How to communicate directly with cannabis consumers to drive deeper relationships

14 mins read

On this episode of BofC Live, we connect with Nat Shaul, co-founder and Vice President of Marketing for springbig. springbig is a technology that allows cannabis retailers and dispensaries to communicate directly with their customers which can help increase retention, drive sales and implement thoughtful marketing campaigns. We wanted to connect with Shaul about the technology, how retailers are utilizing the technology and how consumers have, or have not, changed their shopping habits through COVID.

BofC Live is the daily news and interview program of Business of Cannabis. Business of Cannabis highlights the companies, brands, people and trends driving the sector.

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BofC Live Transcript

Rosenthal: I’m excited to talk to you because we hear about SpringBig a lot. Tell us the snapshot of what SpringBig is and then we’ll get into more of it.

Shaul: Spring Big is loyalty and text message marketing for the cannabis space. We service brands and dispensaries nationwide and in Canada. We give them the ability to advertise directly to their consumers via text message marketing. We’re also launching an app this week, so we’ll be able to send push notifications as well and reward their customers with with loyalty.

Rosenthal: That’s a good description. Not everybody is as tight as you are when they describe the company. I’m based in downtown Toronto but been spending time in the Northeast in the States and it seems to me that this is an area where the dispensaries here and in Canada, the cannabis retailers a do amazing work and just be doing so much better because that direct communication with consumers is absolutely essential, especially in environments where traditional advertising is their limited or not allowed.

Shaul: Exactly. That was the first kind of entryway into the space. And we had started servicing small businesses, pizza shops, mom and pop shops. And they were using our software well, but once we signed up about two or three dispensaries, we noticed that they were using it extremely well. It’s like the average use was 30 times a month. Then the average use was like 200 times a month for cannabis and their results were 15, 20 times what the results of the mom and pop shops were. And that was just because the consumers were eager to receive those messages way more than you’re eager to receive a free slice of pizza. If I take 20% off cannabis, there’s a lot more exciting. And it was really the only way to know that they’re getting in touch with their customers. So they were really excited to use it and they were just a lot more tech savvy. These people who really put in the effort to learn all the ins and outs of the software because they were so excited. They really spent the time to learn everything about it and because of that they really got to use it to the most ability. That must be exciting from a tech perspective too because you have this tech, you want people to like really tested and drive it and like even drive new features that might be sort of needed.

Rosenthal: Is it exciting to work at that intersection? We talked about a lot of cannabis and tech, but especially cannabis in tech and consumer facing retail because that’s where the limits of how people are operating in the world are really changing almost every day.

Shaul: Yes. I mean it was way more exciting for the devs because for so long, we would ask for like, “hey this would be a cool feature” and they make it and nobody would use it. Then all of a sudden, we would sign up a bunch of these people and they’re like, “wow” – you are using it and they’re getting all this feedback on it and it was really great to see um for sure.

Rosenthal: Especially cannabis, especially in terms of the U. S. right now and like there seems to be so much growth ahead, There’s been tons of growth behind, but now it’s like there’s so much ahead of us, even you’re based in Florida, there’s going to be tremendous growth in Florida. This tremendous growth in New York in the Midwest and then the rest of the country too, that hasn’t already got there. But it is interesting to think about the confluence of that, like this growth in the cannabis industry and how consumers are behaving COVID, post-COVID and how brands are interacting with them. Do you think it’s changed like totally in forever or is this like sort of has COVID has been an anomaly and like then go back to normal or are the things that you’re seeing on the tech that people are behaving differently?

Shaul: That’s a great question. I’m behaving differently. I hope for the sake of the country and for the sake of the people, it’s not forever. I do think that for a while everyone is going to be behaving a little bit differently whether it’s mandated or not. I think people are just a little bit more careful and on edge. And with that, I think dispensaries, we’ve seen them use texting a little bit differently where it would usually just be like, “hey deals” and now it’s kind of a mix of, you know, still the deals, but also they’ll be like, “hey, you know, mask mandate is ended or a mask mandate has started again. Hey, store is is closed. It’s just curbside pick up from this hour to this hour.” And having that, we grew dramatic tremendously. When it started, we had about 40 employees and now we’re closer to 160. I walked into the office for the first time a couple of months ago and I was like, I don’t even know anybody here. Like it’s a different company. COVID has definitely been eye opening for us to see again. All the different ways our software can be used and utilized. Yeah, that’s exciting.

Rosenthal: This was not why we’re talking now, but one of our people we know in Toronto landscape bud tender got acquired by you guys in the midst of COVID I think. I just like the intersection of two growth industries of tech and cannabis and together, like using it in interesting ways is like, that’s what excites me like from your background.

Shaul: It’s amazing because as cannabis changes we have to change also. It’s fun. I mean because usually when you work for a tech company, I mean I can’t speak from so much experience SpringBig has been a big chunk of my life, but it feels like you’re you’re making one thing and you kind of make enhancements to that one thing. But for us it’s like we’re always changing it and making enhancements, but we’re also, as the landscape changes, we change as well. So it’s really fun to be in this kind of atmosphere and change ourselves to the changes of cannabis. Acquiring Budtender during Covid has been amazing. They’re a great group of guys and putting them into our software again was it was a change and worked out great. Seeing great results from that. It’s a really amazing experience and it’s a great roller coaster to be on for sure.

Rosenthal: I feel weird saying this as the Delta variant, but you can see a time where new states really come online in terms of their sort of full fledged cannabis industry. We talked about New York, Florida, can’t be far behind Arizona, Illinois, Michigan. All those places are gunning and this goes back to what we’re talking about initially: the relationship between a dispensary and their consumers, even though like there’s big picture industry stuff happening, that direct relationship is where the rubber meets the road.

Shaul: You know, it does. I think we put mom and pops on level playing field with like huge MSOs. Like is that how you sort of think about it as well as like this is really something that puts dispensary owner and dispensary consumer in direct contact and that just has to be good. Yeah, it’s really amazing. And also like you said, it does put them on a level playing field. If a mom and pop opens first and then this mega chain opens usually in a in a mom and pop world that mom and pop shuts down. In cannabis, they really have a shot at keeping them more than they would have in any other instance. They can text them like, they’ll have points already in that store and say, “hey, you gotta use your points.” You know, I’m a sucker for those points. It’s really great kind of forming those relationships as well. Every time I get a text, I get excited. I don’t care who it’s from. And then when it’s a dispensary, I’m like, okay, this is amazing. We’ve heard responses from both consumers and from dispensaries and they’ve even just so positive. It’s really great.

Rosenthal: My local shop in Toronto, I do get text message from and it drives my behavior and I’m not analog to everybody else, but I like when I know they have certain products in stock when I know that they’re sort of discounts or offers or even like an event, they put on an event like that. It feels like I’m directly connected with them and that feels something different than like seeing an email or something similar.

Shaul: It feels more personal for sure. Just if I get a text from like anyone, I’m like, all right, I want to see you. I want to go there.

Rosenthal: Kudos to you and the SpringBig team because I love the idea, love the tech, love the people that you have building a team with.

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