Some cannabis users are struggling with online shopping

Published Jan 18, 2021 12:00 p.m. ET
iStock / tommaso79

It feels like eons ago that we were shopping maskless inside of dispensaries without a care in the world aside from watching how much was spent. It was a wonderful, freeing experience that many of us took for granted, but now that it’s been taken away, we suddenly realize how good we had it, and we want it all back. The coronavirus has made it so that buying something as simple as cannabis in some regions is now quite an endeavor that is constantly changing.

Dispensaries are adapting in an attempt to offer us something better with the assistance of technology, and that all sounds wonderful in theory, especially in the age of a pandemic, but some of those who have been forced to go from in-person sales to buying weed online aren’t all that enthusiastic about the experience. There are too many issues with this new mode of “weed delivery” to mention. Still, we wanted to take a moment to highlight the worst problems because they’re becoming a serious barrier for some consumers who have no other choice.

1. Technology is intimidating and limited

We used to have to find a dispensary, go there, hand-select a product off the shelf, and then pay for it before heading home. It was all so incredibly simple and straightforward. Sadly, that simplicity is gone with online shopping. What used to be browsing jars of buds is now trying to figure out filters for menus. Then it’s filling out all of the necessary information, having a credit or debit card to pay for it all. After all of that, you’ve got package tracking for weed delivery or an appointment you have to make for curbside pickup, all inconveniences consumers don’t experience when they shop in person.

2. Glitches and misses

Buying weed online requires either a website or an app, two things that can notoriously go wrong at the very worst times, like right after you click “pay for order.” There can be freezing, loading troubles, and a general feeling of confusion as you try to figure out where exactly everything is. It’s nowhere near as organized or reliable as an in-person transaction, and while it might not be a dire situation, it can be really frustrating, especially for those who aren’t entirely comfortable with technology.

3. No smell

Even if you’re lucky, and you score a smooth functioning website that has seamless, user-friendly controls, with online shopping, there is no interactive experience, which means that you don’t get to see the product until it arrives at your car or home. You can of course, usually browse through some nice photographs that can give you some idea of what a pot product might look like, but there is no way to smell it. Since we know that aroma is a huge part of the experience, it’s really not hard to see why this is a problem.

4. No visual assessment

Whether you’re ordering up some weed delivery or opting for curbside pickup, the only real interaction that you’ll have with a dispensary is online. This can be helpful in some ways as there tends to be more available information when it comes to things like cannabinoid content or expected effects, but when it comes to seeing what you’re about to buy, the options are typically limited to small thumbnails. Of course, some are high quality, but they're generally viewed on a small screen, which can be hard. Plus, a lot of pot shops use stock photos, so you don’t get to lay eyes on the product you’re buying at all.

5. No personalized recommendations

We’ve got to give credit where it’s due, and some dispensaries have done an excellent job at using technology in hopes of somewhat replacing the personal recommendations that consumers would normally receive from a budtender. Still, it’s just not the same as having someone who knows what you need and what doesn’t work for you. The thing about truly personalized recommendations is that they require a person who knows something about you, and you just can’t get that online.

New products are getting hit the worst

Since the process of online shopping can be a bit off-putting for consumers, in particular those who are older and less comfortable with technology, new cannabis products just aren’t getting the attention they deserve. Going through several pages of goodies is time-consuming, so customers are more likely to just search for what they need and get out than they are to make an impulse buy so that they can try something new. This means fewer sales for the newest canna-businesses and that’s hard on such a brand-new sector of the industry.

Online shopping and weed delivery might be working, for now, to keep many of us safe, but the majority of consumers aren’t getting the experience that they crave or deserve from this new way of doing things.

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