What dispensaries can learn from the hotel industry.

Are you missing key opportunities to make life-long customers?

Blog image hotel index
Blog image hotel index

If travel for work as part of your routine, you have stayed in a lot of hotels. Probably, more than you can count. You likely have favorite ones and depending on client budgets, have the opportunity to stay where you like. But, have you ever considered what makes an affinity to certain brands? A hotel can only lean on it’s famed waffle maker offerings at breakfast so much. There needs to be a full package to create a strong following.

Dispensaries may be offering something much different than a hotel, but when you look at the whole package the overlap is clear. Although in cannabis we don’t have the path dug for us, we can always look at adjacent industries to give us perspective.


01  |  Create a comfortable space

Any dispensary can have a beautifully designed space, but is it comfortable? Does it feel inviting to anyone that walks in the door? Do your customers simply come to you because you are a few blocks from their house or work? In the hotel world, everyone offers the same things. Rooms, beds, sometimes breakfast.

In cannabis, flower is a commodity. The Sour Diesel you have in your case is probably has the exact same grower and weight as the one down the street. So, how do you compete in other ways?

For the Distrikt Hotel in New York City, it was investing in comfort. Each room has 500-threat-count sheets, hypoallergenic pillows (2 soft, 2 firm per room), softened leather headboards, and Simmons Beautyrest mattresses. Additionally, they spritz the rooms with lavender oil during the turn down service and have airport-grade windows to muffle passing NYC traffic for a peaceful sleep. They entered the mindset of their guests and anticipated what would make them comfortable during their stay.

Dispensary application:

Think about what customers need when entering your space to put them at ease. Is it an easy to read menu while they wait? Is it inviting textures integrated in to your decor? A friendly smile from every staff member? Do you start the conversation with asking the customer something about themselves? Not every customer will have the same needs, so make it comfortable for them to ask questions without feeling like a burden.


02  |  Know your customer

This seems like it would be a no brainer, but we are surprised every day when we meet a new client and begin the audience discussion. The interaction often goes a little like this:

RH: “Do you know who your audience is?”
Client: “Yes, it’s caucasian 30-40 year old women.”

That was all good and fine 15 years ago before your 83-year old grandpa in Great Britain has the same access and exposure to the world as a 12-year old Korean girl. You no longer see demographics confined in the same way to tastes and interests before the internet blew that door open.

I occasionally listen to the same music as European 16-year-olds. Embarrassing? A little. But it does go to show that just because you are 17 years older than another human living across the world, doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy the same thing as someone completely different than yourself.

Knowing age and gender is irrelevant if you don’t know the motivations that empower the choices of the audiences you want to connect with.

For the W hotels, they’ve not only dialed in what their guests want in a hotel stay, but they’ve built an entire culture around it. The W offers free live music, design exhibitions, power yoga sessions and fashion runway shows. Why? They know the interests of their guests outside of sleeping in a bed.

You only get this type of insight by knowing motivations. The “why” someone travels can be an big indicator of motivations. Focus on building upon an experience in a way guests will enjoy and take it a step further by offsetting (or better yet, preemptively mitigate) a guests potential frustrations before they even begin.

Dispensary application:

So, why does your audience want to buy cannabis, let alone buy it from you? What do you offer that connects with your customers motivations on a deeper level than providing a commodity?


03  |  Customer service is part of your brand, a big one

Upon arriving to a hotel, you have to check in at the front desk to begin your stay. This is the customers first interaction with anyone on-site, so hotels need to make it count.

At the Moxy, it’s the front desk staff. This front desk also happens to be at the end of a bar. While you check in and collect your room key, there is an equally chirpy bartender making you a custom infused cocktail. They are friendly and ready to party, perfectly sandwiched in between fuschia neon signage and cheeky 24 hour taco bar. The personalities of each person you meet on the clock reflect the funky hip vibe of the hotel.

Dispensary application:

For a dispensary, its your bud tender. The way they speak, dress and answer questions reflects your brand—for better or worse. Make sure the impression that is set forward is one that is consistent with the bigger picture.


04  |  It’s all about the details

We all love getting a little something special. Something unexpected that goes above and beyond anything we had anticipated. In a world where it’s easy get stuck in the Instagram hole of comparison, to feel not only welcomed but appreciated can be all it takes to be a life long customer.

If you have read about our recent trip to Las Vegas, you already know the Nomad Hotel has the details down. From the moment you walk in to the lobby, the lush fabrics and elaborately detailed tapestries make you feel as if you’ve gone back in time. With an eclectic, yet boutique vibe, there is a bit of delight in every piece of the hotel—even the key cards arrive in a delicately velvet-flocked paper holder, adorned with a foil stamp ’N’—but it’s the details inside of the room that make you feel truly special.

From the selection of snacks on display to the canvas tote bag for use during your stay, the Nomad makes sure you have everything you could ever need. Something as simple as a dark chocolate that appears on the table next to the claw-footed tub is enough for anyone to feel like a queen.

Dispensary application:

What opportunities have you been missing to delight your customer? Is it a branded thank you note that is slipped in the bag at the end of a purchase? Is your menu telling the customer more than just what is behind the case? The little things go the furthest, especially when they are unexpected.

Connecting with your customers on a deeper level can be much easier than you think, especially if you are the only one going the distance to really care. A strong relationship can make the difference in shopping at a dispensary for convenience vs. one a customer will make the journey for.

Which one do you want to be?

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