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When it comes to driving sales in your dispensary, there are a lot of strategies that come to mind — targeted marketing, impeccable customer service, and competitive pricing, to name a few. But there's one strategy that can have a serious impact on your dispensary sales that you might have overlooked: merchandising.

“The retail cannabis experience is taking on an entirely new significance for many consumers, as it is transforming into a full-fledged browsing exercise,” said Eric Layland, founder of cannabis branding and marketing firm Canna Ventures. “This shopping phenomenon is marked by the practice of entering a dispensary without an agenda and letting the products guide purchasing decisions.”

But how important is merchandising to your dispensary? How does it impact your bottom line? And what are some of the top merchandising strategies you can leverage to connect with customers and drive sales?

Why Merchandising is Important

Merchandising is important for a number of reasons — and the first? The dramatic increase in the number of products on the market.

According to a case study conducted by the Brightfield Group, in 2016 the average cannabis dispensary carried around 90 branded products,” Layland said. “The same study reports that dispensaries carried an average of 150 branded products in late 2018, representing a 165% increase in this specific inventory.”

With so many products to choose from, it's important to merchandise your products in a way that makes it easy for customers to browse — otherwise, you risk overwhelming them.

The average dispensary carried an average of 150 products in late 2018, up 165% from two years earlier. Retailers must be prepared to have these items in stock and sell through their inventories. (Photo by Gina Coleman/Weedmaps)

Turns out merchandising is also important to customers. According to data collected by retail sales software company Repsly, 75% of shoppers expect a consistent merchandising experience wherever they shop — and 50% of shoppers are likely to switch brands if a company doesn't anticipate their needs.

So, in a nutshell, effective merchandising can help customers better navigate your store and the products you sell, which can help drive sales — while ineffective merchandising can be a major red flag to customers, which can negatively impact your bottom line.

Merchandising Tips to Drive Sales in Your Dispensary

Clearly, effective merchandising is a must. But what, exactly, does effective merchandising look like in a dispensary?

Let's take a look at a few merchandising tips to drive sales and help you take your dispensary to the next level:

Plan for Unplanned Purchases

Very few people go to the grocery store to pick up a candy bar or a pack of gum. But because they're strategically placed at the checkout lines, customers are more likely to grab them on their way out — and these impulse buys can have a huge impact on sales. In fact, according to the data collected by Repsly, unplanned purchases make up between 46% and 70% of total purchases in store.

And it's the same thing with dispensaries. If you can anticipate those unplanned impulse buys, you can strategically merchandise your dispensary to take advantage of those purchases — and drive sales in the process.

Opening up a dispensary's sales floor allows customers to shop more freely and be exposed to more cannabis products. (Photo by Gina Coleman/Weedmaps)

“What's important is strategically placing add-on items — and that's something that we found a lot of success in,” said David Farris, Director of Marketing at Planet 13, a major dispensary in Las Vegas. “So, products that are below $20 in retail value and appropriately placing them next to the register or in a strategic location. Because some of these items are really grab-and-go items that you may have forgotten about, so while you're at the register [or] while you're waiting, you might want to add these things in [to your purchase.]”

Open Up Your Sales Floor

How you display your products is an important part of merchandising — but so is how easily your customers can view and interact with those products.

The flow of foot traffic in your store is going to have a huge impact on sales; by allowing customers to browse freely between cases, you increase the number of products they're exposed to — and, as a result, increase the likelihood that they'll buy those products. “We've …  changed the way our format is on the actual dispensary floor to allow customers to really browse, and we've noticed that opening up your sales floor and creating … “hot spots” on that sales floor is really beneficial on each category,” Farris said.

By opening up your sales floor and allowing customers to move more freely, you can also observe where in your dispensary customers are most drawn to — and use that information to drive sales of specific products.

“We've been able to test certain products and where they're displayed in our store, and we think it has a really strong impact on where foot traffic is and how that translates to sales,” Farris said. “We have changed around our displays on the sales floor over the past few months and we do see those strengths in having a whole display case ... being where there's a lot of foot traffic.”

Always Look for Ways to Improve

Merchandising isn't a one-and-done tactic; in order for merchandising to have a significant, long-term impact on sales, you need to continually evaluate your process and looking for ways to improve.

“We do have consistent meetings on how we are displaying products, what's working, what's not,” Farris said. “It's a continuous effort, and I think that's what people don't realize. It's not that, 'Hey, we put in this display case and leave it there for three months.' It's something that we're switching around constantly and always fine-tuning as we see customers browse the floor — and what grabs their attention and what doesn't.”

In order for your dispensary to succeed, you need to do everything in your power to connect with consumers and increase sales. And with the right merchandising, you can ensure that every customer that walks into your dispensary gets the full experience of your products — and drive sales in the process.

Feature image by Gina Coleman/Weedmaps