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How to Choose the Right Cannabis POS Hardware

2 September 2020  |  9 min read

cannabis POS hardware setup

There are many elements to running a successful and efficient dispensary retail operation. Just as the foundation must be poured before putting up the walls on a new house, some elements are crucial to get right before others.

One of those key elements is choosing the right technology for your dispensary. This includes not only software, but also the hardware it runs on. Whether you are building a brand new business or upgrading your current technology, hardware is a foundational factor to consider.

In this post, you'll learn best practices and tips for choosing, buying, installing, and maintaining hardware for your cannabis dispensary operation. Read on if you are a new dispensary buying hardware for the first time or jump ahead to a section:

Choosing hardware for new cannabis retailers

Here are questions new cannabis businesses should consider when exploring hardware options:

What are the technical requirements for my desired setup?

Before buying any hardware, first figure out the system requirements for the point-of-sale software you plan to use and how many checkout terminals you need.

The software tools you choose will have specific requirements for the hardware they are able to run on. For an example, see the list of minimum system requirements for Flowhub’s cannabis retail platform below:

cannabis pos hardware minimum system requirements

The number of pos terminals will also influence the number of routers you have in store, as well as the internet speed you need to run fast and fluid transactions.

Take into consideration other peripherals you may need for each pos terminal, such as a keyboard and mouse. In most cases, you will need one of each item below to complete one pos terminal:

  • Computer (all-in-one or separate computer and monitor)
  • Label printer
  • Receipt printer
  • Cash drawer
  • Scanner

What kind of customer experience am I looking to create?

If you’re early in the process of building your business, you’ll be making a lot of decisions around the overall brand design and feel of your dispensary from the moment a customer walks through the door to the time they leave.

Your dispensary layout will play into the hardware technology you choose. How will customers flow from check in to check out? Are you looking to create a retail experience that's familiar and modern, like an Apple store? Or are you more concerned with keeping inventory safe and secure?

dispensary uses mobile tools to check out cannabis customers

If you need help thinking through your options, check out this guide to dispensary layouts or take our store layout quiz!

Once you know what you want, it will be significantly easier to narrow down what hardware will fit that vision.

What are the compliance requirements for my location?

Cannabis regulation influences everything when it comes to the decisions about your dispensary, even hardware. Some legal cannabis markets require digital age verification and scanning IDs at check in or specific NTEP-certified scales for weighing bulk flower.

Making sure you’ll meet compliance requirements for your product labels and receipts is another item high on the list to consider when choosing the right printers for your store.

Upgrading hardware for existing cannabis retailers

If you are looking to increase efficiencies by replacing your current software tool stack, including POS system and integrated solutions, the first step is to evaluate your current hardware setup.

Here are some questions you should ask to properly scope your current situation, and prep for your decision-making process:

Will my current hardware work with my new point-of-sale software?

Many dispensary point-of-sale systems require you to use specific hardware, while others are more flexible.

If you go with a software vendor that locks you into specific hardware, not only can it be a costly investment upfront, but you may not be able to use that hardware again if you switch to another cannabis POS system down the road.

Another risk is having to change your current workflows or physical layout to accommodate the transition to a new one-size-fits all software provider, though this may be one of your objectives in switching.

Flowhub was designed to be hardware-friendly and is compatible with a wide array of hardware options to fit your unique workflows, desired aesthetic, and needs. There's a likely chance Flowhub will work with the hardware you already have — including iPads, tablets, Apple and Windows products.

Read next!

8 factors every dispensary needs in a point of sale

What is the condition of my current hardware?

If your store has a high volume of daily transactions, has hardware that is showing signs of wear and tear, or hardware that is more than 3-5 years old, it might be time to replace your current setup regardless of what software vendor you choose.

Hardware that frequently breaks down, or has slow, outdated firmware can put unnecessary strain on your daily operations, staff, and ultimately your customer’s experience.

What kind of aesthetic and customer experience do I want?

