Legal Marijuana Boom An Opportunity For Digital Signage Firm, But Won’t Be Easy

January 12, 2017 by Dave Haynes

A few digital signage companies I know have been taking a look at the rapidly rising number of U.S. states that are now allowing the open sale of recreational and/or medical marijuana, and thinking this was a still early stage business vertical they could tap into.

These shops and dispensaries have a lot of varied product to sell, and a need to explain what they’re all about – which begs for things like digital menu displays and interactive stations.

However, there’s so much potential money in the legalized marijuana trade that there are already pure-play technology providers that just work in that vertical – meaning a digital signage company coming in and suggesting it can provide software to drive a screen is probably not going to be enough.

Consider Seattle-based Grassworks Digital, which has a tool it calls Simple Marijuana Menu (SMM) that automatically builds fast online ordering and display menus for marijuana retailers, using point of sale data. The company is already serving 50 stores.

The intent was for the system to drive online and mobile menus, but the company found an “unexpected benefit” when menus are displayed on digital signage in retail locations. “Because along with streamlining backend operations, its attractive layout makes SMM a powerful showroom selling tool. The new online ordering system, which allows customers to place their orders to retailers so the order is ready when they arrive, is the latest development in Grassworks’ next-generation cannabis technology,” says the company is a press release.

The company launched in Washington state, and has recently expanded into Oregon. “The feedback from our clients has been incredible,” says Grassworks CEO and co-founder Ryan Porter. “In 2017, we’re going to continue to deliver time-tested solutions to the exploding recreational marijuana space.”

I coach a lot of smaller CMS providers and solutions vendors on the need to not be a generalist offer and find a vertical. I often point to the rapid growth that will likely be seen in the retail cannabis business as one where they could establish some subject matter expertise and tune their products. These new retailers will want display menus and they want interactive to explain the differences between Blackberry Kush and Platinum Girl Scout Cookies.

There are companies developing menu-board applications, and templates for weed-centric displays, but it strikes me that it is relatively easy for an online commerce provider to basic digital signage, as well. When a client has a choice between a service provider that address one need, and other that covers off multiple needs, the signage-only option isn’t going to win many of those contests.

If you’re looking at this space, find partners and go in with a full solution.

Canada, by the way, is curiously well behind the US when it comes to legalization, but that is expected to change this year, with national adoption.

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