Growing Your Cannabis Customer Base
Customer loyalty for cannabis dispensaries looks much the same as in other kinds of retail.
- Make more repeat purchases
- Spend more, either by buying more products or buying higher-priced products
- Are informed and knowledgeable about the products they buy
- Interact with the retailer via multiple channels
- Are “brand ambassadors” who share their experience through word-of-mouth
- Give the retailer positive feedback
Cannabis customers fall along a loyalty spectrum with unique marketing needs. On one end, you’ve got customers who’ve been purchasing cannabis products for years (possibly before it was legal to do so!). They’re already devoted fans and don’t need a lot of convincing to spend money – the challenge is getting them to pick your dispensary over the others.
At the other end are consumers who infrequently purchase cannabis products, either because of the stigma that’s still associated with dispensaries or because they aren’t informed about cannabis products. Engaging with them in a way that builds trust and confidence in your dispensary is critical for overcoming their reservations about shopping at your dispensary.
Two words to remember when it comes to building loyalty with your dispensary customers are convenience and community. Create a company culture that feels welcoming and comfortable where customers can easily shop for products and they’re sure to be repeat visitors!
Mobile Device Marketing
Everyone owns a smartphone now – in fact, according to recent studies, over 85% of people in the United States have a smartphone and carry it with them everywhere. Mobile devices are always with us, and we check our phones frequently throughout the day. Wouldn’t you like your products and your store to be visible in your shoppers’ pockets, reminding them of the great experiences they had at your store?
Marketing on mobile devices is much more effective than other types of marketing precisely because of that constant presence – people are more likely to see and engage with messages delivered via their mobile devices. This means that messages sent via text or push notifications are more likely to be seen and acted upon in a timely manner. Additionally, text and push notifications can be delivered in real-time, allowing businesses to reach their audience at the right time and place, increasing the chances of the message being acted upon.
Mobile on Device Messaging
When you pick up your smartphone – Apple or Android – the device comes with short “notification” messages. Every app can “push” its own personalized notifications, customized to each user. These small, pop-up messages can also go to laptops and other devices, such as tablets, and are contextually relevant to the specific mobile app. The notifications appear even when the app isn’t open and are often accompanied by a sound alert, making them really good at grabbing a user’s attention at all times, no matter what the shopper or end-user is doing.
Mobile push marketing campaigns are much more effective than standard text messaging because they allow for a more personalized and interactive experience for the user. With push notifications, businesses can send targeted messages to specific segments of their audience, increasing the chances of the message being relevant and engaging to the recipient. Additionally, push notifications can include rich media such as images and videos, making the message more visually appealing. Furthermore, push notifications can be sent in real-time, allowing businesses to reach their audience at the right time and place, increasing the chances of the message being acted upon. In contrast, standard text messages are limited in their targeting capabilities and do not allow for the inclusion of rich media.
Mobile notifications offer many benefits over SMS, both for marketers and consumers, such as:
Better Opt-In Experience
When a user downloads a mobile app, they simply tap a button to allow notifications from that app. It’s quick, easy, and users know they can go into their settings and toggle notifications on and off at any time. It makes it a lot more motivating to opt-in to notifications. On the other hand, text messaging opt-ins are usually done at a counter kiosk or by texting a message to a random phone number. The experience is clunkier, and the user isn’t in control of turning text messaging on and off from that business, so the experience has a lot more friction for the user.
Delivery on Multiple Devices
Mobile app notifications get delivered to any device on which you have your mobile apps or have synced your mobile apps. This includes smartphones, tablets and laptops. This means that no matter which device a user is on, your marketing message will reach them. Message delivery on multiple devices increases visibility exponentially and reinforces your message from various places. This offers a huge benefit over text messages, which are only delivered to a user’s mobile device, and can be ignored or turned off on that device.
More Concise Messages
Whereas text messages are limited to 160 characters, Push notifications are even shorter. This means that marketers are forced to be as clear and concise as possible, which benefits everyone! The most effective marketing messages are those which only take a split-second to read and which have only one clear call-to-action. If you know that you only have one or two sentences available in which to deliver your message, you’re going to be much more deliberate about what you say to your customer. Additionally, the shorter the message, the more likely it is to be read! Your marketing message is competing with all the other messages that your customer is receiving in a day. Break through the noise by keeping it short and sweet.