Deciding on a new tech stack might be an opportunity to shake up the way your current operation runs. Do you want to want to modernize your customer experience with mobile, roaming budtenders or self-serve educational kiosks?

dispensary customers uses a self-serve kiosks to learn about cannabis products

Maybe you want to increase efficiency and look for technology that can help reduce your transaction times. Or are you exploring ways to evolve and offer your customers more options, like order ahead or curbside pickup?

    Perhaps you’d just like to stand out from the competition and replace bulky hardware with a more modern, minimalist look. Our suggestion is to decide on the most important goals for these changes, then work backwards to find the right hardware to meet those goals.

    Read next!

    4 common dispensary design layouts

    Finding the right hardware vendors

    Once you’ve explored the right hardware options for your store, the next step is to find that hardware at the best value. When it comes to buying your hardware, not all sellers will give you the best bang for your buck.

    Here are a few things to consider when choosing the best hardware vender to buy from:

      Can I get in touch with real humans to answer my questions?

      If you’re buying from big box stores or ecommerce sites that don’t specialize exclusively in hardware, like Amazon, you likely won’t have the advantage of having a high level of customer service during your buying process.

      If you have questions about machine specs, or want support in making the right hardware decisions, we recommend buying from a reseller that specializes in business-to-business (B2B) hardware sales.

      Budtender using Flowhub dispsensary point of sale on desktop computer hardware

      Do I have the option of buying an extended warranty?

      Most hardware items that you buy will have a manufacturer's warranty of one year or more. However, if your equipment breaks down after that time, you’ll have few options other than buying new hardware.

      If you go with a dedicated hardware reseller, make sure to ask about extended warranties that you can take advantage of to save costs in the long term.

        Are there financing options?

        Buying all brand new hardware can be a huge overhead cost, especially for a business that is just starting up.

        Another advantage of buying from a reseller that only focuses on B2B hardware is that they may be able to offer you financing options to pay off the cost over a period of time. This can provide big relief and help ensure you build the store of your dreams without taking on a huge upfront financial risk.

          Installing, maintaining, and troubleshooting hardware

          Most of us are not IT experts, and will need a little extra help putting everything together. This includes initial hardware installation, ongoing maintenance and troubleshooting when issues arise.

          Dispensary employee uses the Nug to check in cannabis customers

          If your dispensary operation has two or more stores, it may be worth investing in a full-time IT professional to manage your technology infrastructure across your locations. This person would be your go-to for all things tech — hardware, software, and partners — from day-to-day to upgrading or enhancing your tools or processes.

          If you are a smaller business or determine that paying for an extra salary isn’t realistic, you still have options. Our preferred hardware partner, Barcodes, offers an annual IT service package which provides your team with unlimited phone and email support.

          If Barcodes isn’t the right fit for you, we still recommend investing in some level of IT support to make sure that when there are inevitable human errors, or hardware breakdowns during operating hours, you lose as little time and revenue as possible and get it fixed quickly.

          Good luck!

          Once you decide on your dispensary hardware and software, you can move to the next steps of operational efficiency, like building your standard operating procedures, hiring the right staff, and figuring out how to manage your inventory.

          The best piece of advice to leave you with is this — partner with the right people and businesses that are interested in seeing your cannabis retail operation succeed. When weighing the options, don’t put cost before quality, as it can make or break your business.

          To learn more about Flowhub cannabis pos software, book a demo. And check out all the Flowhub-compatible hardware here!

          Alex Erin

          Alex Erin Johnson

          Alex serves to help cannabis license holders grow their business with a compliance-focused and consultative approach. Alex joined Flowhub in 2016 to contribute her efforts to the larger mission of de-stigmatizing this revolutionary plant and helping make regulated cannabis accessible for everyone in need. Alex earned a BS in Business Administration and Marketing as well as a BA in Theatre Studies from the University of Northern Colorado. Drop a line and connect with her on LinkedIn.

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