Inventory management is a challenge for all retailers, but it’s particularly fraught for today’s cannabis retailers given the industry’s complex system for managing incoming and outgoing SKUs.
For example, not only is the process based on batch identification rather than product identification, there are no UPCs or other standardization for product codes, Katharine Leonard, co-founder and CEO of cannabis marketplace Palmer Jane explains to RIS. This means a cannabis retailer can have the same product listed multiple times in their inventory management system, adding yet another layer of complication throughout operations.
“From a technology perspective, this makes it hard to reconcile total inventory for one specific product or product line, and even more difficult to build out a product catalog that only shows unique products,” she says. What’s more, it’s difficult to develop a database of products containing both the ingredients and effects of cannabis — both crucial attributes to communicate with consumers.
“With alcohol, you can gauge the effects based on alcohol percentage,” adds Holly Prohs, Palmer Jane co-founder and COO. “Cannabis does not have a database of this information, and every product needs to be researched individually.”
Operating as a female-focused marketplace, start-up Palmer Jane was founded upon the mission of making CBD shopping as easy as clothes shopping. Its product selection is curated from local dispensaries; items span methods of consumption, from smoking to suppositories, and are further segmented by the health benefits they provide.
In order to overcome these inventory obstacles, the company teamed with VTEX to develop a custom website that could service multiple retailers across multiple locations. It standardized its product catalog with a system ID-ing the same products across multiple cannabis retailers, and in turn linking them under a unique product name.
The integration also enabled Palmer Jane to develop a database of the ingredients and effects of cannabis, so its product catalogs can display items to consumers based on their benefits and effects.
Email communication between Palmer Jane, the stores and the consumers have also been streamlined as a result; thanks to these upgrades, Palmer Jane has successfully incentivized new cannabis stores to join its platform.
“We place a significant emphasis on fostering a relationship with our retailers,” notes Leonard. “They know their business better than anyone, so we aim to build our processes around their already-established in-store procedures. This makes adoption among retail staff much easier, as they are able to quickly integrate our work flows into their day-to-day.”
All of these benefits are combining to helping Palmer Jane and its retail partners meet the heightened consumer demands during the pandemic.
“Bringing cannabis retailers online and providing them with the opportunity to flourish in e-commerce is more important than ever,” Prohs says. “With the pandemic, consumer expectations are elevated, and by offering a seamless onboarding experience, we are able to help retailers deliver on these expectations.”