the purchase decision process.
The Patient/ Customer is having a great time and posts a photo on social media while consuming the product they purchased.
Here is another Patient/ Customer purchase decision funnel…
In the Patient/ Customer purchase decision flow above there are six steps that happen before a purchase is made and 11 steps total. Step by step this is the cannabis brand to Patient/ Customer flow above:
The Patient/ Customer is making a planned visit to a dispensary. At the dispensary a cannabis brand is having an in-store pop-up demo event. The pop-up promotion catches the attention of the Patient/ Customer.
The cannabis Brand Ambassador pitches the product to the Patient/ Customer in the dispensary.
While being pitched the Patient/ Customer evaluates the product via its packaging. The product has a promotion for the day where it’s discounted and it sounds interesting. The Patient/ Customer goes to make the purchase they initially went to the dispensary to make. The Patient/ Customer asks the Budtender about the cannabis brand and promotion. The Budtender provides the Patient/ Customer additional information about the brand and product.
The additional information from the Budtender prompts the Patient/ Customer to take advantage of the pop-demo promotion. The Patient/ Customer makes a purchase from the unknown brand.
The Patient/ Customer tries the product alone for the first time.
When hanging out with friends the Patient/ Customer tells friends about the promotion and the product.
While hanging out with friends the Patient/ Customer shares the product with friends and one of the friends that tries the product posts a photo on social media.
As I shared, we spend lots of time mapping out Patient/ Customer funnels for the purpose of optimizing experiences. There are many Patient/ Customer purchase flows that take place in a dispensary. In a future post we’ll get into the variables and resources that go into each step of the purchase funnels above as well as the opportunities, tools, and data to optimize each step to create better Patient/ Customer experiences and increase ROI on resources invested.
Weed Does Not Sell Itself
Looking at the purchase funnels above “Weed does not sell itself”. It’s insane that any dispensary or cannabis brand owner, manager, or team member, can still hold the antiquated view that “weed sells itself”. Yes, data has shown that first time purchases are on the rise but businesses do not thrive or last if customers do not return. In every purchase decision funnel there are a number of steps that can skew a Patient/ Customer to purchase one product over another or to decided to find a new dispensary rather than return to the one they visited. Each step in a Patient’s/ Customer’s purchase decision process can be optimized to enhance their experience, increase brand value, lift revenue, and drive meaningful lifetime value.
Looking at the many purchase funnels we have mapped, the one thing every non-delivery purchase has in common is influence from a Budtender (and even then some delivery purchases loosely have Budtender influence via live online or over the phone customer support…a different kind of Budtender). It is for this reason at EpicHint we came up with, and refer to Budtenders, as Merch-influencers.
Our Merch-influencers Definition
Merch-influencers are individuals that are earn money working in a retail environment and have direct influence at the time of purchase. Merch-influencers influence an average of 25 purchases a day and also have direct influence with groups of 500 – 5000. Merch influencers are the only influencers that have active point of sale influence. The price tag for cannabis brands and other cannabis businesses to work with merch-influencers does not have to be monetary. Status awards, product discounts, swag, exclusive experiences, and recognition work to develop sales driving relationships with merch-influencers.
In the hierarchy of influence we have deemed Merch-influencers to be above Micro-influencers and below Macro-influencers. In our next post we’ll get into the concept of the Merch-influencer and what it means in the purchase funnel context.
Free Template to Map Your Patient/ Customer Purchase Decision Processes
In the meantime, to help your team think through your Patient/ Customer Purchase Decision Processes we’re giving you access to our internal Patient/ Customer Purchase Decision Process template. The template is a resource to understand purchase/ experience funnels in order to improve them.
Thoughts? Leave Us a Comment
Thoughts on the role of the Budtender or the legal sale of cannabis? Questions? Need help getting started mapping your Patient/ Customer purchase funnels? Other? Leave us a comment below. We’re happy to help.
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Adriana was inspired to build EpicHint after her friend used cannabis to aide in his recovery from early onset colon cancer and was provided poor product recommendations by Budtenders.
Prior to founding EpicHint she used interdisciplinary principles and agile methodologies to build, and grow, two tech startups; a B2B competitive analytics platform for Internet Retailer 500 e-commerce marketers that protected personal identifying information, and a B2C e-commerce recommendation engine for sustainable and fairly made shopping. She is known for being able to translate a product’s social mission into viable financials.
Her work building tech for social good earned her an invitation to contribute a column to ‘The New York Times’ and features in media such as ‘Entrepreneur Magazine’ as a “Do Good Business Entrepreneur To Watch”, ‘NBC Universal’ as a “Top 10 Latino Innovator”, ‘Forbes’, ‘Fast Company’, ‘TechCrunch’, amongst many other media outlets.
When not working she surfs, loves to cook with fresh locally sourced ingredients, mentors girls in STEAM, advises startups, and hacks on side projects in skills-based learning, artificial intelligence, telemedicine, marketing tech, health and wellness, and cannabis niches.