How Fulfillment-Style Dispensaries Can Improve Their In-Store Experience

If you’re working at a dispensary running a fulfillment approach (versus deli-style) for in-store, have you experienced this? 

Long customer wait times. Busy front-of-house. Unaccounted orders? 

Chances are it might have something to do with your fulfillment process – how your team coordinates orders between the vault and point of purchase.

In this blog, we’re diving into changes a dispensaries can make to their in-store fulfillment operations that will leave customers happier and ready to come back for their next order. 

Let’s get into it.

What is Fulfillment-Style in Cannabis Retail? 

Chances are your dispensary manages orders through one of the following approaches to cannabis retail: fulfillment or deli-style.

The fulfillment approach involves having pre-packed flowers stored in a vault that’s separate from the point-of-purchase. 

When a customer transacts with your dispensary, an order is sent to your  vault to prepare the order before handing it to the customer.

Deli-style involves packaging quantities of bulk flower directly at the point-of-purchase. 

When the customer transacts with your dispensary, the budtender will weigh out the flower, package, and hand it to the customer. 

How Fulfillment Differs from Deli-Style Logistics & Customer-Facing Operations 

The main difference between fulfillment and deli-style is that there needs to be constant coordination between the vault and point-of-purchase for dispensaries using the fulfillment approach. 

This level of coordination requires attention paid to a few key operational areas for general managers and retail leadership:

  1. Order ingestion & routing 
  2. Queue management 
  3. Packaging & timing 

By focusing on how to improve these areas in your fulfillment process, your customers will have a faster, better experience at your store and your staff should have more bandwidth to service orders that are ready. 

Let’s dive into the tactics on what you can do today. 

#1: Route Order Types to Service Areas

If you’re running e-commerce, chances are you probably have orders coming from a few different sources like your website or marketplace like Weedmaps or Leafly. 

One common friction point for operations is that these order sources are not routed effectively to budtenders at the point-of-purchase. 

Here’s a few examples you might relate to: 

  • Weedmaps & Leafly orders don’t get accounted for in your system
  • All orders (pickup, delivery, or online) get sent to the same register

Without efficient routing, it’s hard for your staff to account or prioritize all orders coming into the store. 

This can add extra waiting time for customers, missed orders, or team constraints during busy moments throughout the day. 

Try instead to designate different order types to service areas. 

This could mean… 

  • Consolidating marketplace and online pickup to the same printer
  • Separating printers for pickup from in-store orders
  • Establishing one area and printer for drive-through only 

There’s tons of possibilities here and what you choose will depend on which order types receive the most volume at your dispensary. 

With Dispense, you can select which printers receive order types, allowing you to set up areas for faster fulfillment to customers. 

By sending orders to specific printers, you can equip your team to coordinate and package orders from the vault faster as customers arrive at your dispensary, reducing their wait time to receive their products. 

Let’s discuss what you can do from the customer-side to also make the experience better for them too!  

#2: Set Up Queues & Kiosks

Let’s face it: lines are an inevitable part of any successful retail operation. 

Growing pains if you will!

There’s only so much you can do internally to solve waiting times at your dispensary, but here are two ideas for external systems to make your customers aware of any potential wait ahead of their order. 

Queue Management for Pickup Orders

When customers schedule a pickup order during high traffic hours, a queue can make them aware of their wait time and when their order is ready. 

This involves setting up a system to place backlogged pickup orders into a virtual line and sending communications for how long it will take to prepare their order, and when their order is ready. 

Customers like X use the Dispense queue system to help control the flow of in-store traffic and set customer expectations for when orders are ready.  

Queues usually only work for pickup orders, however we still need to account for foot-traffic into the dispensary. 

That’s where kiosks come into play. 

Kiosks for In-Store Orders

Kiosks are a great alternative for existing customers that already know what they want to order and don’t want to wait in line to get to the register.

Customers select the products they want on your menu, just like they would online, and then receive a ticket for when the order is ready at the counter.

Again, the idea here is to make it as convenient as possible for the customer to transact with your dispensary. 

While queues set expectations about wait times, kiosks present an opportunity to wait a little less altogether. 

#3: Package Orders When Customers Check-In 

Another common area where fulfillment logistics can get a bit messy are with order packaging, especially around pickup orders. 

A lot of dispensaries we talk to run into this problem. Sound familiar?

  1. A pickup order comes into your dispensary 
  2. The order gets sent to the vault for packaging 
  3. The packaged order gets sent to the counter for pickup
  4. Customer never comes in to pay for it 
  5. Staff have to repack it at closing time

At scale, this problem can add hours to multiple staff members’ work day, especially if pickup is a leading order type at your dispensary. 

Imagine if your budtenders didn’t have to spend that time packaging missed pickup orders and could focus on something else.  

With check-ins, they can!

Making pickup customers check-in BEFORE an order gets packed can significantly reduce hours spent on missed pickup orders. 

Here’s how the process changes after implementing check-in: 

  1. A pickup order comes into your dispensary 
  2. Customer arrives and checks in that they’re here
  3. The order now gets sent to the vault for packaging 
  4. Packaged order gets sent to counter 
  5. Customers pays and receives order 

Just a simple change in the packaging workflow, and your budtenders have more time back to focus on work that matters. 

TLDR? Here’s What You Should Takeaway

  • The in-store fulfillment process requires lockstep coordination between the vault and point-of-purchase.

  • If you don’t pay attention to how to improve this interaction, your customers and staff will be negatively impacted.

  • Make sure to route each order type–including marketplace orders– to the printer and area to best service them.
  • You can set up queue systems and kiosks to manage customer flow and expectations during busy hours of the day.

  • Set up a check-in to package orders from the vault after customers arrive to give your budtenders back hours in their day.

  • Dispense can help you with all these tactics mentioned. 

Book a demo with Dispense today to learn how our menu supports your fulfillment and order management processes.

Matt Dell

Matt Dell is a fractional marketing director for early-stage B2B vertical SaaS startups. Matt started his career in B2B SaaS marketing for a bootstrap supply chain firm and marketing agency. Then took over marketing at a seed-stage software startup in the cannabis space. Now trying his hand at it again for as many companies out there. Connect with Matt on LinkedIn.

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