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May 22, 2019 | by Cannavida

Cannabis Technology: Shaping the Dispensaries of the Future

Imagine walking into a dispensary and being greeted by an AI-equipped bud kiosk that, in a split second, recommends products based on cutting edge analytics. Or an immersive virtual reality experience that simulates the effects of a product before you buy. It’s no secret that in the last few years we’ve witnessed incredible advancements in technology. Now, with state-based legalization efforts gathering momentum, we’re seeing how tech and cannabis go hand-in-hand. 

Will the dispensaries of the future look like a scene from the Jetsons: robotic staff, interactive holograms, and intricate conveyor belt systems? Or will there even be dispensaries in the future? There’s no way to know definitively. But we’ve looked into the significant technological advances and breakthroughs currently shaping the future of cannabis dispensaries. 

Changing standards of cannabis customer service 

Since 1996 when California first legalized medical marijuana, the US market has exploded into an $11.9 billion industry. Even more impressive? The global cannabis market is expected to hit $75 billion in gross annual sales by 2030. With many states putting legalization of recreational on the ballot, we’ve seen an influx of job titles and descriptions, advancements in technology, and a new level of commitment to research when it comes to the benefits of cannabis. Because the industry is still so new, it feels a bit like a gold rush with everybody vying to set the standard. 

As Grasshopper, the makers of the first fully-compliant cannabis retailer kiosk, note: “Everyone in the industry is rushing to offer competing customer experiences…and pretty soon, picking up an eighth is going to be as easy as calling an Uber.”

We already know how technology influences growth practice

LED lighting systems and AI-based automation in the greenhouse allow for a more precise, more efficient growing process. Consider the hundreds of factors that go into cultivation. Growers have to fine-tune the humidity, temperature, and light needs based on the age, stage, and strain of each plant. To answer the increased demand for variety, and still guarantee a high-quality product, requires constant monitoring and analytics. 

Now imagine a super-computer equipped with cutting-edge technology that monitors all of those factors, simultaneously. Plus, because this computer has sophisticated machine learning capabilities, it can find patterns in data to predict the outcome of different circumstances. In other words, this machine gets more accurate the longer it’s working. 

It is impossible for even the most advanced agronomists to predict precisely how a plant will grow. According to findings by Green CulturED, clients who use AI see a 50% to 70% reduction in error for harvest forecasts from the start; following a year of further learning, the AI technology can reduce errors by more than 70%. And this is just the start of what smart growth means for the industry. 

Even more exciting? How tech is shaping the customer experience

With high-tech interactive display pods, digital catalogs, and easy-access web portals, cannabis customers have already seen enormous improvement in the purchasing process. But now that 33 states in the US allow medical use, and 10 of those states enjoy recreational use, we expect to see a surge in industry growth and technological advancement. Development efforts focus on improving customer service, expanding delivery capabilities, and creating a seamless buying process. 

Training and customer relationship management (CRM) software

Have we mentioned the incredible potential of AI yet? Because here’s another perk: today’s AI can collect and analyze data to create customized learning programs for dispensary employees. This will help bud tenders predict their customers’ concerns and respond quickly— almost like we’re hiring mind readers. 

Plus integrated CRM software takes care of most behind-the-scenes processes, so we’ve got more time to devote to our customers. Baker, billing themselves as “the Salesforce of weed,” is leading the charge in connecting dispensaries and customers. 

There’s an app for that: delivery at your fingertips

In the digital age, consumers use their phones to get what they want, when they want it. Why should cannabis products be any different? Companies like Eaze have stepped up to provide on-demand delivery and hemp-derived CBD shipping. And on-demand delivery drivers are just the start. Alex Milligan, the Co-founder and CMO at Nugg & NuggMD, predicts that robotics (drones, automated delivery fleets) will play an important role in the future of accessible cannabis. 

Evolution of self-dispensary kiosks for faster transactions

We’ve already mentioned Grasshopper, creators of the only compliant automated retail system in the cannabis industry. Self-serve kiosks allow customers to skip the line when picking up orders, making transactions quick and easy. In fact, just last year, Grasshopper’s innovative system of vending machines landed in California. Now, it’s as easy to buy an edible, vape pen, or pre-rolled joint as it is to get a Coke or bag of chips. 

As cannabis gains momentum, there’s a possibility we’ll move away from dispensaries altogether

Of course, some experts predict cannabis will move beyond dispensaries. Michael Steinmetz, the founder of Flow Kana, compares marijuana sales to more traditional modes of retail: “The concept of a store dispensing and retailing one thing is absurd. I think that concept is really going to change.” If Steinmetz’s prediction comes true, someday soon you’ll be able to pick up an eighth at the grocery store, along with your milk and eggs. 

Whatever the future holds, it’s clear that technology plays a crucial role in shaping the future of cannabis. Through the power of AI, automation, and data analytics, we’re beginning to see a shift towards streamlined sales and efficiently-grown, high-quality cannabis products!

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