Guest written by Oliver Estreich, founder of the Native Society
Once upon a time, you might have gotten away with delivering weed two hours late. But these days, punctuality and accuracy will make or break a cannabis business.
The solution? Integrate with a software platform such as GetSwift that manages order flow and optimizes delivery over the so-called last mile, or final stretch of a route, to make sure packages arrive mistake-free and on time.
That’s according to Bobby, co-founder and CEO of HERB, which sells a wide range of cannabis products and accessories. Bobby, who prefers to be known only by his first name, offers delivery in the Greater Los Angeles area including downtown, Echo Park, Silver Lake, Koreatown, Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Century City, Westwood, Santa Monica and Venice. Those regions are notorious for extremely heavy traffic, making customers all the more likely to want delivery rather than making the hike to a dispensary.
In its early years, HERB employed a crude system involving texts to drivers (think of how marijuana continues to be sold and delivered in states where it’s still illegal). But as HERB’s business grew, such an approach became increasingly problematic.
“It was very cumbersome and prone to errors,” Bobby says. “The delivery process involves so many small, coordinated movements that the delivery can go south quickly if one thing is missed.”
The challenge became more complex as HERB expanded into multiple fulfillment centers across the Los Angeles area. With customers expecting delivery within about a half an hour, it became essential to know the absolute best routes, which is tough even for experienced drivers.
To solve the problem, Bobby wasn’t interested in making big internal investments. “We didn’t want to get into the delivery service business, so we searched for a software platform,” he says. “We met Joel MacDonald, and we got onboarded.”
MacDonald is founder and president of GetSwift, a software-as-a-service (SaaS) company based in New York. The business was founded in Australia as a solution for MacDonald’s liquor delivery service, a venture he began after a career in Australian-rules football.
Today, GetSwift operates in countries all over the world, supporting the efficient delivery of everything from pizza to flowers. “Our technology is ideally suited for cannabis delivery,” MacDonald says. “We can optimize delivery routes, drivers, and schedules for cannabis businesses, whilst enabling their end users to benefit from an ultra-quick/convenient delivery service with live tracking—just like they would when ordering their dinner at home.”
Ultimately, a platform like GetSwift may be essential to keep up with customer expectations. “The big frontier for e-commerce right now is optimizing the customer experience,” MacDonald says. “If you aren’t doing that, you are probably already falling behind.”
When it comes to cannabis orders, Bobby says that customers are perhaps even more demanding. “Delivery for our customers is about convenience,” he says. “If you mess up, how many times are you going to be given a chance?”
Bobby says the delivery process became “tremendously easier” once he synced up with GetSwift. “The number of errors immediately declined and so did the delivery time,” he says.
Drivers also benefit from a simplified platform. With GetSwift, they simply install an app that connects them with the dispatcher, who controls the order book. Drivers follow optimized delivery routes and drop off packages according to easy-to-understand instructions on the app.
Bobby says he was pleased that he didn’t need to make a major up-front investment in any new hardware. Instead, GetSwift provides software and charges based on the number of deliveries.
“It’s absolutely affordable,” he says. “I have shopped around and been unable to find a better solution.”
From a legal perspective, companies like HERB must be careful about keeping compliant. Bobby says he needs a particular retail license that allows for delivery. “It’s not like starting any other business,” he says.
And even after recreational use in California became legal, laws continue to evolve. For instance, motorcycle delivery was recently banned, making it tougher for HERB to keep a tight delivery schedule.
Bobby says he has been able to make adjustment to his platform to keep compliant. “The GetSwift platform will do what you tell it to do,” he says. “You just have to customize it.”
All of the benefits of a software platform are critical to keep up in an environment where many illegal sellers remain in the game. “We see a lot jumping in illegally,” Bobby says.
Cannabis attorneys say software platforms are inevitably going to become integral to marijuana delivery as legalization passes in more states. “As regulations shift and people become more facile with online, you’ll find a shift toward software to support delivery optimization,” says Joseph A. Bondy, one of the nation’s preeminent cannabis attorneys. “It’s just like getting a pizza.”
Bondy also says that a SaaS platform has the potential to do even more using the data collected from each customer and order. “Over time, you’ll begin to aggregate metrics on the people you deliver to,” he says. “Using that data, you’ll be able to proactively suggest orders rather than wait for them.”