The following is adapted from Breaking the Stigma by Charlena Berry.
In summer 2020, my partner, Darrell, and I took our daughter and one of her friends on a 30-day RV trip around the country, concentrated in the Southwest. When we entered Texas, we saw a billboard that made us laugh: “Only 262 miles to Bucc-ee’s. You can hold it.” As we kept driving, we saw more billboards, counting down the miles to the Bucc-ee’s.
When we finally reached the Bucc-ee’s, of course we had to stop. Never have I seen so many gas pumps in one spot—easily more than 40. Because there were so many pumps, we didn’t have to wait in line to fuel up. As an added bonus, they were well lit and spacious, with a layout that made it easy to pull the RV in and refuel.
Like most families on vacation, as Darrell filled up the RV, the first stop for the rest of us was the bathroom. Just like the pumps, the bathroom was clean, spacious, and well lit. We then spent some time exploring the store. They had cheap ice, which we always needed, a lot of interesting souvenirs, and good food.
We were in Texas, which is known for BBQ, so I got a brisket taco. It. Was. Phenomenal. We literally spent hours walking around that gas station. Even our dogs loved it because there was a special grassy area for them to do their business. Bucc-ee’s had thought of absolutely everything a family might need or want while traveling, and so the entire experience was delightful.
On that trip, we saw some of the most beautiful sights our country has to offer—the vastness of the Grand Canyon, the beautiful colors and cliffs of Zion National Park, the mountains and geysers of Yellowstone. When I think about the best, most memorable moments of the vacation, right up there with the natural splendor of the rugged Southwest, is Bucc-ee’s. That is the power of a great customer experience.
The Customer Experience is Everything
As the owner of a cannabis-based business, do you want to expand your customer base? Build customer loyalty? Improve revenue? Stand out from the competition? The customer experience is how you do all of that.
The customer experience is everything, and I’m only exaggerating a little. The customer experience encompasses every single interaction your customer has with your store—from advertising and branding, to the physical store location itself, to the purchase process, to the use of your products. Anything that affects the way the customer thinks or feels about your store is part of the customer experience.
Customers—and your ability to attract and retain them—will make or break your business. Customers are how we make a profit, and if we want customers to choose to spend their hard-earned dollars with us instead of a competitor, we need to give them a delightful customer experience, so that they enjoy shopping with us.
Generate a Competitive Advantage
A delightful customer experience generates the most important competitive advantage you can have in this industry: customer loyalty. Think about it: a customer can essentially walk into any dispensary and find what they want. By default then, most customers are going to go to whichever store is most convenient for them or has the lowest prices.
Theoretically, we could slash our profit margins in order to offer the cheapest prices, but that is not particularly sustainable or profitable. Rather than trying to win individual sales in this way, we should be trying to win customers. A single sale might be worth $100, but if you can win a customer for life, you’re looking at thousands of dollars in customer lifetime value.
Not only do loyal customers generate more profit long term, but they are one of the best ways to attract new customers. If someone tells me they’re going to Texas, the first thing I say is “You have to go to Bucc-ee’s!” That kind of word-of-mouth advertising is hugely valuable, particularly in an industry like cannabis.
Change the Stigma
Because of the stigma and the fear and shame around cannabis, many customers are going to feel nervous walking into a dispensary, especially for the first time. The recommendation of someone they know and trust will have a big influence.
And, when they do come in, the customer experience is how we can begin changing the stigma. A customer might start out being afraid of cannabis or expecting us to be “lazy stoners.” Through the customer experience, we can eliminate their fears and educate them, making them feel safe and comfortable.
Ultimately, with warm service and professional operations, we can change their image of cannabis.
For more advice on how to create an amazing experience for your customers, you can find Breaking the Stigma on Amazon.
Charlena Berry founded Cannabis Business Growth after spending more than a decade in Supply Chain and Retail Operations for Fortune 500 companies like Whirlpool and Office Depot/Office Max. A global cannabis business executive and the company’s principal consultant, Charlena forms strategic partnerships, guides entrepreneurs, and leads projects in all sectors of the cannabis industry, from cultivation and manufacturing to commercial retail and distribution. A witness to the impact of addiction and the illicit market, Charlena is a proud advocate for cannabis and its potential for healing and personal growth.