You might have heard of the entourage effect: the idea that full-spectrum extracts of cannabis are more potent, and have greater medical benefits, than products based on a single compound, like CBD or other isolates.It’s not a sure thing. Despite being first observed nearly 25 years ago, the entourage effect has yet to be fully validated. But for those of us who are not pharmacologists, the notion that “the plant does it better,” as researcher and advocate Ethan Russo puts it, or that the sum is greater than its parts, carries a certain appeal. And consumers seem to agree: full-spectrum extracts are the dominant form of cannabis extracts around, according to Grand View Research, and they’re expected to be a key driver for market growth in coming years.
Why are we talking about full-spectrum extracts? Because there’s a big lesson here for cannabis loyalty programs.
Loyalty is great. A recent report by WM Technology highlights that more than half (54%) of cannabis users have a favorite brand, and loyal customers spend 13% more than the average customer, according to Headset data in Washington State. They shop more often too, and tend to advocate for the brand. Over the long term, even a simple boost in loyalty can have a dramatic impact on a company’s profits.
But not all loyalty programs are created equal. In today’s highly competitive marketplace, cannabis marketers need to take their cue from the products they’re selling, and embrace loyalty programs that can blend multiple capabilities into a unified solution. It’s not enough to offer a mobile app and push rewards to preferred customers anymore. Or send out SMS reminders. Or turn on social integration.
To stand out from the crowd now, and foster enduring relationships with their customers, brand and dispensary marketers need to pack their loyalty programs with dozens of features: exclusive discounts and promotions, yes, but also an easy-to-use redemption structure; status and recognition opportunities; personalized experiences; gamification; alignment with favorite causes; community engagement; even symbiotic brand partnerships. And they need to have the capability to turn those features on and off based on what they know about their customers, and where they stand in their overall journey with the brand.
That’s easier said than done. Many retailers are still saddled with monolithic loyalty management systems. We’re not talking copper tokens, green stamps, or punch cards, but close. Adding a new feature to those legacy systems could spell as much trouble as converting a car to electric: You could spend six months rewiring the whole thing and force-fitting all the loose parts before realizing the body of the car was too heavy to begin with. Thankfully, there’s a new breed of loyalty programs available now, like Fyllo’s Promotions Engine, that are built on headless principles to allow marketers to plug and play new features without weighing down the entire infrastructure.As cannabis marketers, you should take this opportunity to:
Rethink your loyalty program around the customer
You might have started your loyalty journey eons ago with a simple points system and a single membership tier. Nothing wrong with that. Consumer research has shown that across most industries, nurturing existing buyers is often a better strategy than acquiring new buyers. The cannabis industry isn’t any different. But there’s a big gap between casual customers and your most loyal members. For market research firm NCSolutions, doubling down on repeat-buyers during the pandemic helped top brands move their customers up the loyalty ladder. Make sure that your loyalty system allows you to build such a ladder, and personalize how you interact with each and every one of your customers.
Unify your loyalty program across channels
It’s a truism in marketing circles to say that the future of marketing is omnichannel. We’re all consumers, after all, and we know full well what mess we’ve created for marketing professionals by shopping online and buying offline, or shopping offline and buying online, or buying and returning products at different locations. We also know the difference that a good online review and seamless customer experience can make. But that doesn’t make the omnichannel imperative any less urgent. In today’s highly fragmented ecosystem, you need to have a loyalty system that syncs up with every single touchpoint that a consumer might have with your brand.
Use your loyalty program to promote a two-way relationship with your customers
A good loyalty program is a win-win. Customers gain special attention from the brands they patronize, and brands gain thousands of enthusiastic ambassadors. We live in a world of influencers, after all. A good word from one of your loyal customers can do wonders for your brand or dispensary. But that balance is fragile. Macroeconomic pressure (like inflation and supply-chain disruptions) is costly enough as it is, but it gets amplified when it affects loyal customers. Make sure you have a loyalty system that’s fully integrated into your overall marketing strategy, and gives you a way to build a rich, long-term connection with your most valued customers through all the ups and downs.
Embed regulatory compliance into your loyalty program
It’s hard to keep up with everything happening on the regulatory front at the moment. There are no less than two dozen cannabis-related measures on the ballot for the 2022 midterm elections in the US. Each of those measures has the potential to impact what you can and cannot do in your loyalty program. It may restrict what first-party data you’re able to capture from your customers, what channels you may use to reach out to them, and what types of rewards you may be able to offer. A modern loyalty program will have automated compliance checks built-in, for both medical and recreational users, wherever they may be—putting your mind at ease and allowing you to focus on growing your business.
It’s a new day for loyalty programs. With the deprecation of third-party cookies and mobile device IDs, marketers are finally putting first-party data at the heart of their advertising strategy. Money is flowing in to upgrade the backbone of their marketing ecosystem, with the potential to unlock powerful new synergies between POS systems, CRM, measurement, and all the advertising channels that a brand may choose to activate its campaigns.
A unified loyalty program needs to be an integral part of that transformation. Please get in touch with us and we’ll help you get started.