Between navigating the tangle of regulations and keeping up with internal inventory tracking, order fulfillment can be a challenging prospect for dispensaries. Here, James Minutello, founder and CEO of Leaf Logix, a seed-to-sale software platform for the cannabis industry, offers his tips for getting customers the products they want.
1. Know your state and local regulations, and always be compliant.
As with most aspects of running a cannabis business, order fulfillment processes are often regulated at the state and local level, Minutello says. Across the board, many retailers only accept cash payments, and any online ordering is driven by customers still going to the store to make payments and pick up the products.
Another common thread is traceability, Minutello adds. All products sold—and the price for which they sold—must be tracked so that state tax payments can be monitored and followed. Age and patient verifications must also be conducted, both through the company’s website at the time of order for online ordering and again at the time of pick-up or delivery, Minutello says.
Municipalities may also have their own requirements, he adds. “It’s really the same as the state level except the local municipalities just want their own hand in the mix,” he says. “They want their own reporting. They want their district to feel comfortable with the process.”
For delivery services, operators should pay close attention to the laws in each municipality, he adds, to ensure they are not in violation of a local ordinance on the way to their destination. “Just as an example, they may cross through a municipality that doesn’t allow commercial cannabis delivery or they may exceed a local limit on carried inventory in one municipality versus another,” Minutello says. “So, if the driver gets pulled over in the wrong zip code, they could be facing fines or whatever the state deems adequate, which could be worse.”
2. Use one integrated system.
Dispensaries should use one system that integrates every piece of the inventory management puzzle, Minutello says, including processing, order fulfillment, distribution, point of sale and delivery services.
“If that vertical workflow is integrated, that’s a major asset because the systems don’t have to speak to outside systems,” he says. “They have enough of that required with the state and so forth, but internally within a company, you want to have an integrated system.”
This system should be electronic, Minutello adds. “That entire process should be captured electronically for state compliance, visibility and just general streamlined efforts so you’re reducing labor and not finding a needle in a haystack amongst systems.”
3. Use an electronic and sync-able process.
“Managing the state requirements, which very often are complex, is really done through an electronic process that is an [application programming interface (API)] between the data coming in and what goes in through their system,” Minutello says.
Manual processes can lead to disjointed data due to human error, he says, and they can also be incredibly labor-intensive and time-consuming. Electronic systems, like the one provided by Leaf Logix, offers checks and balances to eliminate errors, and produces a balance report of any unacceptable variances at the end of each work day, Minutello says.
Electronic order fulfillment systems should also be synced with the state’s tracking systems, such as Metrc or MJ Freeway, as well as the dispensary’s menu boards and online ordering systems.
“From a customer experience and workflow perspective, it’s important that the dispensaries are able to sync their inventory with the public-facing menus in real time,” Minutello says. “[Leaf Logix syncs] in real time, and between the dispensary’s website and third-party directories—marketplaces—it can be easy for the dispensary to display inaccurate menu data and accept orders for pickup or delivery that never end up being fulfilled. They cannot be fulfilled with the inaccuracies. This can lead also to damage to your brand and very poor customer experience.”
Dispensaries should also be able to track inventory that has been pulled for pre-orders, so in-store customers cannot inadvertently purchase products that are being held for pick-up or delivery.
“[With] our system, for example, once something goes into the [online] shopping cart, it’s simultaneously out of the inventory, so a [retailer] never has to explain, ‘We thought we had that inventory, [but] we do not any longer,’” Minutello says.
4. Consider a separate register or process for pre-orders.
If possible, dispensaries should facilitate pre-orders through an e-commerce interface that is powered by the business’s point-of-sale software, Minutello says.
“The inventory that is available [for pre-order should be pulled] directly from your store’s inventory in real-time, as I mentioned, and your orders [should be] seated directly into your point of sale, which is holding them in pre-order, in a pre-order queue for pick-up and delivery,” he says. “That’s held for the party that’s getting the delivery or that’s going to pick it up, and again, it prevents the uneasiness of customer service having to explain and apologize, and also the customer [is] getting what they want, when they want it.”
Retailers should consider having a separate register or system for accepting and processing pre-orders to streamline the process, he adds.
And pre-orders don’t just have to be taken online, he says—they can also be accepted by store employees using mobile devices. A customer can look at the menu, ask questions and give their order to the designated pre-order employee, who then inputs it on the mobile device, and when the customer gets to the register, the budtender has the order pre-packaged and ready to go.
5. Choose a reputable software provider.
The No. 1 piece of order fulfillment advice Minutello offers to dispensaries is to choose a reputable software provider.
“Choose a reputable software provider that can provide solutions that actually streamline the process electronically … and allows the company to focus on the sale of the products while still staying compliant,” he says. “It’s as simple as using integrated solutions so you have accurate data—real time data—[that’s] processed with the state in an efficient manner.”
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