Dozens of new technology companies focusing on the cannabis industry have been popping up in recent years. As these companies do not touch the plant itself and are therefore less risky for everyone involved, they have provided popular targets for investment in the industry. But how receptive are cannabis consumers to technology and how can companies leverage technology to reach these consumers? To find out more about technology use amongst marijuana patients, Brightfield Group surveyed more than 400 medical marijuana patients in California.
A whopping 70% of California medical marijuana users recently surveyed by Brightfield indicated that they very much enjoy and use the conveniences afforded by their smart phones. They are also active social media consumers, with 82% of those surveyed indicating that they use Facebook, and 34% using Instagram daily.
Online sales platforms such as Amazon Prime and Fresh, while lagging behind social media, have quite a bit of traction among marijuana users as well; Almost 70% of users indicate that they use same day online delivery services, though less frequently than they use social media platforms. This bodes well for online cannabis sales, as a user base willing to purchase groceries and consumer goods online should naturally be inclined to purchase marijuana in this fashion as well (once security and confidentiality issues have been worked out).
Technology has clearly become a tremendous force in the daily lives of cannabis users and will certainly play a role in the future of marijuana sales and success, especially given how many users are willing to purchase MMJ products over applications (see Insight #2). Cannabis investors should be very cognizant of the influence of technology on advertising and marketing and sales – especially as online sales platforms become more popular and accepted – and leverage it whenever possible to maintain a competitive edge.
More than two-thirds of cannabis users surveyed indicated that they are prepared to utilize technology such as smart phone apps to make their cannabis purchases. Businesses currently offering strictly in-store sales are encouraged to capitalize on the convenience and wider market access provided by online applications, which can be a relatively inexpensive investment (especially if there is already an existent app in the region, such as Grassp or Eaze) with potentially excellent returns.
It is worth noting, however, that not all users prefer this method of purchasing marijuana versus buying it in-store. In fact, over 40% of respondents prefer not to purchase their marijuana products online, versus only 33% who do prefer to do so. Thus, apps will be most effective when supplementing a physical sales space rather than acting as the exclusive sales platform.
Due to the sensitivity of marijuana users to legal and privacy issues, there are still several challenges to work out in effectively utilizing smart phone apps and online platforms to reach the burgeoning marijuana market.
Despite their enthusiasm for the conveniences offered by technology, marijuana users (including many of those who indicate a willingness to use apps for purchases) are concerned about confidentiality and security when it comes to online cannabis commerce. Even though most of those surveyed very much enjoy and use the conveniences afforded by their smart phones, only about half that portion prefer to make online - rather than in-store - marijuana purchases. Nearly two-thirds of those who were unwilling to purchase online through an app cited concerns about sharing their personal or financial info online, and about half were apprehensive that online purchases could be tracked by the government. The number one most important app quality cited by those surveyed was “Security and Confidentiality”.
Although cannabis purchases could easily be made from smart phones or online, many users do not appear to feel that this is a viable and secure option, despite their affinity for using technology. This sends a clear message to investors pursuing any method of online sales: The security of online practices and purchases must be a clear priority and guarantee to ensure customers are willing to trust them, and therefore use them. Online vendors would benefit by making use of tools such as data encryption, privacy statements and guarantees, identification verification and strong password requirements – both to protect their apps and sites, and to reassure users.
The current lackluster interest in making online purchases (despite a willingness to potentially do so) may also be related to the preference for paying in cash that a majority of users expresses, and the lack of availability of platforms through which MMJ customers can purchase with cash.
Investors interested in developing or improving their sales, online or in-store, should be attentive to payment methods, ensuring that cash is accepted and being sure to include “cash upon delivery” as an online payment option whenever possible. This will allow vendors to sidestep client concerns about government tracking and/or credit card theft.
In our connected world, cannabis users are not only capable but driven to buy and use products wisely. For this reason, they frequently look to their smart phones and various online resources for reviews of places and products, highly valuing “good user reviews”. Indeed, three times as many users indicated that they look up new products seen in the store before trying them, than those who do not.
Because it is so common for clients to check out reviews before buying a product or visiting a store, it is extremely important for dispensaries, manufacturers and investors in the cannabis market to be conscientious about their online presence, ranking and satisfaction among customers, and to use this information to improve and/or expand.
Services and stores with poor rankings might look to address the issues cited by previous clients or users, or resolve cases wherever possible. Those looking to develop an online presence should also take the time to look at common complaints, concerns, and strong points of other venues that are presently offering similar services, and utilize the lessons learned to appeal to and satisfy like-minded customers.
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