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Cannabis Software Guide
Top Cannabis Technology Solutions for Dispensaries
In many ways, modern cannabis dispensaries mirror traditional retailers.
Whether it’s online, by delivery, or in-store, cannabis customers expect quick, easy, and safe shopping experiences – just like buying a cup of coffee or running into Target.
However, creating these experiences is only possible with the right technology.
Do you have the tools to compete?
The cannabis technology space, dubbed "cannatech," has exploded in recent years, expanding from tiny startups to nationally-recognized companies.
Here is a visualization of the “Canntach Ecosystem Stack” by Harry Brelsford from the February 2022 issue of Marijuana Venture magazine:
The number of options available can be overwhelming.
Some of these dispensary software solutions are necessary to run your business. Others are nice-to-haves that help accomplish specific business goals.
How do you know which are necessary?
This guide is designed to help dispensary owners, executives, IT directors, and managers identify the top cannabis industry technology solutions available.
Read on for the must-haves and nice-to-haves in cannabis tech, plus some best practices for choosing your cannabis software tech stack.
What is a cannabis software tech stack?
“Tech stack” is a term borrowed from other industries and describes every tool, technology, and integration that your dispensary uses. You can call it your “cannatech stack" for short.
Every cannabis business will have a slightly different tech stack, but the idea is that integrations allow for a cohesive ecosystem. The tools should all “talk” to each other to create seamless experiences.
Each tool has a specific purpose. For example, when your point of sale integrates with online menus, you’ll have up-to-date inventory control without the need for manual data entry.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to cannabis retail software.
Similarly, retailers should avoid all-in-one (or best of none) solutions that claim to do it all. Cannabis requires specialized solutions.
It all starts with your POS.
Once you've determined your dispensary point-of-sale system, there are options to integrate and modernize every aspect of your operations, from cannabis cultivation to customer loyalty programs, cannabis delivery, CRM, payments, ERP software, HR, and so much more.
Note: Don't forget about the hardware this all will run on!
How to choose dispensary hardware
6 must-have cannabis software tools
Here are the software tools considered mandatory to ensure compliance and a positive customer experience at your cannabis company.
1. Point of sale
Your dispensary point-of-sale software is the center of your technology stack. Cannabis POS software doesn’t just handle the transaction process, it also includes check in, inventory management, features to help ensure compliance, and connectivity with your state track-and-trace system.
An open API from your POS that other technology providers can access, or native built-in integrations, is a requirement so that you can integrate the rest of your tech stack.
Key cannabis POS features
Facilitates customer check in
Verifies customer ID and age
Manages customer queue
Stores customer profile data
Simplifies the sales process
Tracks customer purchase limits
Removes sold products from inventory
Auto-applies specials and deals
Processes payments, including non-cash options
Centralizes reporting and analytics
Ensures state reporting compliance, including Metrc
Streamlines inventory auditing
Manages inventory discrepancies
Monitors employee activity
Maintains employee permissions
Simplifies inventory moves/transfers
Facilitates company management and growth
Often includes basic loyalty programs
Popular cannabis point of sale options
Flowhub (obviously, that’s us!)
Dutchie (acquired LeafLogix and Green Bits)
Dispensary POS pricing
Monthly fees: Expect to pay between $600-1,500+ per month per store location depending on terminals, users, features, and integrations for POS software.
Onboarding: Most charge $1,000-2,000+ to get started on the platform
Most POS providers have additional add-on costs for user seats, hardware and/or special features like tech support, mobile apps, integrations and data tools.
Note: Other dispensary point-of-sale solutions, including MJ Freeway, BioTrackTHC, BLAZE, and LeafLogix, fit into the category of seed-to-sale software companies. Seed-to-sale tracking means their software was designed to serve the entire cannabis supply chain.
Why you should rethink seed-to-sale platforms
Many consumers are shifting their cannabis purchasing behaviors to match how they buy everything else: online. Dispensary ecommerce includes online menus, online ordering (for in-store or curbside pickup), and delivery services.
Choose the right online menu partner
Learn about product-based SEO
Key ecommerce features
- Real-time inventory sync
- Accurate product information and description
- High-quality product images
- Up-to-date price information for cannabis products
- SEO optimized menus
- Robust search, sort, and filter capabilities
- Increases dispensary visibility
- Improves customer satisfaction
- Includes pre-scheduled specials and deals
- Offers convenience to customers
- Facilitates a modern, online shopping experience
- Allows for a more contactless transaction
- Maximizes in-store efficiency
- Decreases long wait lines
E-commerce software pricing
Varies: Each provider offers different pricing structures and benefits, and typically charges a monthly subscription fee. Ecommerce providers like Weedmaps and Leafly also offer advertising opportunities.
3. HR and payroll
If you have employees, you have to pay them and pay taxes. Employee benefits are another part of this equation.