A variety of regulations make text messaging very challenging for cannabis dispensaries. These regulations not only limit how you can talk about your products, but violating them can mean costly and time-consuming consequences. Fortunately, the same regulations don’t apply to Push marketing. You can actually use words and terms like “cannabis” and “CBD” which are otherwise forbidden in an text messaging campaign. Using direct language means better communication between you and your customers, and better communication translates into more sales!
Sending Out Your First Mobile Device Marketing Campaign
You can see why on-device notifications are the marketing vehicle of choice for many dispensaries. If this form of marketing sounds too complicated for you, fear not. Many marketing and loyalty platforms make it simple for you to send out your very first mobile device campaign right away. For example, Spark Loyalty includes unlimited mobile device marketing campaigns with their basic $9.99 per month plan. The easy-to-use merchant dashboard walks you through step-by-step so that you can send out automated Push notifications in a matter of minutes. And the Spark Loyalty shopper app makes it easy for your customers to opt-in to your campaigns for free at any time right on their phones.
Want to try out mobile device marketing for your business?
> You can sign up here for a free trial of Spark Loyalty.
All about Text Messaging
Short Messaging Service (SMS) marketing can also be insanely effective at reaching people. Here are some statistics that show how effective text messaging can be:
- Text marketing messages have a 98% open rate versus a 20% open rate for email marketing campaigns.
- 60% of people open text messages within five minutes of receiving them. 95% of recipients open texts within three minutes of receiving them.
- Text messages get a 45% response rate. That’s six times more than email marketing, which gets an 8% response rate.
- Text message marketing has a 19% click-through rate, while the click-through rate for email is only 4%.
Imagine reaching almost 100% of the customers in your loyalty program and then receiving responses from nearly half of those customers just by sending out one text message.
How to Use Text Messaging in the Cannabis Industry
The cannabis dispensary industry is a relatively young one, so retaining new customers and building customer loyalty early on is critical for establishing long-term relationships with them. Getting your dispensary brand and products to stand out so that customers choose your business over other dispensaries is why a customer loyalty program is essential for your business. The best customer loyalty programs include built-in messaging protocols and marketing campaign tools – including mobile device notifications and text messaging.
Yet the cannabis industry does have some unique challenges when it comes to marketing your store with text messages. While cannabis is legal to sell in 21 states in the US, it’s not federally legal. This means there can be no cannabis marketing in the states where it’s still illegal to sell cannabis products (including CBD).
There’s also the issue of SHAFT regulations. SHAFT stands for sex, hate, alcohol, firearms, and tobacco. Content that promotes any of these isn’t allowed in any text message marketing. Unfortunately, at this time, all cannabis products (CBD and THC) fall under the broad federal umbrella of SHAFT.
Note re MMS
Some mobile device marketing consultants may state that Multimedia Messaging Services (MMS) can be a workaround to avoid the complications of text messaging and get around the regulations. This is false. MMS can indeed be a short-term hack, but it won’t work long-term, especially if your business is successful. It is still an illegal act to send cannabis material in either visual or text messaging form, so we advise against using MMS to try to avoid regulations. Successful campaigns get shut down and businesses are fined for this kind of activity. It doesn’t work in the end to try to get around the rules.
So if SHAFT content isn’t allowed in text message or multimedia on-device marketing, how can a cannabis dispensary legally and effectively use text messaging services to market your products?
You can follow marketing practices that don’t violate the policies pertaining to SHAFT or federal regulations. You can still market your business, but legally and in conformance with all federal rules. Here are all the details:
Compliance for the Cannabis Industry
Before you create and send out a text message marketing campaign for your dispensary, you’ll want to know about the different organizations and laws that affect text messaging.
Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (CTIA)
The CTIA maintains a list of words and content categories that are prohibited in SMS campaigns. While they don’t issue fines, SMS that’s determined to be in violation will be blocked and your customers won’t receive your campaign texts. You could even be banned from sending future campaigns from that phone number.
CTIA provides a Messaging Principles and Best Practices PDF to help businesses stay in compliance.
Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA)
The 1991 Telephone Consumer Protection Act was modified to cover both email and SMS marketing, in addition to telephone marketing. Per the current version of the act, businesses are required to obtain express written consent from consumers before sending any SMS marketing to consumers. Any business that doesn’t honor an opt-out request is subject to penalties.
