When it comes to running a dispensary, you have a lot of decisions to make. Where will you be located? What products do you want to sell? Do you want to have an online presence in addition to an actual store? What do you want your name to be?
Answering all these questions is part of the fun of owning a business. After all, you are making your dream come true and becoming your own boss.
Another important question that many business owners don’t think about right away is how they will process and accept payments and manage their inventory. This is a crucial issue to think about when you own a dispensary.
Finding a provider to process your payments when you are in the cannabis market can be a challenge. Your business faces unique challenges that not all processors are equipped to handle. And, not all processors are willing or able to work with dispensaries.
Below, we’ll cover the unique challenges your business faces and why you need software to help you process card payments. Finally, you’ll find tips to help you choose the right dispensary software for you and your business.
Why You Need a POS System (and What It Is)
Did you know that 80 percent of American consumers prefer to make payments using a card versus using cash? And that consumers are willing to spend up to 100 percent more on purchases when they use a card over making purchases with cash?
And, in today’s COVID-19 world, fewer people are using cash as many businesses prefer cards to keep germs at bay. This is leading to even fewer people using cash to make purchases.
As you can see, no matter the type of business you run, the ability to accept cards for payment is essential. That’s where a POS system comes in.
A POS System stands for point of sale system and gives your dispensary the ability to accept card payments from your customers. Without one of these systems, you will only be able to accept cash or checks.
Today, most POS systems do more than just accept payments from customers. They also have a host of other features that can help business owners run reports, keep track of inventory, and generally improve their ability to manage their business.
The benefits of having a POS system are many, and you should not wait to look into one. The right system can:
- Help you manage your inventory.
- Help your dispensary stay compliant with state laws.
- Help you increase your sales.
- Help you improve customer experience.
Unique Challenges Dispensaries Face
As a dispensary owner, you are familiar with the unique challenges you face. You have to obey restrictions in your area on where you can operate, what you can sell, and even how you can advertise. These challenges even extend to your ability to accept payments.
Cannabis dispensaries may find banking in general to be a challenge. Some banks are not willing to work with retailers in this area as cannabis lives in a legal gray zone of sorts. For some banks, it’s not worth it for them to navigate these waters.
Because dispensaries face banking challenges, finding a payment processor can also be challenging. Though some may try to operate using a mainstream processor, most business owners will find they can’t quite meet their needs. Instead, you’ll want to look for software that is built for dispensaries specifically.
Though there are businesses out there that cater to the cannabis world, dispensaries should be prepared to pay slightly higher card processing fees. Though not a huge deal, it is something to keep in mind when making your budget.
One final major challenge dispensaries face when looking for a POS system is the ever-changing legal landscape. Cannabis laws and regulations are constantly changing. A dispensary POS system will be equipped to help businesses ensure they stay compliant, something general POS systems won’t do (or have the capability to).
Features to Consider
As you start to search for the best dispensary software for you, you may find you have more options than you thought. More and more companies are starting to specialize in providing these services to dispensaries as the cannabis industry continues to grow and evolve.
With that, you’ll also find you have a ton of options when it comes to features you can get. We will take a look at some helpful ones you may want, but before you shop, take some time to think about what features and capabilities you need and would like to have from your new software.
- Is the interface user-friendly? Not only will you be using it, but so will your staff. You want to check to see that it is easy to train your team members to use it and for them to use the system as they assist customers. Don’t be afraid to have your employees try out the software before you invest, so you can get a feel of how everyone uses it.
- Can you create customer profiles? Anyone who has ever worked in a store has likely heard “what did I buy last time?” from a customer. You can’t really be expected to remember every item every customer has purchased. Many dispensary software programs allow you to create customer profiles so that you can quickly answer this question and even make product recommendations based on their purchase history.
- Can you manage your inventory? Keeping an eye on your inventory is a big part of running any kind of store, including a dispensary. Many POS systems designed for cannabis dispensaries allow you not only to track how much of each product is in stock, so you know when to order more, but you can also put in information on each strain and product you have. This allows your salespeople (or budtenders) to answer customer questions quickly and ensure a product they are about to sell is in stock.
