The backbone of any cannabis dispensary is the technology running the store. The technology allows the employees to work, the product to be marketed and sold, money to be collected, inventory to be managed, compliance to be met and, ultimately, the doors to remain open. A store’s IT is also something that supports all key functions but is not a core function. No one shops at a dispensary because the store has reliable internet – but they sure as heck will shop somewhere else if you can’t take a credit card or it’s a nightmare buying in-store. You want your IT to work, to never stop working and to be something you can set up and forget. Just the same way you forget that your spine helps you walk. In this article, you’ll learn about the 5 key pieces of technology you’ll need to successfully run a cannabis dispensary.
How will you sell your products?
The first is your point-of-sale (POS) system. There are many POS systems in the market. The expansion of cannabis into the marketplace has allowed creativity on the part of the dispensary operators. Many in the industry simply took a known POS system (such as Microsoft Dynamics), or their Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and threw a cannabis skin on their stack to give their company the sense of credibility without the expense and time necessary for a build-out. In theory, if you have enough time and money you can customize anything to your specifications and some companies build everything to their specs, including some of our clients. The reality is you want to find the right solution for your needs now and for your next step in growth. There are POS systems that are designed for niche markets, like cannabis, that are customized to your use-case. Treez is a leading enterprise cloud platform that streamlines retail supply chain operations within the cannabis market. Other companies like MJ Freeway tout that they have tracked over $20B in cannabis sales. Cannabis POS software is used by dispensaries to streamline daily business operations. Just like any other business, cannabis dispensaries need a solution that automates their business. Some features that you should ensure your solution accounts for, are: real-time inventory management, card processing, and easy integrations to the rest of your technology stack. We suggest working with a qualified partner, like Backcross, to help make this important decision.
Where will you sell your products?
The next technology that is critical to your dispensary is an e-commerce platform. Even if you are planning to be a brick and mortar only store, you will still need an e-commerce platform. Over 50% of all orders start online and either the order will be picked up in store or delivered to the buyer. So as a corollary to ecommerce, you must have some sort of delivery mechanism, including home delivery as an offering to your customers
Who owns your data?
An important area to investigate when researching e-commerce platforms is data ownership. If you do not use a customized solution, the platform vendor has access to your data as they are acting as your data warehouse. The alternative certainly exists to build your own system, however that comes at a high cost. You have to make a decision on which part of the trade-off you are comfortable with and what your actual risks are. Options like IHEART CANNABIS thrive in the industry today because of their success and expertise in the marketplace. Jane Technologies, an e-commerce startup, touts that they are not the Amazon of cannabis, but the Shopify of cannabis because they are curating backend platforms for their customers. Another popular e-commerce destination in the cannabis industry is Dutchie. Like others, Dutchie has focused on becoming a one-stop-shop for cannabis dispensaries. They cover POS, e-commerce and more integrated solutions.
Do you have traceability?
The third piece of technology that is imperative to your launch success is your data integrations across your ecosystem. Metrc is the industry-standard provider of cannabis regulatory systems in North America. Their solution allows for seed tracking from plant to sell. With an industry chained to regulations, integrations with Metrc must be easily accessible and flawless. If something goes wrong with the products you sell anywhere along the product cycle from seed to store, having the integration with Metrc may be a requirement and can save you thousands of dollars, and help to protect you and your consumers. Stay tuned for our in-depth article on Metrc coming in April.
What does your network look like?
Those 3 pieces of technology cover the “front of the house,” let’s look to the back of the house.
Your networks, both LAN (Local Area Network) and WAN (Wide Area Network), are as essential as the cannabis you sell and you must have adequate integrations, switches and access points for your equipment and connectivity. How you choose to develop your network is a pivotal decision for your company. If your network goes down, your store goes down. So the cost of your network is important both at start-up and on-going so it is reliable. Your dispensary, once up and running, cannot go down. If your internet goes down, even for half a day, it can cost you anywhere from $30K- $40K. Furthermore, if your network is not built with integrations in mind that can work with things like RFID-enabled tags for full supply chain visibility, data management, reporting services, cloud hosting, and security, you are setting yourself up for failure before you even open your doors. The reality is if your in-store network goes down you lose the ability to transact, to take or fulfill on-line orders. Money starts burning the second the internet is out. Having a primary and back-up network and maybe even a 3rd fallback network is critical. Do not make the mistake of overlooking network set up and maintenance. Even if you choose to set up your own network, we strongly recommend finding a partner with a 24/7 helpdesk. You do not have to wait for your “tech-savvy investor or cousin” to finish up work at their day job and rush to your store when something goes wrong.
Are you secure?
And finally, your security ecosystem is needed to prevent theft, leaks, hacks and remain compliant.. A big part of your security ecosystem will consist of physical, on-site cameras. Protecting your physical assets is of utmost importance as that is state regulated. Many stakes have requirements for how many cameras you have, what angles, the square foot layout of your building and how the cameras are placed. But the buck doesn’t stop there. How are you storing your data? States also have regulations on how long you store data and what data should be stored. And then if you take it further into the cybersecurity world, how are you locking down your point-of-sale system, your access points, your switches and everything connected to the Internet within your dispensary, even down to your employee iPhones that are on the internet when they are onsite. What kind of cybersecurity do you have? What kind of endpoint protection are you using? What education programs do you have in place for your employees? The #1 risk to security is employee knowledge. You can read more on a security deep dive here.
So those are the top 5 technologies. There are many more that can be used to optimize your dispensary but make sure to answer these questions before you open your doors or it will cost you money, time and heartbreaking loss of business. There are many businesses, including ours, who can help navigate these important decisions. Remember to vet your providers carefully. Backcross offers a free Alignment call for businesses looking to assess fit. To learn more about our process check out our services page and our resources page for all things cannabis IT related. We hope this article has been helpful. Best of luck!