• Jeffrey Harris

Dispensary Marketing Ideas During COVID-19

It’s no secret that the coronavirus pandemic has shaken the US and global economy. According to the Pew Research Center, unemployment rose higher in three months of COVID-19 than it did in two years after the 2008 recession with unemployment numbers rising from 6.2 million in February to 20.5 million in May 2020. Not only that, but strict stay-at-home orders and the shut-down or modifications to non-essential business practices has forced many to close their doors for good.


Businesses who have been able to persevere through the pandemic have been struggling to adapt their services to the new normal. So how do you adapt your business to the new post-COVID world? Plexiglass check-out counters, contactless payment, and branded facemasks? While these are the reality of the world we live in today, in order to truly adapt your business to our new reality you must do much more than change how your physical dispensary operates - and the first step in this is to realize that traditional marketing techniques won’t work. Instead, you’ll need to revamp your marketing tactics to fit the new digital normal.


In this article, we will be discussing how to adapt your marketing efforts to the post-COVID world by looking at a number of dispensary marketing ideas that could help get you back up and running like normal (or as close to normal as possible), bring in new customers, and retain existing ones. We’ll will be discussing


  • Loyalty Marketing

  • Native Advertising

  • Local SEO

  • Ecommerce

  • Text Message Marketing

  • Delivery

  • Surveying your customers

Creating a marketing strategy for your brand that is fit for the new world isn’t easy, but with these tips we hope to make your path at least somewhat more clear.


Loyalty marketing


Now more than ever, people need a community they can lean on. Focusing on loyalty marketing during the pandemic is a great way to keep customer retention rates high and even increase sales during the pandemic because it shows that your dispensary is reliable regardless of the circumstances of the outside world. The reliability and trust that you build through this is crucial to creating lifetime-customers that provide the majority of your revenue.



Loyalty programs are essential to providing a quality customer experience, and at springbig we harp on this tactic because we’ve witnessed its efficacy first hand. In the cases of both Washington and Oregon cannabis retailers, loyalty programs have helped dispensaries continue to drive loyalty and sales during the pandemic.


In Washington, springbig retailers have shown resilience despite the pandemic, increasing sales by nearly 15% and increasing reward redemptions by 82% despite a .76% decrease in customer visits according to our studies.


Even more impressive, these retailers were able to do this despite regulations that currently forbid cannabis delivery in Washington. In doing this, Washington retailers have been able to lean into existing loyalty integrations with leading e-commerce providers such as Jane and Dutchie, where customers can redeem loyalty integrations without having to visit the dispensaries site.


They’ve also ramped up text message marketing during the pandemic which has paid off big - sending daily texts regarding deals and safety practices has no doubt played a part in maintaining the success of these cannabis retailers.


In Oregon we have seen similar numbers - springbig found that dispensary partners have experienced a 40% increase in both total spend and visits and a staggering 86% increase in loyalty reward redemptions compared to their performance before the pandemic. One of things that has greatly helped Oregon retailers stay on track during the pandemic delivery, which Oregon luckily still allows to continue during the pandemic. Oregon retailers have also been able to leverage text message marketing to encourage online orders and loyalty redemptions though Jane and Dutchie - just like Washington.


Clearly, leveraging the benefits that loyalty programs provide has been key to the success of both Oregon and Washington dispensaries. Want to see what springbig’s cannabis marketing platform can do for your dispensary? Click here.


Native advertising, Local SEO, and content marketing


With stay at home orders and general hysteria, people have resorted to online shopping, working, and everything in between, online. That means you should be focused on optimizing your online-marketing strategy. The world basically lives online at this point, and so should your marketing. This is why maintaining an online presence is so important in the post-COVID world - specifically through native ads, local search-engine optimization (SEO), and content marketing


Native ads are great because they raise brand awareness in audiences that are within your target market. A great way to do this is through native advertising companies that are 420 friendly like Mantis. Mantis’s ad network currently consists of over 500 websites that have niche audiences looking for cannabis and wellness content. While some paid advertising companies like Mantis tip-toe around explicitly advertising THC containing products, Mantis explicitly mentions their ability to advertise cannabis content, so you won’t have to worry about dealing with pesky restrictions.


Another great way to add to your internet marketing strategy and to boost organic traffic to your website and dispensary during the pandemic is through local SEO. The world is currently existing

online, but they’re also existing at home or close to home meaning you’ll want to ensure your website and content is optimized for customers searching for dispensaries locally. In this way, you can avoid any confusion regarding whether or not your business is open. This also makes your customers’ lives much easier, many of which are likely tired of never being sure if a business or restaurant is actually open or not.


