Pop-ups offer many ways for dispensaries, cultivators and manufacturers to amp up revenue and familiarize customers with their products.
Although state and local regulations may prevent visitors from seeing, touching, and sampling products, brand representatives can overcome these hurdles with educational conversations, interactive games, and merchandise like stickers and shirts.
“Right away, a pop-up should show how a brand differentiates itself from its competitors,” said Andreas “Dre” Neumann, chief creative director at Jushi Holdings Inc., a vertically integrated, multistate operator with a footprint in seven states. “Regional representatives typically use tables, tents, photos, packaging of products, uninfused products, and dialogue to form personal connections. The idea is to make the experience immersive and create a memory for the customers.”
Retailers see pop-ups as helpful because they can add to the buzz of new store openings, holidays like 420, live events like concerts, and new product launches.
“Ideally, the representative will have a promotion like 20 percent off today for a specific product,” said Neumann. “That’ll increase sales for their brand and the store.”
Sales for each pop-up vary. Approximately 30 percent more people buy products if a pop-up is held in conjunction with a promotion, according to Gustavo “Gus” Briseno, Arizona sales and territory manager at 22Red, a Los Angeles-based cannabis company.
“If we set up a table for two to four hours, showcasing only the packaging and promo merch like lanyards and lighters, we usually get at least 15 out of 20 people to try our product,” said Briseno. “We typically hold around 20 pop-ups a month in Arizona alone.”
“Put down the phone”
One of the key requirements for a rep doing a pop-up is to avoid looking at their cell phone.
“You’ve got to be paying attention, asking customers who walk in if you can share more about what’s on your table,” said Briseno. “We usually bring one or two reps to a store. We bring more if we’re at a large event, like at a festival.”
Increase interest with a variety of in-store pop-ups
“It makes the store alive to have people going from stand to stand,” said Neumann. You want to have different types of products on the floor, like a drink, flower, and a gummy. Having two flower brands is OK because flower is so popular. You need to set them up strategically to give people room to explore.”
Reps should use downtime to get to know the budtenders
“Reps should learn the most popular brands and products, and watch how the budtenders engage with customers,” said Briseno. “Learning the culture of a store is important. The rep can bring that back to share with headquarters.”
As reps come to understand how a store communicates with customers, they can tailor a pop-up to fit the store’s approach. For example, a store may want to host multiple pop-ups, situated in different areas of the store. The rep should then be prepared to work only in a certain area of the store rather than approach all customers.
Sales strategies differ between states and counties
“In Arizona, customers are price-conscious,” said Briseno. “They’re looking for promotions because we’re a deal-driven state.”
In California, some counties require cannabis retailers to have window coverings. This means passersby cannot see into the store. Displays designed to attract customers would be out of place. Other counties allow cannabis retailers to have transparent windows where eye-catching displays can be helpful.
According to Neumann, pop-ups designed for outdoor events, such as those held in a store’s parking lot, can be larger and involve activities like cornhole. Reps should talk with the store about how not to place games in a manner that would attract children.
Find room for conversation
The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically changed how customers approach buying cannabis.
“Our stores have seen an increase in ordering online and interest in curbside express pickup since the pandemic began,” said Neumann. “Customers want express checkout.”
Reps typically do well by setting their table up near an entry point. They can then hand walk-ins a free item, like a sticker, and begin a memorable conversation.
“Most people will take free merch,” said Briseno. “A rep should then ask a customer an open-ended question, like ‘What are you shopping for today?’”
In certain states, customers coming for medical cannabis must often complete an initial consultation with a pharmacist.
Understanding what customers who come out of the consultation are interested in can help a rep figure out how new customers orient themselves and develop preferences.
“A rep should ask a store what days are busy,” said Neumann. “That way they can showcase certain categories of products, like extracts. It’s a good time for that when we have 300 packages of medical cannabis lining the shelf ready for pickup.”
Celebrations like patient appreciation days and store anniversaries are good times to stir up excitement. Big events may call for an additional rep skilled at taking photographs.
“A great idea is to get a second or third rep who can get people to sign releases and post on social media about how much fun the event is,” said Neumann. “This will draw customers to the store in real-time.”
Jushi has dabbled in pop culture pop-ups such as the Garcia Hand Picked t-shirt tie-dye booth.
“In December 2022, Garcia Hand Picked brought a Grateful Dead-themed pop-up in an Airstream trailer to Jushi stores in Southern California and several other states,” said Neumann. “The customers loved it because it was colorful and charismatic. They also got clothing to remember their visit.”
Neumann added that stores can direct pop-ups to embrace a certain approach, like educational or entertaining.
“That’s where the store and the brand can form a real bond,” said Neumann. “Planning ahead about parking, accommodating more customers, the number of orders the brand can expect, and what compliance regulations need to be followed sets both parties up to succeed. It’s also good to have the ‘after’ conversation, to talk about what went right, what could have gone better, and ideas for next time,” said Neumann.