A PDF of TCPA rules is available online.
The Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003 made it illegal for businesses to send unwanted emails and texts to consumers. It requires the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to issue rules pertaining to emails and text messages.
Wireless Carrier Terms of Service
Each wireless carrier also has their own set of rules when it comes to SMS sent on their networks. You’ll want to be sure you’ve read through the terms of service for the specific carrier you use for your business.
Best Practices for Cannabis Industry Mobile Marketing
Mobile marketing is extremely effective but can also be rife with compliance landmines when it comes to text messaging. Many dispensaries have unknowingly sent out noncompliant SMS campaigns only to have their phone numbers shut down.
The best way to ensure your marketing reaches your target customers is to invest in a system that provides the best-in-class marketing campaigns for all your shoppers, and includes both types of on-device mobile marketing options.
Here are some further best practices to put into place for your dispensary’s loyalty program.
Invest time in training your staff so they’re able to fully explain the benefits of your loyalty program and invite customers to enroll.
Options for Enrolling
Provide multiple ways for customers to sign up for your loyalty program. You can provide an opt-in through your POS, on your eCommerce platform, or via CTAs on your website.
Double Opt-In Process
Create a double opt-in process so there’s no doubt that a customer wants to receive SMS marketing from your business. While there’s no requirement for double opt-ins, they’re a recommended practice to protect your dispensary from compliance issues.
Audit Logs and Do Not Send List
Consider keeping audit logs of all opt-ins and opt-outs. Create a Do Not Send list of all customers who have opted out so you never accidentally include someone in an SMS campaign who no longer wants to receive them.
Keep Up With Replies
Monitor all replies to your campaigns on a regular and timely basis. Immediately honor an opt-out request and have a process for manually opting-out the customer. Not acting on a customer’s request to opt-out of SMS marketing puts your business at risk of non-compliance.
Cannabis Business Marketing Tips
As you’re planning your marketing campaigns, keep these tips in mind.
Brainstorm creative marketing ideas to engage customers. Include a time-sensitive CTA.
Here are some types of campaigns worth considering for your marketing messages:
- Daily Deals
- New Customer Welcome
- “Happy Birthday”
- “We Miss You”
- Targeted offers
- “Your Medical Card License Is Expiring Soon“
The beauty of these campaigns is they’re easy to create in advance and schedule for delivery with your customer loyalty program’s application.
Choose Words Wisely
Use effective marketing language in your text marketing so that customers know the purpose of the campaign, but also be sure to avoid spam keywords and SHAFT-prohibited words. Know what you can and can’t say! And remember – Push campaigns don’t have to be SHAFT compliant!
Consider Using Images
Because there are limits regarding the wording in your SMS campaign, MMS with images are a great way to let customers know what the intent of your campaign is.
You want to stay compliant with federal and carrier regulations at all times. To do so, make sure every SMS campaign includes the following items.
- How often the customer will receive texts.
- “Msg & data rates may apply.”
- An opt-out that’s easy to exercise.
Preview/Test Before Launch
Have a second set of eyes look over your campaign and do a preview prior to launch. It’s easy to miss something when you look at your own work and sometimes you’ll notice potential problems in the final version that a customer will see.
What Not to Do
Here’s what not to do when it comes to SMS marketing campaigns for your dispensary.
- Do not buy lists of phone numbers for your SMS campaigns.
- Do not send SMS to any number that hasn’t gone through your double opt-in process.
- Do not send SMS to any number that has opted out.
- Do not market in any state where cannabis or CBD isn’t legal.
Doing any of these exposes your dispensary to potential risks, including fines.
Helping Your Campaigns Be Successful and Compliant
Spark Loyalty offers cannabis dispensaries everything you need for effective marketing that increases customer engagement and loyalty and helps grow your business.
The mobile shopper app offers both on-device mobile “push” notifications and in-app notifications – a mobile marketing double whammy! These notification features come built-in to your basic Spark Loyalty plan, which means you can push messages to your customers’ mobile devices and laptops for only $9.99 a month.
To reach your customers through text messaging (SMS or MMS) marketing as well, you can simply upgrade your use of the system. Spark Loyalty PRO offers unlimited SMS and MMS campaigns, complete with customer support to help you stay in compliance.