It's not easy to be a retailer today: competition is fierce; staffing is a challenge; inflation is squeezing profits; consumer confidence is on a seesaw; and to make matters worse, retailers now need to invest both offline and online to meet modern consumers where they are and cater to their ever-evolving, always-surprising tastes, as McKinsey puts it.
Across industries, the benefits of unifying the customer experience between online and offline retail channels are undeniable. These days, you can’t expect anyone to remain loyal to your brand if you keep forgetting their name, give them a different price for the same product on different channels, or tell them a product is in stock at the shop around the corner when it’s not.
But many retailers are still hesitant to go all-in on the omnichannel shopping experience because they think it’s beyond their reach. According to the National Retail Federation and OSF Digital, the adoption of omnichannel best practices among retailers in North America is barely higher today than when they started keeping track seven years ago (61% vs. 54%). It's one thing for Amazon, Macy’s, Kroger or Home Depot to invest in omnichannel. These top retailers have deep pockets to pull it off. But small and medium-sized retailers don’t have giant budgets or time to experiment and weigh their options. Many are struggling to find the right mix of in-store investments, digital capabilities and martech building blocks (like data onboarding, CDPs, personalization, loyalty programs or advanced analytics) to make the most of the omnichannel opportunity.
Thankfully, new solutions are now available to help smaller retailers bridge the gap, and one of the most promising developments comes in the form of in-store interactive screens. We’re not talking about the digital signage of yore with passive branding messages and bland promotional offers. Today’s crop of screen-led solutions offers retailers a more direct and personal way to connect with the customer, cultivate their loyalty, accelerate sales and create new revenue streams. And as it turns out, some of the first retailers to take advantage of these new capabilities are cannabis dispensaries.
Let’s review how these smart retailers are using interactive screens to deliver best-in-class customer experiences and drive growth.
A portal into the world of cannabis
Dispensaries cater to consumers with a wide range of experiences. Many are first-time buyers, while others are just as knowledgeable as the store’s budtenders. For dispensaries in newly opened markets and MSOs catering to consumers in multiple states, it’s become imperative to have the right tools in place to learn about a shopper’s preferences and customize the retail experience accordingly. That’s why many of them are embracing in-store interactive screens. A frequent patron may use an interactive screen to check out with a QR code and be quickly on their way. A first-timer, on the other hand, may use it to explore available products and narrow down their options before talking to the budtender to finalize their purchase. All the while, POS-connected digital menus keep pricing and product inventory fully updated and deliver tailored promotional offers. Think Amazon or Google, but without the scourge of retargeting.
A Swiss army knife for your marketing
A few years ago, a team of researchers under the auspices of the MMA industry association found that marketing creates value for customers in three key areas: Engagement (stories, purpose, community), Experience (convenience, enjoyment or customer service), and Exchange (things like targeting, personalization or loyalty programs). Interactive screens are a golden opportunity for dispensaries to win on all three fronts. They’re purpose-built to engage cannabis shoppers with exciting content about the brands and products at the store, and they deliver a winning experience through effortless product discovery and self-service ordering. But it’s their ability to convert shoppers and capture loyalty sign-ups on the spot that may have the most far-reaching impact on the company’s bottom line. Loyal customers, after all, are the gift that keeps on giving: they shop more often, spend more and go to bat for the brands they love.
A growth engine for your brand partnerships
There are many cannabis brands and products out there, and the learning curve can be steep. The best budtenders know how to take their customers by the hand and make them comfortable with their purchase decisions, but that takes time. And while they’re busy with existing customers, other shoppers at the store are looking at their watches or looking up information on their phones. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Interactive screens give retailers a platform to fill that space with targeted messages and promotional offers from their brand partners, allowing those brands to reach consumers where they’re most receptive: at the point of purchase. And in the process, they also give retailers a chance to monetize their unique audiences. If you thought that retail media networks were the exclusive playground of large companies like Kroger, Target or Instacart, think again.
An all-in-one media channel and optimizer
The holy grail for all advertisers, not just in cannabis, is to measure the impact of their campaigns on the bottom line and have the systems in place to make adjustments along the way. But with nearly every media channel—from digital to TV, social or event sponsorship—the distance between brand exposure and sales outcome is often too great to be directly actionable. By the time the data has been captured and analyzed, the window to change course with the current campaign has long passed, and advertisers are left with no other choice but to apply what they learned to their next campaign. But interactive screens are not like any other media channel: They’re the last point of contact before purchase, and as such have an outsized effect on a customer’s ultimate purchase decision. With the right partners, dispensaries can offer brands a closed-loop ecosystem where they can influence prospective buyers, optimize their messaging and see immediate results at the cash register.
It’s time to bring the omnichannel retail experience to life
Twenty years ago, when omnichannel retail first emerged and HBR referred to it as bricks and clicks, the priority for retailers was to synchronize supply chains, distribution systems and management structures between online and offline properties. Branding was an afterthought, as was the actual customer experience.
We’re way past that threshold now. In 2023 and beyond, the priority for omnichannel retail is to bring to life the phygital shopping experience, as the futurists at McKinsey call it. Let’s hope the term itself dies a quick death, but the questions they raise go to the heart of the matter: “Is a store just about a transaction, or is it a place where I can offer community and experiences that are aligned with my brand?” they ask. “As customers get used to shopping online, what’s going to make them come to the store? How do you think about driving engagement with the brand, driving product knowledge, making it a fun experience, and removing all the friction in that experience?”
To be sure, interactive screens are not the only solution to those questions. Progressive retailers are hard at work selecting new retail sites, redesigning their stores, recruiting professional staff, polishing up their apps and websites, even staking claims in the nascent metaverse. But screens are an excellent place to start and see near-immediate returns. At Fyllo, we’ve had the opportunity to work with top MSOs and witness the effect that new interactive screens have had on their ability to promote their product offerings, cultivate their customers, accelerate sales and drive growth in new, unexpected directions. We’ve been so impressed that we’ve designed a whole new ecosystem around those screen-based capabilities. We call it the Fyllo Retail Suite, and we can’t wait to show you what it can do for your business.