February 17, 2022

How one California dispensary found their “Vibe” with integrated cannabis ecommerce and POS

February 17, 2022

Discovering the right cannabis software to fit your operations can be difficult in a constantly changing market. There’s a growing list of considerations when rules and regulations change almost weekly. While some things are similar, we know cannabis is much more complex than typical retail. You may be wondering how you can combine your tools while simplifying operations and boosting revenue. We virtually “sat down” with Richard McLean, the Head of Retail at Vibe by California, to learn how the chain navigated this process.

Vibe is a multi-state dispensary operator on a mission to elevate wellness vibes in California and Oregon. With a community-first approach, they help to create a safe, inclusive, and diverse environment that welcomes consumers of every level. The Vibe staff also prides themselves in supporting the LQBTQ+ community.

Vibe’s beginnings and journey of growth.

Vibe by California was established in 2016. The first store was originally named Alpine Alternative in Sacramento, the second was Port City in Stockton, and the third store was the Redding store by Vibe. Now, Vibe stores all fall under the same brand name. They have five total locations and are in the process of opening two more. With an impressive start, the vertically-integrated chain is looking to grow their retail footprint along with their branded products.

Vibe requires a flexible POS to meet their growth goals and to reduce the number of manual processes that cause customers longer wait times. They had a history of switching providers in hopes of finding the most customizable ones. They also operate a little differently than other retailers, offering extra loyalty points on their own line of products and positioning the budtender as a shopping guide that operates separately from the checkout station.

Richard came from a long history of high-end retail management work. He explains just how many roadblocks appeared when they were using the wrong software:

“It probably cost us a full-time employee a week or more, because even if it [the manual corrections] took a minute per transaction, so when you talk about doing an override at 5 different stores, it cost us and the customers a lot of time.”

After Richard tried multiple different POS systems, Vibe by California was ready for something new. They needed a point of sale that would work together with their ecommerce provider for more efficient sales, custom discounts, customer loyalty, and stress-free reporting.

POS & ecommerce integrated discounts: better together.

There are many benefits to using platforms from a single provider. Integrations tend to be stronger, meaning the product information flows better. Each store in a chain can offer its own discount types and they don’t have to be the same across the board (like flat-rate amounts off). Prices are especially likely to vary when each location has a different tax rate.

“Unique sales are easier with Dutchie,” says Richard. Mismatched sales on POS and ecommerce tools would lead to an overall headache for both the staff and the customer, in his experience. Since 50% off doesn’t always work out as a direct BOGO, this type of special would get more complicated with deliveries, causing the need for refunds and voids at the register. This slowed Vibe down.

Richard says customers would make the cart online and then get frustrated trying to redeem the special in the store. One of their previous providers was also not available in Oregon, so they had to have multiple POS solutions across their operation. This caused Vibe a lot of issues, their teams had to learn different products that didn’t communicate between locations.

More automation between their in-store and online sales became the goal in a moving market.

“Discounts drive people into the store. So seeing that the Dutchie discounts were as flexible as the ones I can offer online to my shoppers was really important. Now they don’t need to do any fancy workarounds to make their discounts work seamlessly online and in-store at the register. What they show online, they can do in-store, or however they want.”

Vibe used the flexibility to create a loyal customer base.

Changing your loyalty points on a regular or semi-regular basis can confuse customers. Some POS operators pre-program their loyalty points, making it difficult to match the current store’s process in the point of sale. This is what happened with Vibe’s former software provider, where [x] number of points would equal [x] number of dollars. It caused them to have to build a whole new loyalty program. When processes are always changing, customers are often less likely to buy into a loyalty program because the rewards may seem too far out of reach.

“Now, with the new system, I am able to apply loyalty points by product. As in, this product is worth this many points, and customers are then able to cash that out.” Richard says, referring to Dutchie

For Vibe, that meant more than just maintaining a consistent program for customers. Instead, they wanted to create more incentives for their own brand. “Since we are vertically integrated, we wanted to create more “bang” for our own product.”

Reporting became easier with the switch to a single data source, too.

Information is hard to track down when it is scattered between multiple pre-set reports. Richard says that previously, his store managers had to run four different reports just to answer some basic KPIs. This made it harder to share reports with other managers and made state reporting take longer when the end-of-day reports needed to go to METRC.

They found that the solution performed better when coming from one platform.

“With Dutchie, I can create exactly the kind of report I need and simply run that one report. They [my managers] can customize the view as a flash report on their monitors and just look at what they want to see.”

Vibe experienced an overall revenue increase and operations became much smoother.

Dutchie’s discounting ability and loyalty flexibility created significantly less abandoned carts for Vibe. Richard says that the process was so convoluted before that customers would give up on the value of the sale.

They were leaving 5% of their revenue on the table, which they have since regained.

“Our online cart abandonment went down by half when switching to Dutchie Ecommerce and Dutchie, just because it is so much easier to do a deal and retain loyal customers.”

Vibe used the ecommerce product first and then gave the LeafLogix Point of Sale, which is now Dutchie POS, a try. The overall customization of the new POS is making the overall operations vibe more efficiently. Richard feels that they have gotten to a stable place that can act as a foundation for growth. He is looking forward to the two new stores in Salinas and Ukiah, California, coming in the early spring of next year.

So do fewer data sources mean smoother operations? We’ll let you be the judge—but flexibility is always key in cannabis.

About the author
The Dutchie Squad