Started in 2014, Baker’s mission is to make cannabis shopping as convenient and easy as the rest of the retail industry. Their software allows dispensaries to offer online shopping and loyalty programs to make the shopping experience the best for their customers.
The Baker office is located in a section of the WeWork office in downtown Denver. WeWork is a coworking space that is used by both individuals and companies to have a collaborative environment and share resources such as meeting rooms, kitchen space and other amenities.
I took the elevator up to the third floor to meet with Eli Sklarin, who is the Director of Marketing at Baker (@trybaker on the community). He took me on a tour of the office which is adorned with artwork from a local artist who sells prints of their work in nearby dispensaries. Baker has 26 full time employees, with 19 of them located in this office and the rest in the various regions where Baker has clients. Baker currently serves 260 dispensaries in 10 states and Canada with more states on the way.
After the tour we sat down and Eli gave me an overview of their software and what future improvements and products they are working on. Their platform is hosted on Amazon AWS and runs on a LAMP stack which is a mature platform for online applications. Everything is done through a web browser or a mobile app, making their loyalty program easy to set up as a kiosk for customers to access in a waiting room. Baker uses an agile development model, allowing them to release bug fixes and new features every two weeks. Their customer success team works with dispensaries to setup the system and help them get the best use out of it. They then provide customer feedback and feature requests to the programmers and product managers.
The loyalty program and online ordering system supports communication through both email and SMS, although Eli told me that response rates and conversion from text messages are much higher than email. Customers can easily browse real-time inventory, make delivery orders or online reservations, and access their loyalty points to see what rewards they can redeem. They can customize their profile to indicate their prefered strains and product types, so they only get promotional notifications about products they care about. Delivery is coordinated by text message, which makes it easy for delivery drivers and dispensary owners to communicate with customers about their orders and deliveries.
One of the unique features of their loyalty program is that points aren’t just earned for making purchases. Eli explained that the relationship between a dispensary and their customers shouldn’t just be transactional. You get points just for visiting without making a purchase, to encourage customers to make a habit of stopping by. Each dispensary can easily customize their loyalty program and personalize the rewards they offer. Anything from discounts, to t-shirts, to free products can be included. Dispensaries can also customize the point system for promotions, such as offering double points for the product of the day. There’s a comprehensive analytics system so dispensaries can see what promotions are working the best and who their top customers are.
With their recent round of fundraising Baker is hiring more staff and working on new initiatives to streamline the cannabis ordering industry. Eli showed me two new systems they are working on. The first is connecting cannabis product suppliers, such as edible manufacturers, into their system. This will allow suppliers to communicate directly with their fans and customers, as well as get insight into inventory levels at the dispensaries where their products are sold. No longer will they have to wait for the dispensary to remember to call them for another order, and customers won’t be plagued with product shortages. The next product is a dispensary search tool, where customers can search for participating dispensaries near them based on a variety of criteria and taking into account the inventory that is already tracked in the system. One quick search will show you which dispensary near you has your favorite strain in stock or on special.
Eli compared what they are creating to the systems in place in other retail areas. As he put it, Frito Lay knows exactly how many bags of chips are on the shelf in your local 7-11, and they make sure that their products are never out of stock. Most dispensaries don’t have that level of sophistication yet but with Baker’s help they can make that a reality.