What is Order Management for Cannabis Dispensaries?


In the past few years, the cannabis industry embraced running native e-commerce to acquire customers and generate sales.

This is a positive shift for dispensaries everywhere. You simply can’t rely on paid ads or marketplaces like Weedmaps to grow your business efficiently. 

Good dispensary marketing requires an ecosystem of initiatives, one of which should be driving traffic to your own menu, not elsewhere. 

However, doing this also brings on a new set of challenges that go blind to  most dispensaries running e-commerce. It doesn’t have to do entirely with marketing – but order management.

To start, order management involves ingesting orders across a dispensary’s sales channel and fulfilling them with the customer. 

We’ll dive into this definition more in a bit, but for dispensaries running sophisticated e-commerce marketing programs:

  • There still are many silos in the order management process 
  • These silos disadvantage teams, and ultimately your customer
  • Current technology does very little to help 

These issues comprise just part of the Order Management problem. They emerge throughout the sales process, impacting staff and customers. 

Think about when budtenders miss a Weedmaps order that got printed off at an unattended register. Or when a customer has to wait 20 extra minutes to get their curbside order. Or when your team has to spend an extra hour at closing packing up orders that weren’t picked up.

These are just a few symptoms of what bad order management looks like. 

This article breaks down what order management is, why cannabis dispensaries should care, and how to apply good order management practices at your dispensary. 

What is Order Management?

Order Management is the process of capturing and fulfilling sales orders at the dispensary. It involves a range of activities from the moment the customer wants to place an order to after they leave with your product.

Here’s what Order Management typically looks like at the dispensary:

It’s important to break down this process into two key components: order capture and order fulfillment.

1. Order Capture: Ingesting orders where customers want to shop

2. Order Fulfillment: Ensuring orders reach the customer’s hands 

Remember these two sub-categories as we dive into what Order Management looks like at most dispensaries today. 

The Current State of Dispensary Order Management

Keeping with our definition, it’s clear that cannabis dispensaries have paid tons of attention to where and how they capture orders.

This has mainly meant prioritizing marketing programs and online menu visibility. 

Take a look at SEO as an example. It’s common knowledge for many dispensaries that customers go to Google, not Weedmaps to buy weed.

That’s why a menu that lets Google rank your products is table stakes. 

You can use a menu like Dispense to instantly optimize your dispensary’s products for Google’s search engine crawlers.

Search traffic for owned dispensary domains continues to skyrocket. While marketplaces like Weedmaps and Leafly? Not so much. 

5 retailers account for 28% of the lost traffic from Weedmaps and Leafly.

Other ways dispensary have prioritized capturing orders includes:

  • Paying Weedmaps or Leafly to put their menu on top of their search
  • Running co-marketing campaigns with brands to drive orders 
  • Running paid programs on Google, Display, and other channels 
  • Building organic brands and audiences to generate new orders

But capturing orders is only half the battle. At the end of the day, it's an afterthought to the customer where they placed their order. 

Customers care more about if they receive their order on-time and with the right products. This is where order management becomes critical. 

The gaps in order management your team and customers feel happen after an order is placed. Here’s a snapshot of what we’re talking about. 

Order Management is Different Than Inventory Management 

If you run a dispensary, it’s easy to think you already do order management – or that your marketing tools and POS do it for you. 

Orders come in from across your sales channels (via your marketing tools) and get accounted for in your inventory levels (via your POS system).

However, that process is actually Inventory Management, not order management because the only information that’s being transmitted pertains to inventory, and not about the logistics for the order. 

Order Management is different than inventory management in the following ways: 

  • Order Management covers when, where, and how staff receive orders that are ready for fulfillment. Inventory Management covers what inventory is available for purchase.
  • Order Management involves coordinating your front-of-house team to fulfill orders. Inventory Management involves coordinating what’s in your vault or back-of-house to be available for purchase.
  • Order Management concerns front-of-house and customer logistics. Inventory Management concerns back-of-house staff and product logistics. 

Key Order Management Challenges 

We’ve established that order management involves both ingesting orders where customers shop and ensuring orders reach the consumer. 

