An Introduction to Self-Ordering

Cannabis dispensaries may benefit from similar kiosk technology used in McDonald’s and other restaurants

Self-ordering kiosks are one of the most rapidly growing forms of digital engagement with customers in numerous retail vertical markets. Quick-service and fast-casual restaurant chains like McDonald’s and Panera Bread, for example, are quickly deploying kiosks and reporting on the positive results they are generating. Increased order size and overall sales, improved customer satisfaction and refocused/optimized labor are some of the key benefits they are experiencing. It is not difficult to see the coming day when self-ordering kiosks in restaurants will be as ubiquitous as self-check-in kiosks are at airports.

So, what about self-ordering kiosks for cannabis dispensaries? Certainly, there is significant opportunity in this vertical market for self-ordering kiosks to shine and deliver these same benefits for dispensary operators.

Many dispensaries suffer from long lines and wait times, leading to frustration for customers and employees, alike. If not dealt with appropriately, these frustrations can, and usually do, lead to a drag on the overall success of the dispensary. One way to deal with these problems is to add additional labor, but this, of course, can be quite costly.

Enter Self-Ordering Kiosks

Reducing long lines and wait times are the specific problems that kiosks were designed to tackle. In several retail market applications, and over the course of more than a decade, they have solved these problems effectively time and time again. In fact, kiosks have delivered additional benefits that are not as easily perceived.

Beyond the obvious benefits, kiosks can provide additional important, but less obvious, positive effects. Take order accuracy, for example. The guest is in control of the order process, just as they are in a mobile, self-ordering environment, so order accuracy naturally improves with kiosks. This increase in order accuracy can, in turn, reduce shrink, which can lead to less wasted labor and so forth.

 

Self-ordering options

Many dispensaries already have some form of online or mobile ordering app, so they may think they don’t need kiosks. This is not necessarily the case. To begin with, dispensary operators pride themselves in the brick-and-mortar investment they have made, so they want guests to visit the store and not just order online and run in to pick up their order. More importantly, many customers still want to visit the store to browse and be in direct contact with the products they are purchasing.

For these guests, the store is important; reducing the lines and wait times in the store with kiosks will resonate positively with them.

The modern dispensary is an omni-channel retail business, so just like any other, it should have all of the relevant channels in play for their guests. These channels include: in-store human attendants (budtenders and other customer service associates); in-store self-ordering kiosks; online ordering; and mobile ordering.

With all these channels available, dispensaries are more likely to satisfy every guest’s shopping preference. We have to give credit to McDonald’s and perhaps take a cue from the burger giant: McDonald’s has a very large brick-and-mortar presence, and it has a mobile ordering app, yet it has still invested in putting four or more self-ordering kiosks in all of its 14,000-plus North American stores. The company recognizes that omni-channel retailing is a collaborative effort, and not one where channels are cannibalizing or otherwise negatively impacting each other. Customers want options.

 

The Dispensary is Unique

So, will the same self-ordering kiosks that restaurants use work in dispensaries? The short answer is yes, but perhaps not as effectively as they should. While the self-ordering process is similar in nature, there are differences — regulatory issues being a major one — that require rethinking the process somewhat.

This is a natural evolution for what is effectively a relatively new and rapidly growing industry.

The dispensary self-ordering kiosk model should not be a copy of the restaurant self-ordering model, any more than it should be a copy of the airline check-in kiosk model. It has to be its own model and one that addresses the unique needs of the dispensary retail operation.

 

Juan C. Perez is the CEO of ADUSA, a leading provider of self-service systems designed for the grocery and restaurant industries. ADUSA (www.adusainc.com) is working together with Frank Mayer and Associates (www.frankmayer.com) to bring self-ordering kiosk technology to the cannabis industry.

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