dispensary digital communication cannabis texting dispensary SMS messaging

Welcome to the New Age: Dispensary SMS and MMS Marketing

August 6, 2019 | Jeffrey Harris

We’re coming up on a fifth of the way done with the 21st century, and by the looks of it, we’re in for quite a ride: Self-driving cars are becoming a thing (soon, I hope), fanny packs are back in style, and The Office AND Friends are enjoying farewell tours on Netflix (no, we don’t want to talk about it). But as the world around us keeps changing, we over here in the business world have to do the same with our models, always keeping an ear to the wall in case whispers of a new trend are floating around. Well, queue some George Michael because we’re whispering carelessly in the other room. Keep scrolling.  

Nothing New

I know you’re tired of your Great-Aunt Carol chirping endlessly about “people these days” always having their noses in their phones. But the truth is she may have a valid point for resenting the new age, and it's twofold: 

(a) surveys show that 91% of people like to keep their phones within arm’s reach at all times

(b) they’re the same people bringing back fanny packs- even she knows they were just as hideous in her day

I forgot to mention one detail: the survey above was taken in 2007 (*gasp*). That may feel like a few years ago, but the first iPhone was introduced that year, so I’m sure that number has crept closer to triple digits 12 years and 10 iPhones later. And it’s no secret that Apple profited pretty well from this ongoing trend, and that’s because they didn’t just contribute to it- they spearheaded it.

Cannabis Marketing Gymnastics 

As you’re well aware, due to the unique and often restrictive marketing laws appl cannabis industry, dispensary marketing strategies need to incorporate unconventional ways to advertise including signage, email (not a good idea- we’ll get to that soon), and social media (also not the best idea), among other common methods. However, the best method has literally been staring- no, shining- in their face the whole time in the form of mass text marketing.  

I’m glad you brought up iPhones earlier because the average American adult spends 11 hours per day staring at a screen these days. A baffling number, in my opinion, but like every new fad, there’s a cannabis business angle to be made. Ours? Instead of trying to rip people away from their screens, connect with them through their screens with text message marketing campaigns sent to customers’ mobile devices. Send SMS and MMS messages containing coupons, news, special offers, etc. to customers who opted-in to receiving dispensary text message promotions and rewards from your dispensary loyalty program. And since you’re already here, sprinkle some dispensary rewards with springbig’s cannabis marketing platform for a curiously-timed jump in re-ups at your dispensary. 

So now that we established our ever-growing bond to our mobile devices, we need to understand the different types of texts you can send out- SMS and MMS messages- and how to utilize them to maximize engagement and ROI. Scroll on. 

Two-Headed Monster 

SMS messages (Short Message Service) are the standard plain text messages you think of when someone mentions a text message- no cute GIF or picture, just words up to 160 characters. A message containing either of those would be called an MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service). They are comprised of a text with an attachment, such as an image, video, GIF, game, etc. In short, anything you can type out in the text bar is an SMS; anything more than words and emojis is an MMS. 

Dispensary SMS marketing is quite simple - just type out a campaign and sent it out to your subscriber list - and yet still has the highest engagement of any other marketing channel. MMS messages, on the other hand, have an even higher engagement level than SMS marketing but requires an additional step in choosing or creating an image/video/GIF that accurately represents the information you’re trying to get across to your customer base.

MMS messages as a whole enjoy very high conversion rates because the human mind is attracted to movement and processes information 60,000 times faster through visuals than text. How high? 

  • Open rates exceed 99%, 90%of which were opened in under 3 minutes!
  • Brands have shown 300% more engagement vs. SMS-only texts

So you have all this information about SMS and MMS marketing and how it can produce positive growth for your company. But how do you use them and when do you know which one to use? I’m glad you asked. 

Use SMS when: 

  • Customer action is wanted, i.e. to fill out a survey, leave a review, complete the sign-up process, etc. 
  • You’re on a time crunch such as last-minute sales or updates & reminders 
  • Collecting support/feedback

Use MMS when:

  • You have a lot to say, e.g. giving instructions for a complicated process.
  • Avoid FCC censorship placed on certain Cannabis-related words in Dispensary SMS promotions (like Kush or Preroll). MMS messages are not checked for censorship so anything goes!

Heavyweight Matchup

Although texting is far from a novel concept nowadays, leveraging mass text messages to your company’s benefit is a tactic not yet used widely in the business world. Only 21% of brands use it, compared to 93% of companies who use email, but just like the lovely industry we find ourselves in, more and more people keep jumping on the bandwagon: 

  • In 2015-17, SMS strategy grew 197% B2B (business-to-business)
    • 92% increase B2C (business-to-consumer)
  • 20% of marketing leaders plan to use SMS marketing in the next 12 months 

One could assume the low rates of corporations using texting for business purposes is attributed to low engagement rates and underwhelming ROI, but that couldn’t be further from the truth (not exaggerating). As familiar as we are with texting in a social sense, fiscally it has some eye-popping numbers you’d think were our summer intern’s typo, especially when comparing it to email marketing stats. Strap in for a few stats: 

email VS text marketing infographic

Fun fact: SMS surveys have a 31% response rate compared to email’s 4%, which means its more likely for a text survey to be responded to than an email being opened. Just saying. 

