Insights for Dispensaries: The Importance of Budtenders

Bethany Gomez

Budtenders.  Most outside the industry would smirk at the notion of budtending as a legitimate profession, but those in the know understand they are a key component to making their cannabusiness succeed. 

As we identified in the first part of our three part series, one of the key drivers for marijuana users to switch from buying through the black market to a dispensary is the enticement of a wide product selection that the black market cannot compete with.  However, to anyone walking into a dispensary for the first time this wide selection can be quite overwhelming and they need knowledgeable budtenders to help them identify the appropriate product to achieve their desired effect, be it recreational or medicinal. 

But just how important are budtenders to cannabis patients and consumers?  How does this impact their loyalty to dispensaries and manufacturers? We explore these issues using a Brightfield Group survey of more than 500 medical patients or adult consumers in recreational states.  

Budtender opinions are highly respected …

The vast majority of patients and consumers take budtender recommendations very seriously.  Twenty-two percent of respondents who buy from dispensaries or recreational shops report always following the budtender's recommendation and another 69% seriously consider the budtenders recommendation, though they weigh other factors in as well.  This holds true for patients/consumers of all age groups, and for women and men alike.  

Interestingly, those who spend more per week on cannabis and consume more frequently have a higher opinion of the knowledge of their local budtenders and follow their recommendations more often.  This is significant because in many markets as much as three quarters of sales come from heavy users. 

... but budtenders alone won’t build loyalty

Despite the value that customers place on the opinions of budtenders, it is rarely cited as a top criterion when selecting a dispensary or rec shop, nor are those who place the most value on budtender opinions more loyal to a single dispensary.  In fact, those who tend not to trust the advice of budtenders are more loyal customers than those who do value and/or use the advice of budtenders.

Budtenders recommendations most important to manufacturers

This, counterintuitively, indicates that budtenders are at least as important to manufacturers as they are to dispensaries. As important as budtenders are, a dispensary will need more than good budtenders to get clients in the door and to build their loyalty.  Budtender recommendations, however, are critical for manufacturers looking to expand their consumer base.  A recent survey of California medical patients indicates patients are very skeptical to try new products, particularly from brands they have never heard and are highly loyal to the brands that have earned their trust.  Budtenders recommendations provide the greatest opportunity for encouraging patients to try their products and win their loyalty.  As more brands are entering the marketplace, outreach and budtender education becomes increasingly important, and should become a key component in the expansion strategy of any savvy manufacturer.  

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