With a few exceptions, running a cannabis dispensary is very similar to running any other kind of customer-facing retail store. Sure, all clients must be of a certain age and, depending on the state, may need to show their medical cannabis license before they can walk in the doors, but the purpose of the store is the same: to sell customers something they need.
One of the most effective retail strategies that cannabis dispensaries can borrow from other retail stores are pop-up shops. According to Business Insider Intelligence, 51% of retail professionals believe pop-up shops improved their market visibility, while 46% saw an increase in sales. Looking to improve your social media engagement or increase traffic to your website? Pop-ups can help with those, too.
All of this may sound well and fine, but actually executing a pop-up for the first time can be intimidating. Fortunately, we’ve executed quite a few successful pop-ups ourselves and have some insider tips for those who might just be getting started.
First, What’s a Pop-Up?
Pop-ups are typically defined as temporary, unexpected events in unique spaces. They “pop up” and then after a few hours, days, or months (depending on the space and event), they pop back down again. Although they’ve been used as a marketing tool for over a decade, the element of surprise behind them has been contributing to a growth in popularity these past few years.
Pop-ups can be as big or as small as you’d like them to be, and don’t always require a huge financial investment. They’re a fun way to get to know your customers and promote new products or partnerships. Although they aren’t a good fit for every industry, the cannabis industry has been embracing pop-ups and other events as a key marketing strategy.
Be Selective with Products
When brainstorming pop-up shop products (or ideas if you’re putting on a seminar), be mindful of the products you’re pushing out. You should always select products that match the demographics of the audience you’ll be primarily catering to. For example, a “How to Dab” class might be a good idea for newer cannabis smokers, but might not be the best fit for the wealthier or older demographics. If you’re pushing out a brand new product, dedicate most of the pop-up table towards those new products.
Ultimately, be selective and focus only on the most important products. You don’t want to overwhelm your pop-up visitors with an overly-cluttered display table. A “less is more” mentality is important, especially when it comes to pop-ups.
Timing is Everything
Usually, people attend pop-ups based on convenience, meaning they don’t typically schedule them into their calendars. For this reason, it’s best to get information out about your event about 5-7 days in advance. (This is when having an email list comes in handy!) If another retailer or restaurant in your vicinity is having an event, consider planning your pop-up then, as you’ll be able to take advantage of heavier than usual foot traffic without having to pay for ads or marketing.
For more ideas on how to market your pop-up, check out our 420 Guide for Retailers. Although it focuses on 420, the information still applies to pop-ups and other planned retail events.
Give Stuff Away / Make it a Party
People are also very motivated by incentives. We’ve all seen grocery stores giving away gift cards on their grand opening -- what’s to stop you from doing the same? Put together swag bags, sync up with a local restaurant that has a food truck, and raffle off prizes throughout the day. Make sure to take lots of pictures and share the fun on social media. If you take enough photos, you might even be able to use the content on social media for months to come. It’s a win-win for everyone!
Note: if you plan on sharing the photos on social media, be sure to ask for permission. Not everyone is comfortable with their photos being on social media, especially when cannabis is involved.
Have Honest Conversations
Pop-ups are a really great opportunity for dispensaries to learn about their patients and vice versa. Most people who stop by a table at a pop-up event are very candid about their thoughts and experiences with medical cannabis. Think of a pop-up not only as an opportunity for potential patients to learn more about your brand but as a unique opportunity for you to learn about them. Even negative conversations can be a learning experience for how you can better improve your brand image and marketing tactics.
Whether you speak to attendees face to face or encourage them to fill out a survey online, these events are a “free” way for you to learn more about your target audience.
Make Them Educational
Although pop-ups are primarily thought of as being fun, that doesn’t mean they can’t be educational. If you’re showcasing a new product, be sure to have the ingredients and other relevant information handy. If you’re putting on a how-to demonstration, run through it a few times with a test audience so you can work out any kinks ahead of time. If you want your pop-up attendees to take you seriously, it’s important to educate them and be prepared to answer any questions they may have.
Some fun educational ideas include product demonstrations, Q&A sessions, or seminars by trusted doctors and leaders in the medical cannabis industry.
Up Your Technology Ante
The weeks and days leading up to your pop-up event are a good opportunity for you to take inventory of your technology and payment methods to ensure they’re up to the task. Pop-ups are an extension of a retail brand, so if the checkout process is chaotic or clunky, your dispensary foot traffic could suffer. By upgrading to a wireless POS system that runs off WiFi, you can ensure all transactions are accurately recorded in your system and are transmitted to your state’s reporting database. This way, you’ll remain compliant and will be able to keep up with the extra traffic in your store.
Note: if your POS system does run off WiFi, have a back-up method of accepting payments in mind in case your WiFi is down the day of the event. Mobile is a great option.
Learn from Your Mistakes
If this is your first pop-up event, mistakes will be made, but as long as you’re learning something from them at least they won’t be made in vain. Either immediately after the event or shortly thereafter, while the event is fresh in everyone’s minds, have a wrap-up meeting with your team. Discuss what went well, what could have gone smoother, and how you can make your next pop-up event even better.
The more pop-ups you put on, the more you’ll learn. Before you know it, you’ll be a pro. Keep an eye on our social media for fun pop-up events near you.