Early on during the pandemic, it became clear that the world as we knew it was undergoing a permanent change. But in an industry that changes more often than it stays the same, adaptation is simply par for the course. With customers forced to re-budget and re-think how they approached shopping, successful businesses tended to pivot in at least one of two ways. And it’s looking like these changes will be the status quo for the foreseeable future.
How the Consumer Changed
Prior to the pandemic, businesses in the plant-touching sector of our industry were already well on their way to exploring delivery services where legally permissible. But the pandemic forced consumers to get comfortable with the delivery service model far more quickly than they likely would have otherwise. A PR Newswire poll indicated a 70% increase in delivery orders when compared to pre-COVID times. Not only that, but people were ordering more than they had before. This is likely due to several factors, but leads into another strong trend that developed amidst the pandemic: people began to shop less frequently, but stock up on more at a single time. And whenever consumer trends change, the industry must change with them.
Delivery Services Are Wholeheartedly Embraced
Perhaps the most obvious industry shift came with how rapidly businesses, from plant-touching to ancillary, adopted delivery services. Amazon had already proven that most people preferred shopping from the comforts of their couches with products being quickly delivered to their doors. The pandemic only served to accelerate the market in the direction it was already headed. But several plant-touching businesses with no delivery model in place saw an opportunity and seized on it by investing in acquisitions of established dispensaries that only offered delivery options. This basically provided them with a turnkey delivery solution that they could adopt virtually overnight and, eventually, integrate to the other products they offered (if any).
An added bonus of adopting delivery services was the ability to reach markets that, due to legal reasons, were formerly unattainable. Even in the state of California, where the commodity is ingrained within the culture, the majority of municipalities banned commercial enterprises. Delivery services are now allowing dispensaries to reach the nearly 2/3 of the state that was originally off-limits. And areas that had no delivery laws in place at all began to adopt them. A huge example is Colorado, one of the largest markets in the world, that legalized delivery for both medical and adult use products all within the span of the pandemic.
Attention Shifts to E-Commerce
Even brick-and-mortar shops without the means to adopt delivery services had to rethink their business models to accommodate the new demands of a restricted market. Unable to survive on foot traffic, these smaller businesses began to expand their online presences, offering online ordering options for the first time with safe curbside pickup and, in many instances, popular drive-thru options. These models have also become increasingly popular in areas where delivery services have not been approved by law.
Will a preference for delivery and emphasis on e-commerce carry over after the pandemic has truly subsided? It seems likely, at least to some degree. Many businesses are opting to juggle delivery, e-commerce and the original brick-and-mortar experience since ignoring one option risks losing a significant chunk of the customer base. We imagine your own business model went through some changes between March 2020 and today if you hadn’t already been moving in that direction. Fortunately, in our experience, change is ultimately a good thing.