Caliva’s Technology Stack
The cannabis marketplace grows increasingly competitive every month, with new dispensaries opening and more brands launching. Success hinges on several factors, including hiring the best people, and committing to extensive and thoughtful training. For brands, crafting high-quality products and nailing marketing is essential, and the best dispensaries nurture engaging vibes and carry the right mix of products. One necessity for everybody in the high-stakes market: Embracing the right cannabis technology platforms. Just as every other industry in California, from natural foods to fashion, immerses itself in technology to gain competitive edges, so must cannabis.
A number of Caliva’s executive team members worked in technology for years before pivoting to cannabis, and from the beginning pursued the best technology solutions.
Headset Bridge: Transparent Connectivity
Like many dispensaries across the country, Caliva works with the analytics firm Headset for data about retail trends nationwide and across California — everything from average pricing of product to sales growth among different cannabis categories, like vapes. This is vital business intelligence. But the company’s technology Headset Bridge has proven even more valuable to Caliva — both our cannabis brands and our dispensary.
“It’s amazing — it lets us find out, in real time, how our products are selling in dispensaries,” said Sam Peterson, who is in charge of Caliva’s field operations (on-boarding new clients, training, planning in-store demos, running statewide promotions and more). “If we sell three strains of flower, pre-rolls and a vape line to a dispensary, we have no way of knowing how they are doing unless we stop by and ask. And then we hear, ‘Great. People like it. And we have plenty for now.’ And then a week later we find out they are out of some of those same items, and in fact they have been out for weeks. That’s a big problem for us.”
He added: “There is no reason our sales reps should visit each dispensary every week, just to see check on inventory levels. That is a dismal use of time.”
Instead, Caliva team members in San Jose tap into Headset Bridge and review sales, on an regular basis, within partner dispensaries. When inventory of individual products gets to a certain level, Caliva staffers send emails to dispensary sales managers, alerting them to the diminished inventory. Fresh orders get placed, products gets shipped, and the entire operation is seamless.
Another advantage to Headset Bridge revolves around products that don’t sell. When Caliva sees that certain products aren’t selling in a dispensary, it first provokes questions: Are they priced correctly in the store? Are the budtenders properly trained about how to sell the products? Should we launch new promotions, get them off the shelves, and introduce new products because the poorly performing ones weren’t a good fit?
In the past, said Sam, the cannabis industry relied upon a lot of “winging it.” But technologies like Headset Bridge are removing the guesswork and the tedious and inefficient hands-on inventory reviews.
MailChimp: Keeping Customers Informed and Engaged
Communicating with customers in cannabis can be challenging. Regulations limit advertising, social media platforms arbitrarily kick cannabis companies out of their networks and some marketing-oriented technologies refuse to work with cannabis companies.
Caliva champions email marketing, and uses MailChimp to stay in touch with the tens of thousands of people who have opted-in to receive messages about sales, events and more.
“We use MailChimp for a variety of different audiences. It’s invaluable,” said Ashley Erickson, a Caliva marketing team member. “We already send out two or three emails every week to people who want news about our dispensary, and we are transitioning to a daily email. Specials. Blog posts. Events in the San Jose store. Industry updates. We have received fantastic feedback about our communications.”
Caliva uses a another reservoir of emails to communicate with VIPs, people who have been with Caliva from the beginning or are frequent store customers. The VIP emails involve VIP events, invitations to become part of focus groups, surveys and more. When Caliva is about to introduce new products, people on the VIP list get the first tip.
In addition, Caliva uses MailChimp to communicate with its 250 employees on two campuses.
“Everything is moving at a breakneck speed,” said Ashley. “MailChimp lets us be nimble and effective with a variety of audiences.”
GreenBits: A Compliant POS
A key backbone for all dispensaries is point-of-sale technologies, which not only track in-store sales and create helpful data for store managers, but also help maintain dispensaries always remain compliant with myriad state and local laws.
Caliva uses GreenBits, one of the industry heavyweights. Among other things, GreenBits keeps track of transaction regulations, and makes sure individual customers do not exceed purchase limits; maintains 100 percent accuracy with state reporting systems; and captures customer information at check-in and enforces validation at check-out.
“Selling cannabis is not the same thing as selling surfboards — compliance always stands front-and-center. With GreenBits, we check all of the important boxes, while also moving customers quickly through the cannabis-buying process,” said Ashley. “Without powerful technology, the whole sales experience could become tedious and too time-consuming for customers. Which is unacceptable — we would lose customers to competitors who rely upon good technologies.”
Baker Technology: Cooking up Customer Communication
Point-of-sale loyalty systems — the kind that, for example, keep track of booze purchases at your favorite liquor stores, and reward you with discounts and store credit at the end of the year — have emerged as an important strategy in traditional retailing. But many of the technologies used by mainstream stores reject the cannabis industry. Not Baker, which is specific to our budding marketplace. Caliva uses Baker to stay in touch with customers who have opted-in to receiving text messages about sales and more.
“We have found that text messages are the most effective drivers of sales, and of getting customers through the door,” said Ashley. “It’s huge in this industry, and we have tens of thousands of people who receive text marketing messages from us.”
The Baker system keeps track of things like customer’s preferences, which lets Caliva target customers with personally valuable information rather than flooding their phones with things they don’t care about. The customer who wants to only hear about flower, for example, won’t receive texts about Caliva’s latest line of microdosed gummies.
Caliva.menu: Homegrown Technology
“We built an ecommerce site that allows customers to view, purchase, pick-up or receive deliveries of San Jose’s finest cannabis products,” said Andrew. “The technology lets third-party services programmatically update their menus of our products, too. It’s both consumer-facing, for those who want to buy our products, and partner-facing, for Caliva industry partners who need to update their offerings on our menu.” Caliva.menu is a robust platform that looks like many CPG eCommerce sites complete with unboxing videos, product recommendations, as well as future plans to include user reviews.
Taking a look under the hood of Caliva’s tech stack proves that technology is key to scaled, smart growth in the space.