Even before the pandemic, the team at Drop Delivery, the only all-in-one, dynamic delivery management solution for cannabis retailers, had a vision about what was next for the industry.
“We knew that delivery was going to be the future of cannabis,” says Vanessa Gabriel, Drop Delivery co-founder and CEO.
Combining a full stack of business tools into a single, simple platform launched in January 2020, Drop’s timing could not have been better as COVID-19 swept across the country and retailers and customers alike were forced to find new ways of doing business.
“All of a sudden, delivery had this huge spotlight on it,” Vanessa says. “Delivery was like a lifeline.”
Drop Delivery took off with cannabis deemed an essential business and in just a year grew to serve customers in five U.S. states and three Canadian territories. Drop provides cannabis retailers an e-commerce solution, digital marketing tools, user behavior analytics and last-mile logistics in a single, interconnected system.
“We have built a software solution tailored to how cannabis retailers run their business,” says chief technology officer and co-founder Marc Lopez. “Drop Delivery provides increased efficacy, and thus increased bottom line for retailers, in a convenient and user-friendly package that reduces the number of service providers necessary to accomplish the same goals.”
Now, the team is launching what they’re calling Drop E-com, a brand new, updated consumer e-commerce app and website for retailers. It draws from more traditional e-commerce software and includes a more customizable homepage, improved product search capabilities, highly detailed product filtering and a new, more engaging way for consumers to take advantage of retailers’ deals.
The app is available both as a web app and in Apple’s App Store. (Apple announced in June that it would be allowing licensed cannabis operators to have delivery apps in its store.)
“We always emphasize great product design and experience,” says chief product officer and co-founder Jade Gabriel. “At Drop Delivery, we know great product design and experience creates greater sales.”
The quick turnaround and launch of Drop E-com was only possible because the company’s C-suite — a pair of sisters and a high school friend — has a decade of experience building technology together.
“What gives us a leg up as a team is that we’ve been working together for the past 10 years, and we all understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses and the value we each bring to the table,” Vanessa says.
The company is also currently raising capital through crowdfunding, an avenue they’ve had previous success with, having raised more than $1 million in only eight weeks in late 2020.
The team that would eventually become Drop first came together to help build Vanessa’s first business — an e-commerce site called aSociete — when she was a freshman in college. Though it didn’t work out, the trio started working on a series of other ventures, sometimes solo projects, sometimes as a pair and sometimes with all three in industries like peer-to-peer marketplaces, social streaming and e-commerce.
However, the idea for Drop Delivery grew out of the team’s most recent business, an order-ahead app for cannabis called Greenlight that was acquired in 2018.
“It was a no-brainer for us to work together,” Vanessa says. “We all love building technology and the challenge of bringing a product to market and making it a success.”
The Greenlight project gave the team their first experience within the cannabis industry. After making insightful changes based on customer feedback and introducing customer loyalty to the product, the app went viral.
“The app wasn’t an instant success until we made a few key changes, like adding customer loyalty, and then it exploded,” Marc says.
After exiting Greenlight, they wanted to stay in cannabis, so they began to look around for what was next. The answer seemed obvious: “It’s delivery,” says Jade, who spent a few years living in New York City, where delivery is a way of life.
Through research and speaking with business owners, they found that retailers were using four or five different platforms on a day-to-day basis, requiring them to deal with multiple support teams and pricey contracts. And, perhaps most importantly, the software isn’t connected, so critical data isn’t shared between them.
“It’s a hodge-podge tech stack that has created a lot of inefficiencies, is costly and lacks centralized data,” Vanessa says. “That sparked the idea for Drop.”
The idea was to put them all into a single software track and integrate them.
“From the very beginning, we sought to build a true all-in-one solution,” Marc says.
He also says most of the software used by cannabis retailers for deliveries was built for a wide range of services and industries and contained features that cannabis retailers didn’t need while missing some that are useful in a highly regulated industry. So, they built Drop from the ground up, picking and pulling inspiration from the best parts of other software to develop a better, more efficient product specifically for the cannabis industry.
The company launched a beta version in the fourth quarter of 2019, offering it free to clients to see how they would use it and collect data. With an official launch planned for January 2020, the first test was whether companies using the free version would sign up for the pay version. All of them did without hesitation and have been clients since.
“We took that as the launching pad for the company,” Vanessa says. “We saw that companies saw value in the software, the price was affordable and saved them 30-50%, and it helped streamline their business operations.”
The team’s passion for the best user experience, lessons learned from their 1.0 version and ability to move quickly is what allowed them to release the 2.0 version of the e-commerce app within just 18 months of the original launch. Drop Delivery looked at more traditional e-commerce apps, like Amazon or Uber Eats, but with cannabis in mind for the newest version.
“We looked at the best in the world throughout other industries as reference and inspiration for how we approached e-commerce to give retailers and consumers the best experience possible,” says Jade.
The company built an assortment of engagement tools for the new app, all designed to improve conversion rates and increase the average order size.
Jade says one of its unique and critical features is its approach to deal promotion and sales. The cannabis industry often uses promotions like add-on offers and buy-one-get-ones. With this in mind, Drop has created what they call “smart deals.”
“In our E-com, based on the items added to the cart, the app will communicate to the customer what items are eligible for a buy X get Y or add-on promotion offer,” she says. “What this does is leaves the customer feeling empowered by being aware of potential discounts and ultimately saving money. And clients make more money by increasing average order value, so it’s a win-win on both ends.”
Another recent feature added to Drop Delivery’s technology suite is inventory tracking for drivers, called “Drop Kit.” Drop Kit allows retailers to assign inventory to drivers and vehicles to dispatch deliveries more efficiently.
There are also plans to use more machine learning and artificial intelligence to scour the data collected by the entire stack of programs to help retailers create personalized promotions and marketing campaigns.
“You can be given data, but if you don’t know what to do with it, that data is pretty much useless, so we want actionable insights that will help retailers make better business decisions without any effort,” says Vanessa.
PASSION FOR TECH AND THE FUTURE
Part of Drop’s success is in the team’s experience with the latest technology and passion for building products that focus on customer experience. For example, Drop is built with a progressive web-app technology that can both create a web-based native-feeling app on a smartphone or tablet or an actual app in the app store — they are one of the only companies to offer both. With that backbone, the tech can be customized and even changed quickly if need be, giving Drop a speed advantage over competitors.
“One of our competitive advantages is that we can ship code faster than most cannabis tech companies,” Marc says.
That experience and speed reflect within the leadership team, whose 10-year history together has created a level of trust that allows them to make quick decisions.
“We all have our strengths,” adds Marc. “I push the team to do things that may be a little outside of their comfort zone, and they do the same for me. We understand what each other’s strengths and weaknesses are and know our roles.”
It’s that passion and cohesion that makes both the team at Drop and the technology itself so unique and sets them up for continued success moving forward, especially now that delivery is becoming an industry standard, even post-pandemic.
In fact, the team sees a potential future beyond cannabis for their technology to expand into food and restaurants, an industry that took a heavy hit with COVID-19.
“I think we’ve got something great here, and I don’t think delivery or curbside pick-up are going anywhere,” Vanessa says. “I think it’s the new norm and our goal with Drop is to empower businesses to offer a premier shopping experience for their customers.”