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There’s no doubt the cannabis retail industry is heating up and competition is on the rise.

More states are moving toward legalizing marijuana, and as a result, cannabis companies are exploring the opportunities available. With the federal government now considering de-scheduling cannabis, it may only be a matter of time before cross-state sales are possible.

In the meantime, cannabis companies must serve customers in existing and emerging markets. With online sales, medical outlets, dispensaries and more, competition in the retail sector is fierce.

Differentiating a brand is one of the key moves for any cannabis retail operation. There’s more to it than a catchy slogan and a nice logo. Cannabis retailers have to do more than look just different. They have to be different and prove that difference to skeptical consumers.

Positive customer reviews are one of the ways to show the difference between your brand and your competitors. 

Delivering Superior Customer Experiences

The first step in setting your cannabis store or dispensary apart from your competitors is by focusing on the customer experience. Some people have predicted that customer service is the last major differentiator. It doesn’t just matter what products you offer or what your price point is.

What matters is how you treat the customers who choose to shop with you. A better customer experience can make all the difference.

The statistics back this up. American consumers are willing to switch brands after receiving poor service. They may even cancel planned transactions over bad service. They’ll also boycott companies for years on end, and some will tell up to 15 people in their networks about these negative experiences.

Delivering a great cannabis retail experience is of the utmost importance for cannabis brands. To do so, companies should focus on:

  • Providing personalized recommendations and deals
  • Employing helpful and knowledgeable staff
  • Providing useful information
  • Offering many customer service channels and round-the-clock care
  • Resolving issues
  • Rewarding loyalty

All these activities focus on building a relationship with the customer. Budtenders can improve the customer experience in-store by providing customers with personalized attention. They can answer questions, provide helpful information, and make recommendations.

When a brand delivers a better customer service experience, customers are more likely to stick with them.

Spreading the Word

Delivering a better customer experience can help you convert prospects to new customers. It also helps turn new customers into loyal, repeat customers.

But how do you get the word out that your business is different? Sure, a brand can post pictures of budtenders interacting with customers to their Instagram. Unfortunately, that means relatively little to the average customer, as today’s consumers are more skeptical than ever. They understand brands use social media for promotion and even posts that seem organic may be staged.

In short, what you say about your brand doesn’t mean much to consumers.

So, how can cannabis retailers prove how different they are? Simple: Let your customers do it for you.

Reviews are an easy way for customers to spread the word about their favorite brands. If someone loves the service at a particular dispensary or a certain online store, then they may leave a review. In fact, some customers will gladly give out a review before the company asks. Others may need a little nudge, such as a reminder on their emailed receipt.

Reviews can help convince other people that your store does offer a better experience. It can also highlight how you stand out from the competition. Authentic reviews often comment on the service, product selection, and more. They may also talk about how easily questions were answered, how helpful budtenders were, and more.

This kind of recommendation can sway a would-be customer who is on the fence. A potential customer might be looking for a specific product, or they may have questions they need answered. Reviews can help steer them to the retail outlet where they’ll get the product they’re looking for or service they need.

Beyond Word of Mouth

While reviews can communicate valuable information to help people decide which store to visit, reviews do more than just convince someone where to shop. They also feed into other marketing efforts and they’re particularly important for local SEO.

Why are reviews so important for local SEO?

Google and other search engines are programmed to help users find the best answer. If someone is looking for a particular product or the closest shop, a review may not be so important.

More often, though, people will search for the shop with the best selection or best prices. They might look for the “best” overall shop near them.

Ranking anything the “best” can be subjective. That’s especially true when there are several cannabis shops close to the user. A search engine has to rely on reviews from actual customers to give users this information. That’s why Google uses reviews as part of its algorithm for figuring out which shops it should recommend in the Local 3-Pack.

The freshness and number of reviews is also important. If a shop only has one review from three years ago, Google probably won’t rank it very high. The shop doesn’t seem to be very popular, or it may not be open anymore.

Having several good reviews gives a better sample of the customers visiting your store. Recent reviews show that you’re still operating. The quality of a store’s products or service can change over time. Getting reviews on a regular basis can show how the store performs over time or how it’s improved.

Reviews thus factor into a cannabis retailer’s rankings. It’s part of what’s known as “social proof.” Social proof tells the search engine that real people interact with your brand and verify what you say about yourself.

Proving the Experience in Reviews

Most brands see reviews as something of a double-edged sword. Good reviews can boost your SEO ranking and help convince skeptical customers. A negative review can damage a brand’s reputation. It takes several positive reviews to undo the damage of a single negative review.

Brands know that customers are more likely to vent about negative experiences than to hop online to give glowing reviews. Given this, it may seem likely that a brand will garner more criticism than positive reviews. Negative reviews do have their upsides, so don’t try to banish them altogether.

Nonetheless, there are a few things cannabis retailers can do to encourage more good reviews and negate the effect of bad reviews. It’s likely that many of your customers already have positive experiences in your store, but the problem is they may not tell anyone. 

Since some bad reviews are almost unavoidable, having a good policy in place can help you manage your online brand image. Responding to reviews should be a part of this policy, and it helps SEO. Quick responses show that the brand is attentive to customer needs and willing to resolve issues. That’s gold in the eyes of both Google and your potential customers.

Tips for Getting More Reviews

As a cannabis retailer, you can’t shy away from getting more reviews. In fact, you should encourage customers to leave a review or a starred rating after every visit. Worrying about negative reviews is natural, but taking steps to reduce their occurrence and impact is key.

One way to boost positive word of mouth is to prompt customers who did have a positive experience. Train your customer service employees to encourage customers during check-out to leave a review after leaving the store. Make it even easier by offering a review link in an emailed receipt or a URL on a printed receipt. You can also offer incentives for reviews on your own site, as long as you give the same incentive for a 5-star or 1-star review.

Keep in mind that Google and other review sites tend to take action against incentivized reviews. The Federal Trade Commission recommends that reviewers should indicate if they were rewarded for their review in any way, such as being given a sample or free product. When in doubt, disclosure is the best policy.

So long as you’re delivering an exceptional customer experience, your loyal customers won’t hesitate to leave a review. In turn, you can convince both skeptical search engines and customers that your shop is a step above the rest.

Looking for More SEO Tips?

Getting reviews is just one of many things a cannabis retailer can do to improve their SEO efforts. If you’re thinking about how you can take your cannabis marketing to the next level, then it’s time to get in touch.

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