When Steve Lopez, CEO of The Green Solution (TGS), a Colorado-based vertically integrated business with 21 retail locations in the state, oversaw the implementation of his company’s first self-serve kiosk in the first quarter of 2020, he intended to offer a faster service at one of the company’s busiest locations.
It is safe to say that after installing the company’s 56th kiosk in its 21st and final dispensary on Sept. 21, he had no idea how useful and popular those machines would become during the upcoming global pandemic.
The kiosks “give convenience, but they also give safety,” Lopez told Cannabis Dispensary. “Now, with the kiosk, what you can do is come in and if you don’t want to go out onto the sales floor because you’re worried about your health and being around too many people, … you can check in with your phone number that gives you all your loyalty points, and then you can produce an order right there at the kiosk.”
Colorado legalized cannabis vending machines earlier this year, but as opposed to a regular vending machine that has a limited selection and quantity of products that it can dispense before it needs to be restocked, TGS’s kiosks allow customers to order from the location’s entire menu, Lopez added.
The kiosk software is tied to the company’s customer loyalty program and online ordering platform. Customers who order from the kiosk generally can expect their order to be ready for pick up within 4 minutes of completing the ordering process.
But a self-serve kiosk can be a bad investment if you don’t implement it with intention into your retail experience. Here are 7 tips from Lopez on how to integrate and leverage self-serve kiosks at your dispensary.
1-Make sure the software is intuitive.
Whether you are buying a software package off the shelf or developing your own customized app, the software customers interface with should be easy to use and intuitive. TGS opted for the latter after not finding a ready-made solution on the market that met its custom specifications, the CEO said.
“It’s gotta be intuitive so that we have adoption,” Lopez said. “Without that you don’t get the adoption.” Hidden menus, tough-to-navigate designs and a check-out cart that is difficult to edit all hinder the goal of installing a kiosk: get a customer in and out quicker.
2-Choose hardware with large screens that will withstand heavy use.
Quality hardware is more than just the initial performance, Lopez said, but continued high-performance over time. “Those screens are going through a lot more traffic these days,” he said. Everything from foot traffic to the number of kiosks that you have in a location will also influence your hardware’s lifespan.
When selecting hardware, Lopez also advised dispensary owners select screens that are at least 30 inches tall and 18 inches wide. Having larger screens “really helps with our older demographic of folks coming in [whose] eyes are not as strong,” he said.
3-Place the kiosks in a convenient location.
Convenience being king, self-serve kiosks should be located near the front of the store in a conspicuous location. TGS placed their kiosks near its express-checkout windows used for online order pickups, “so what happens once that order [is placed], then it goes to the back of the house, [employees] pull from inventory and then fulfill it at that window.” Having dedicated employees at the express window also will help decrease processing times.
4-Give customers an incentive to use the kiosks.
One obvious incentive for customers to use a self-serve kiosk is a faster overall purchasing experience, Lopez said. The COVID-19 pandemic is another incentive outside of a dispensary operator’s control that could contribute to system adoption. But you must be able to deliver on those incentives. If the learning curve for the system is too steep, customers won’t feel like they are actually saving time.
TGS has a dedicated employee to help customers familiarize themselves with the self-serve kiosk system. “After they’ve had their ID checked and they go into the kiosk, we help them either just check in” to the kiosk system, he said. “We don’t actually jump on the kiosk ourselves. We let our customers do it as we’re walking them through.” After they’ve done it once, the “second time is easier. Third time they’re pros and just know where everything is.”
5-Offer product information, but don’t overload your self-serve customers.
An easy mistake to make with kiosks is thinking of them as virtual budtenders or customer service representatives. Filling product pages with detailed information might seem like a service to customers, but are you doing so at the cost of convenience and speed?
While TGS does have key product information listed on its kiosk product pages, the company keeps its on-screen message simple. Customers looking for more detailed product information also are “why we have one person that’s assisting in the kiosk area too,” Lopez said. “So not only can they ask questions about how to tell you the order within the kiosk itself, but they can also ask questions about the products.”
6-Keep the “recommended products” to a minimum.
Relatedly, Lopez advises against being too aggressive with recommending related products or “upselling” in your self-serve kiosk platform. “You have to be very selective on how much you’re going to [recommend], because once again, it’s about convenience.”
While a budtender helping a customer purchase a concentrate might ask that customer whether they have a dab rig, a torch or a nail and have a conversation, “on a kiosk, you don’t stray off the products that you’re really searching for and looking to procure,” Lopez said. “You’re picking from two or three things instead of having a conversation with a budtender.”
7-Sanitize your kiosks after every use.
With your kiosks being in prominent locations, customers will notice if you forget to sanitize your station between customers. Making sure the station is cleaned after every customer (a task done by TGS’s designated self-serve kiosk employee) also will help give customers the confidence to try out the system. If people in the waiting area “see you cleaning [the kiosks] all the time, they understand, ‘Hey, as soon as I’m done, somebody walks up and cleans it,’” Lopez detailed.
And in this tumultuous period, this rule should extend to the entire dispensary, not just reserved to the kiosks. Lopez said what once was viewed as a “sterile environment” has turned into TGS’s strengths during the pandemic. “We’ve actually had clients that have come back to us, that have had dispensaries that have moved closer to their house, but they’re willing to go the extra distance because they have that trust in us that it’s going to be a clean environment.”
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