- What features does it have to help you stay compliant? Each state has strict laws around cannabis sales. If your store is found to be in violation of these laws, you can lose your operating license. Check with the POS provider to see how they can help your business stay compliant. It may be that they alert budtenders if a customer’s purchase is going to exceed a limit, or the system may be able to help you quickly send accurate reports as required.
- Can it help you create and manage a loyalty program? Customer loyalty programs reward customers for doing business with you and can help keep sales up. They are especially common and popular in the cannabis industry. But, managing it on your own can be challenging. See if the POS system you are considering can help and what features this program offers.
- Is it mobile? Your budtenders are most likely not just going to stay behind a counter. To really boost sales and provide a quality experience to customers, most will be out on the floor, meeting customers where they are. If this is important to you, make sure the software you use can be used on mobile devices like tablets and smartphones.
- What systems is it compatible with? You probably use different systems for different functions. For example, your payroll system is likely not the same as your processing software. But, you will need them to work together at some point, especially to manage tipping and any commission your salespeople earn. Check to see what systems your potential new software works with. Or, does it have the ability to handle everything?
These are just some of the capabilities dispensary software can offer. The possibilities are almost endless. Before you start your search, take a few weeks to write down what features you want and ask your employees for their input as well.
Knowing what you want in advance will ensure you get the right dispensary software for your business.
How to Pick the Best Dispensary Software for You
Now you know what kind of features can be offered and have an idea of what you will want and need for your dispensary. So, how will you pick the best software for your dispensary? You’ll need to do some research on what the different companies have to offer.
Below, we share some questions you’ll want to ask and what you’ll want to look at to help you make your decision:
- What is the state of your business? Are you just starting your dispensary, or have you been around a while and are ready to upgrade to take plastic payments? Or, do you want to change software providers because you are unhappy with your current one? See how your potential new software can help you meet the challenges faced with each state of business.
- What can the POS system make easier for you? You may struggle with inventory, so you’ll want your new system to allow you to manage inventory easier and more accurately. Or, perhaps you aren’t currently mobile, making it difficult to check out customers. Know what gaps you currently face and see how your potential new system can fill them.
- What’s your budget? Though the adage, “you get what you pay for,” is sometimes apt when it comes to selecting new dispensary software, you also can’t afford to spend outside of your budget. Know what you can spend before you search and stay within your pre-determined parameters.
- What is the company’s reputation? You not only want to ensure the product is a good one, but that the company behind the product is reliable as well. Read reviews of the company online or ask if they have references they can give you or testimonials from other clients.
- What type of support do they offer? Imagine you are in the middle of a big Saturday rush and your processing server goes down. Will your new provider have support on hand at this time? Or, will you be on your own until they open again on Monday? You’ll want to ask when their support teams are available and make sure you know how to get a hold of them.
The Step-by-Step Process
You have a lot to think about and remember as you search for the perfect software. Here’s a small step-by-step checklist to help you as you look for the right software for you:
- Take a few weeks to make a list of desired features. Meet with employees to get feedback on what they would like to see in new software for the store.
- Determine your budget range and write it down so that you will stick with it.
- Start searching online for software provider options. It is recommended that you focus your search on software providers that specialize in providing services to dispensaries and those in the cannabis industry.
- Do your research on the company and its products. Do they have good reviews? Do they offer any kind of trial period?
- Schedule a demo of any service you are interested in. This will let you see it in action and even get to interact with it a little. You’ll also be able to ask their sales team questions.
- If possible, have different members of your team try out the potential new software and gather feedback from everyone.
- Look at fees required in addition to pricing for purchasing the software (and hardware).
Taking these steps will help you make an informed decision you can feel good about.
Choosing a software provider for your dispensary is a big decision. They give you the ability to process card payments, which can help boost your sales and revenue. Plus, when you use software created specifically for a dispensary, these providers offer so much more in the way of helpful features.
Don’t plan to make this decision in one day; take time to view all the provider has to offer and make sure their system works for you. When you chose the right dispensary software, running your business will be much easier.