Because of this, springbig has partnered with our friends at Budtender which allows you to easily and even automatically send surveys to your loyal customers asking for feedback, allowing you to increase customer retention and ensure customers feel like their needs are being met.

Nail in the Coffin

As for the case of dispensary email marketing, spam messages account for 57% of all email traffic worldwide and 47% of emails are opened because of the subject line alone, so if your opener isn’t compelling enough→ Trash. Combine that with only a quarter of all emails being opened, to begin with, and you might as well shout “Kobe!” as you shoot your emails straight into your audience’s trash folder.

So why doesn’t text marketing fall into that category? Because text messages don’t fall into the same inbox as emails. Instead, they’re in the one that holds messages from your friends and family- people you actually want to talk to. It’s a more personal channel of communication, and, as a result, is held in much higher regard than email, especially on the business side of things:

  • 80% of people use text for business
  • 75% prefer SMS for deliveries, promotions, surveys, etc. 

Not to run up the score, but as far as consumer preferences go, it only adds to the beatdown in the email vs. text battle: 

  • 75% of survey recipients wouldn’t mind getting texts after opting-in 
  • More than double the number of people prefer text (49%) over any other channel of communication for loyalty-related messages 
    • Email: 23%
    • App notifications: 20%
    • Mail: 8%
  • Over 50% prefer text for customer support (which is actually quite beneficial for you to keep the customer service calls minimal and as a last resort)

Email marketing for your cannabis dispensary also runs the risk of sending your campaigns to fake email addresses or accounts people create just to sign up for things. And if you’re thinking that people can also give fake numbers, landlines, or burner phones... springbig has you covered. Our software provides quality control filters when building your subscriber list, eliminating any fakes, landlines, or burners, saving you time and money and ensuring your analytics remain valuable.

Although those numbers are impressive, they shouldn’t surprise you because of the following scenario: have you ever borrowed a buddy’s phone and their text inbox has zero/very few unread messages, but a look at their email widget has the number of unopened emails with a couple of commas? It’s all too common (full disclosure: I am that buddy), and it's likely due to the same reason why social media marketing and push notifications only reach 2-3% of your target audience: people get so used to seeing ads and promotions in the same places that they develop an ‘ad blindness’ and just tolerate the annoyingness until it’s not annoying anymore. 

Advantage: texting. 

Message and data rates may apply

There are clear-cut benefits to both forms of messages, both reaping the same benefits that texting as a whole enjoys. 92% of devices owned in the US are capable of receiving SMS messages (apparently iPod Touches are more popular than I thought), while 98% of 18-29-year-olds own such a device. It's no secret how fast millennials react to a notification, but that infatuation spans much wider age ranges, and there are numbers to prove it. According to a study done by Asurion:

  • 62% of cell phone users check their phone immediately after waking up

- 79% check within 15 minutes of waking up 

  • Millennials check their mobile phone over 150 times per day

- Average American checks it every 12 minutes or ~85 times per day 

  • The average person open texts within 90 seconds
  • 48% of women check for their phone before leaving home, compared to 26% who check for their purse 

You see how reliant people have become on their phones nowadays, which isn’t exactly a new trend but a potentially very useful one- now you know there’s a huge audience for your text marketing campaigns because they’re just waiting for you to pop up on their phones.

Among a lot of surprising stats, numbers from ROI’s of text campaigns are what truly jumps at you from the page, especially with MMS messages. Here are a few examples: 

  • British motor racing circuit Silverstone sent out a text to 45,000 members of their database inviting them to buy tickets to an upcoming race. One text- 680% ROI.
  • In 2013, Avenue, a clothier for plus-sized women, offered a $5 MMS coupon for joining their campaign. Those messages enjoyed a 97% open rate and Avenue enjoyed a 6,600% ROI. 
  • Pretty Little Liars, a TV show on ABC, featured an MMS marketing campaign where viewers signed up to get texts from “A”, the show’s main character. They captured over 100,000 phone numbers and increased audience engagement for that season alone by 20%.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you control the double-barreled shotgun that’s text marketing. You see the results that it produces, as well as the potential it has, at least for the foreseeable future. And as much as we hate to admit it, the nose-in-screen-while-doing-everything trend will also likely continue, as our devices are only getting more attractive and addicting. Plus, you might as well profit a little off of the people bringing back fanny packs- serves them right.