• Brett Konen, PrograMetrix

The 10 Best Digital Marketing Tactics for Cannabis Dispensaries


The legal retail cannabis market has outgrown its infancy. Cannabis brand and product counts have stabilized—and even begun to decrease—in Washington and Colorado, and other early adopter states will soon follow suit. As different markets begin to reach their own saturation points, dispensaries can no longer get by on the simple novelty of selling legal cannabis. The retailers wishing to remain in the industry for the long haul will now need to start competing to maintain market share, and they will need to leverage digital marketing tactics in order to do so.

An effective digital marketing plan leverages a mix of digital marketing tactics, including advertising, PR, email and text marketing, co-marketing partnerships, and more. Together, these work to grow your audience, brand loyalty, product sales, and revenue. Any of the following 10 tactics will help a dispensary brand working to ensure that as power players begin to emerge in their maturing cannabis market, your brand name is among them.

Ad Retargeting

In any marketing effort, your most likely customers are going to be the ones who’ve visited, bought, or otherwise interacted with your brand before. With ad retargeting, dispensaries can use “first-party” data (such as email lists, website visitors, SMS subscribers, and so on) to target past customers with new marketing messages through digital ad campaigns.

Ad retargeting keeps your store top-of-mind and lets you increase your repeat purchases over time as your audience grows. This tactic can be used with display, mobile, native, video, connected TV, and digital audio ads.

Cannabis Consumer Data

Cannabis industry data providers such as New Frontier Data, Brightfield Group, and Headset are maturing with the market, offering more information on modern cannabis consumers than ever before. When planning a digital marketing push, don’t shy away from spending the money on up-to-date industry reports related your target market. If you’re planning a digital ad campaign, you can also ask your agency to reach out to cannabis data providers about creating custom data segments for your campaign goals.

Co-Marketing

Dispensaries should be working together with partners—think brands whose products your store sells the most of, online menu providers, and more—to promote sell-through of products in a way that benefits both brands. For instance, a dispensary can split the cost of a cobranded digital campaign with their top-selling cannabis brand, promoting those products to their shared audience to increase revenue on both sides.

Email Marketing

Better than building a social media following is building your own email list. Email falls under the umbrella of “owned media,” one of three key digital marketing realms (alongside earned media, or press, and paid media, or advertising). Because you control the messaging of your owned media, these efforts are the easiest place for most brands to start marketing digitally. Social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, on the other hand, can censor your messaging or even delete your brand’s account at a moment’s notice, resulting in the loss of your audience there.

Dispensaries can use website pop-ups or loyalty programs to grow their email lists; they should then cultivate this audience by reaching them on a regular (but reasonable) basis with content that provides value, such as holiday promotions and budtender reviews of new products on your dispensary shelves.

Geofencing & Foot Traffic Attribution

Location is of utmost importance to a potential customer choosing which dispensary to visit, which makes mobile geofencing one of the most powerful advertising capabilities available to dispensary marketers. It involves drawing a virtual boundary around a physical location (this may mean your dispensary, a certain event, the local yoga studio, or even competing stores)—the technique then uses WiFi, GPS, or cellular data to show a display ad or message on mobile devices whenever one of them crosses the geofence’s boundary line.

To measure the success of these efforts, foot traffic attribution techniques then help dispensary marketers understand how effective their geofenced ads are in drawing customers to their brick-and-mortar locations. Attribution capabilities like this one help dispensary marketers quickly and clearly understand the real-world ROI of their digital ad spends.

Look-Alike Audiences

Programmatic ad platforms allow for the creation of look-alike audiences, which call on third-party data sets to reach new people who closely mirror the attributes of your previous or current customers. Look-alike audiences let a dispensary rapidly scale their audience by adding the people who are statistically most likely to make a purchase to your audience targeting plans.

Online Menu Integrations

If you’re able to send potential customers to your online menu so they can place an order, that should be the overarching goal of your digital marketing efforts. Doing so (as opposed to simply sending viewers to your website) will result in higher conversion rates because an online menu gets your audience closer to the most desirable outcome—making a sale.

Ad tech providers in the cannabis industry can now integrate directly with menus from sites like Leafbuyer, which lets your dispensary see how your audience is engaging with your menu, including what products people view most often, whether they’re leaving items in their carts, and the overall ROAS of driving traffic there.

Press Outreach

Earned media, as the name suggests, requires more effort than owned or paid media. Still, it’s an important part of any digital marketing strategy. When your dispensary does something worth sharing—whether that’s volunteering in your community, partnering with a charitable organization, or doing advocacy work—reach out to your local media outlets and other influencers to tell your story, because they may be looking for something just like it to share.

Pro tip: Make your press coverage work harder for your brand by amplifying it with owned and paid media. You can share the great things a local paper said about your product selection across your social channels, with your email list, through a display ad campaign, or with a link on your website.

Text Marketing

Like email marketing, a text marketing audience falls into the owned media realm, allowing your dispensary full control over the messaging you send. Most dispensaries use SMS to share information on new products and promotions, both of which help your brand stay top-of-mind and increase revenue, but feel free to get creative too: Remembering a loyalty customer’s birthday and offering a bonus pre-roll with any purchase, for instance, can lead to positive associations with your brand as well as the potential for additional sales.

Video Showcases

Sight, sound, and motion have always been the most effective means of capturing your viewer’s attention—in short, they show rather than tell your story. Video marketing is underutilized in the cannabis industry, but it can and should be leveraged far more often, particularly in the form of the dispensary showcase.

With a showcase video, dispensaries can give potential visitors a taste of what they offer, making it easier for consumers of all kinds (particularly the merely cannabis-curious) to decide to visit. These videos can be shared via social media, via email, as pre-roll video ads, or even through your audience’s connected TVs.

Brett Konen has been in the cannabis industry since 2015, first as a senior editor at Leafly and currently as the senior marketing manager at PrograMetrix. PrograMetrix specializes in helping cannabis, CBD, and dispensary brands run compliant digital advertising campaigns using Fortune 500-level tactics and technology. To learn more, visit PrograMetrix.com.