But what are the challenges with these areas? Let’s discuss.

Order Capture

Lack of Menu Distribution 

Menu distribution remains a key challenge for dispensaries, especially online. The only way your business can ingest orders is by making sure your menu is accessible where customers want to shop.

Of course, that means having a menu in the usual places like Weedmaps, Leafly, ranking in Google, etc.

However that might also mean making it available as a kiosk for customers that know what to order already.

You have to have your menu available in both online and offline settings for your customer.

Bad Online-to-Offline Integrations 

When a customer places an order with you, that order has to be accounted for correctly in your inventory and by a front-of-house team member.

Although the cannabis tech landscape constantly evolves, we’ve noticed a few consistent issues when it comes to integrations: 

  • Counting inventory across online sources 
  • Routing orders to the same register at the dispensary 
  • Lack of consistency in discounts 

Order Fulfillment 

Bad Tech Integrations  

Similar to the order capture motion, order fulfillment integrations pertain more to delivery and in-store pickup. Faulty tech integrations here mainly pose two issues: 

  • Disadvantaging store teams from fulfilling or managing ready orders 
  • Adding additional wait time for customers 

In-store Customer Flow management 

One of the main pressure tests of your order management efficiency is how you manage in-store customer volume. This involves strategic usage of: 

  • Queues 
  • Timeslots

Order Timing 

Another challenge to order fulfillment is reducing the timing the customer has to wait for their order and the time your team spends preparing it.

Staff Organization & Bandwidth 

Bad order fulfillment processes typically result in confused staff, missed orders, or periods of limited bandwidth in-store. These all impact the customer experience. 

What Makes Good Order Management? 

Now that you understand some of the definitions and challenges to order management, let’s talk about what makes good order management.

It really comes down to 3 core principles. 

  1. Making sure your dispensary accepts orders where customers shop – both online and offline.
  2. Getting order information from the point of purchase to the right team members at the point-of-sale.

  3. Rigorously streamlining the fulfillment process for budtenders. 

By focusing on these three principles, your dispensary can provide a convenient transacting experience for customers. The customer experience remains consistent all the way until the product reaches their hands.

Here’s a few ways you can implement these principles at your dispensary.  

Optimize Your Menu for Google Search 

Cannabis customers want to shop for products on Google. You need to make sure that your product listings are on your website and search-optimized.

Create SOPs for OrderType Fulfillment 

Does your dispensary do delivery, pickup, and in-store sales? Make sure that all these order types are serviceable in your store with dedicated stations and fulfillment procedures. 

You can use a menu like Dispense to route different order types to registers at your Dispensary, streamlining the fulfillment process. 

Create a Plan to Manage In-Store Volume  

How does your store operate when there’s heavy foot traffic? Make plans to queue customers, open up online time slots for orders, and more. 

The last thing you want is your team’s bandwidth maxed out, causing orders to get lost in the shuffle. 

You can use Dispense to time online orders, create queues, and even set up kiosks to help you manage order flow. 

Tools Required for Order Management

If order management sounds like a new concept to you, don’t worry. You don’t need another tool for it.

The two most important tools are your menu software and POS system. 

Menu Software: Where customers browse products online or in-store, read product descriptions, and make purchases.

Point-of-Sale (POS) System: Essential for in-store purchases, a POS system also integrates with the inventory management system to keep track of sales and update inventory accordingly.

Your menu software should help you ingest orders where customers shop (through its own features or integrations) and coordinate in-store orders.

Your POS is there to process transactions and inventory. That’s it.

The rest comes down to effective planning and implementation (which we’ll cover in another article!) 

Closing Thoughts 

At the end of the day, order management is still marketing. It’s actually the part of your dispensary’s brand the consumer cares about most:

- Did I get my products on time? 

- How long did I have to wait for this order? 

- Did I get everything asked for? 

- Were there no hiccups from the store I bought at? 

The answer to these questions determine if a customer will shop with you. 

While the process to order management might sound a little less sexy than cool ads or promotions, it’s one you can’t discount going into the next year. 

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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