Like we said above, it’s important to make sure that your content is one of the first results that pops up when customers do a search - but to do this you have to first build a base of content. Luckily, we are all stuck inside making this the perfect time to focus on content-marketing. In doing this, you’ll want to make sure that you take advantage of all marketing channels at your disposal including social media marketing and your own website. A great way to build and improve your website’s content is through blogging, specifically by making blog posts that address issues or solve problems for your customers. Creating a content strategy plan for each quarter or year can help take this one step further and ensure that you stay consistent in putting out content.


When it comes to social media, getting content out on a regular basis on social media platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and especially Instagram is key. This, paired with an influencer marketing plan can make social media marketing one of the most powerful forms of marketing available. But in doing this you have to be cautious as to not get your account flagged or removed. Utilizing influencers is a great way to build your dispensary’s brand-awareness, connect with your target audience, and avoid getting your account flagged. If you really want to ramp up your influencer marketing strategy, then making room in your marketing budget for high-level influencers could help make a big impression where it matters. For tips on how to implement a safe and effective social media strategy into your marketing plan, read our other article here


Emphasize and utilize e-commerce


Like we said above, springbig’s integration with leaders in the cannabis e-commerce space, Jane and Dutchie, has helped cannabis dispensaries adapt to the new normal. With online menus and the ability to redeem loyalty points directly from these sites, if you’re not utilizing these e-commerce platforms then you’re likely losing more potential sales than you’d like to hear.


In taking advantage of these integrations you’ll also be able to more effectively target your customers with customer data being shared between Dutchie and springbig and Jane and springbig respectively. More customers data means more ways to target your marketing and get customers into your store.


These e-commerce giants paired with text message marketing campaigns are the perfect way to counter the circumstances placed on dispensaries by the pandemic.


Text message marketing


Messaging your customers via text is more powerful than ever during the pandemic. It presents you with an all access pass straight to the pockets of your most loyal customers and allows you to send promotional messages to them about safety precautions you’re taking at your dispensary, specials and daily deals you’re having, guides on using loyalty points online, and more.


Cannabis retailers in Washington and Oregon have experienced great success from texting their customers and promoting their e-commerce and delivery capabilities among other things. More generally, texting your customers lets them know that as the world is shutting down around them and their favorite restaurants and stores are closing, you’re here to stay.



What makes text message marketing even more powerful with springbig, and what retailers who have continued to increase sales during the pandemic have been utilizing, is Brands by springbig which connects brands to dispensaries and gives them the opportunity to sponsor a dispensaries text message marketing campaign. This is a great way to get your text message campaigns paid for, increase sales, and help the brands you carry maintain sell-through during the crisis.




Another way to make the most out of text message marketing is with our loyalty platform Budz. Since you won’t be getting as many first-time customers coming into your store, you can utilize Budz’ unique referral links to enable you customers to refer their friends. Simply put your loyalty program’s join form up on your social media channels and website, send out referral links to your customers with the promise of rewards, and watch your customer base grow.


Market with a focus on delivery


Similar to the importance of local SEO marketing, branding yourself as a dispensary with delivery capabilities is key during this pandemic because it brings convenience and peace-of-mind to your customers. Many people are scared, and for good reason. While some may be able to brave the outdoors and make the trip to your dispensary, some may not be willing to take the risk no matter how good your products are and no matter how many deals you throw at them.


While it may not be possible in some areas such as Washington, where restrictions prevent cannabis delivery, in other areas where it is allowed dispensaries should be making a hard marketing push on their delivery services. If you don’t do delivery but it is allowed in your area, then now is the time to invest in it because the investment is almost sure to yield a positive ROI during this pandemic.


What’s more is that our recent integration with the online delivery platform Onfleet makes setting up delivery a breeze. With their route optimization engine that can increase delivery capacity by 50%, and with accurate ETAs and real-time visibility, Onfleet can help your dispensary get its products to its customers quickly and safely. If available in your area, you could have your delivery operation and online menu up and available to customers in no time at all.


Survey your customers


During this time, communicating with customers is extremely important. While letting your customers know what you're doing to adapt your dispensary’s operations to social distancing norms is great, what’s even better is asking them what they would like to see you do. Surveying your customers is the perfect way to do this. In surveying your customers, you can not only find out how to make your customers feel as comfortable as possible during this time, but you can also find things such as where your dispensary could use improvements.


With springbig’s integration with Budtender, the leader in customer experience software in the cannabis industry, you can do all of this and more. With weekly reports and intuitive data, you can optimize your dispensary’s operations to your customers' needs.


The resiliency of the cannabis industry


While things may not be perfect in the cannabis industry, and adapting to the new norm has been hard, the cannabis industry has shown its resiliency in the months that the virus has been affecting the economy. The fact that some retailers have been able to improve their sales and loyalty redemptions during the months that COVID has changed the world speaks volumes to not only the resiliency of dispensaries, but also the resiliency of their customers and the industry itself.

The world isn’t over and things will get better. But until then we have to continue persisting through our new norm. Hopefully with the help of these marketing strategies, you can continue to grow your business despite the state of the world. Stay safe out there.


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