While some mainstream vendors may work for your business, we recommend choosing software platforms that are overtly cannabis-friendly so you don’t have trouble down the road.
Key HR and payroll features
- Human resource management
- Employee scheduling
- Tax compliance, including 280E guidance
- Time-off requests
- Track employee costs
- Benefits management
- Tax documents
- File federal, state, and local payroll taxes
- Post job openings
- Recruit employees
- Manage hiring and applicant tracking
- Manage employee onboarding
Popular HR and payroll options
HR/payroll software pricing
Varies: Payroll/HR software is often priced by employee. Pricing also varies from company to company and can increase based on added features.
4. Cultivation, manufacturing, and distribution
If you are a vertically integrated business, you’ll also need management software for growers, cultivators, extractors, testers, and distributors.
- Integrates hardware like scanners and scales
- Streamlines full-scale operations
- Manages employees and reduces labor costs
- Tracks plants across all stages
- Logs cannabis seeds, plants, and packages
- Scans RFID tags
- Manages all stages of supply chain management
- Manages vendors, partners, purchase orders, manifests, and invoices
- Visualizes data, like crop yields, clone forecasting, and costs
- Tracks activities for the full supply chain
- Increases efficiency
- Reports to track and trace systems, like Metrc
Varies: Based on state, licensing structure, and facility size.
5. Security systems
Protecting your business isn’t just a smart move – strong security is required by many states in legal cannabis markets. Any conventional security provider should work to protect your cannabis business, but be sure to ask if they will work with you.
Guide to Dispensary Security
Key dispensary security features
- Monitors building exterior
- Monitors building interior
- Protects employees and customers
- Protects cannabis products and inventory
- Keeps a log to review at any time
- Allows secure access to keep unauthorized people out
- Allows for easy notification to police of an issue
- Keeps your business compliant
- Deters theft and other unwanted behavior
Popular dispensary security options
Check local listings for security providers in your area.
Depends on the system, but expect at least:
$1,500 - $3,000 for setup (hardware and installation)
$100/month for monitoring
Managing expenses, revenue, and capital assets is a must for all businesses, regardless of size, and it doesn't have to be complicated.
Accounting software for cannabis businesses allows you to manage your cash flow, create P&Ls and balance sheets, pay bills, and track outstanding invoices, without relying on spreadsheets.
Key accounting software features
- Automates financial management
- Allows for invoicing vendors and clients (accounts receivable)
- Allows for tracking payments to vendors (accounts payable)
- Streamlines expense tracking, often with mobile apps
- Streamlines expense reconciliation
- Integrates with bank accounts
- Simplifies financial reporting, P&L’s, and balance sheets
- Often includes payroll functionality
- Saves your accountant and tax professionals time
- Helps control cash flow
- Sends purchase orders
- Ensures tax compliance
Accounting software pricing
Varies: From $0/month to $100+/month, depending on business complexity and needed features.
Bonus must-have #2: Payments
More cannabis payment processors are emerging as customers and retailers alike demand alternatives to being cash-only. As long as you properly vet and understand your payment partner, it’s highly recommended that you include non-cash payments in your tech stack.
The most important questions to ask cannabis payment providers are:
Does your solution integrate with my POS?
Is your solution compliant?
What is your fee/cost structure?
When done correctly, non-cash payments can increase dispensary average cart size up to 31%.
Nice-to-have dispensary software tools
Here are the dispensary software tools that help run your business more efficiently or increase customer satisfaction, but aren’t required to stay compliant.
CRM and loyalty
A customer relationship management tool allows you to know who your customers are and effectively communicate with them for marketing, loyalty, or other purposes.
Managing customer data is necessary, but an additional system may not be necessary depending on your business goals.
Similarly, loyalty programs are common in retail to build brand affinity, but most cannabis POS systems will include basic loyalty functionality.
Digital menus and kiosks
Digital menus and kiosks create better customer experiences inside your store.
Signage is often used to showcase current inventory, feature products, highlight current specials, or build brand awareness. Some displays allow personalization for customers to explore products on their own.
Kiosks may be purely educational, or transactional, allowing customers to build carts and place orders (sometimes even pay!).
Data is available from your point-of-sale system and other tools, but large brands, and those looking to grow exponentially, may want to invest in a comprehensive data solution.
These tools often also include competitive market and consumer analytics beyond your business.
In today’s digital landscape, many cannabis brands use digital channels like websites and social media pages as a way to be found by customers. They also empower communication with customers in real time.
Some brands are even exploring new channels, like mobile apps, as a way to further engage, build loyalty, and enhance ecommerce opportunities.
Note: Some states have very strict regulations on how you promote your cannabis business. Consult your state’s requirements before investing in digital channels.
Best practices for choosing marijuana retail software
Now that you have the full view of what your dispensary tool stack could look like, it's time to make some choices.
A best-in-class dispensary experience is yours to build, and luckily, there are many cannabis tech companies ready to help.