As the cannabis industry matures, advanced technologies are reshaping the way dispensaries are designed in both medical and adult-use markets. Modern dispensary design is adapting to incorporate digitally integrated features and automated cannabis retail sales in the interior and to facilitate new dispensing options through drone deliveries and exterior drive-thrus. Many of these new technologies center on reinventing the customer experience for the transaction and servicing processes – changing how people buy and receive their cannabis.
Automated Cannabis Retail
Vending machines are relatively new in the cannabis industry, but they could revolutionize the dispensing process. Though they are only legal in a few markets, they’ve been embraced by customers who enjoy the convenience and exposure to new products.
“Cannabis vending machines are a cool technology that could change how customers are serviced,” said Virginia Maggiore, Principal of Store Planning for RDC.
Designed as a self-service option for customers, these vending machines are used to dispense cannabis flower, vapes, and edibles. Currently, cannabis vending machines are only legal in states that allow vendors to have a cannabis vending license like California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Florida, and Oregon. These technologies may also be found in reservation-regulated markets in states like Nevada and New York.
Though most cannabis vending machines are located inside of dispensaries which verify customer IDs upon entrance, some vending machines have the ability to scan identification cards or utilize facial recognition to check age and validity upon purchase as well. Cannabis vending machines may also be equipped with capabilities such as bill validators, keyless entry, security alarms, and touchscreens allowing customers to further explore product details and educational materials.
Cannabis Delivery and Drive Thru
The popularity of carry out, delivery, and drive-thru capabilities at dispensaries has increased substantially since the pandemic in 2020. These options became common as a method to reduce the spread of coronavirus, and many state and local regulatory authorities passed legislation permitting their use in areas where they had previously been prohibited.
Drive-thru dispensaries are popping up in markets across the country, with recent openings including a retailer in Lodi, New Jersey servicing both medical and adult-use customers and a medical cannabis provider in Waco, Texas. Some cannabis retailers may even choose to repurpose former bank buildings into dispensaries so they can utilize the pneumatic tube systems for their drive thru lanes. These pneumatic tube systems can be used to check IDs, exchange payment, and transport cannabis from the interior of the dispensary to the customer’s driver side window.
Though cannabis dispensary owners were previously limited to either in-house or third-party delivery services using a truck or van, cannabis delivery via drones is on the horizon. The technology is currently being launched for food and package delivery through companies like Amazon and could soon be utilized for cannabis home deliveries. Cannabis drone deliveries could likely reduce costs and security risks for dispensary owners, as well as wait times for customers.
“I am excited to see delivery drones for cannabis home deliveries,” said Virginia Maggiore. “I already have clients making design plans to center their businesses around delivery drones once they become legal.”
Digital Integrations for Retail Areas
Technology-integrated shopping areas are common in retailers across industries and can be excellent design elements in a cannabis dispensary. Often serving as centerpieces for the floor plan design, digital design features can drastically impact how customers interact with a space.
Digital menus, touchscreen educational displays, and electronic wayfinding signage are becoming popular in dispensary designs and, when utilized well, can improve a customer’s experience in a store. But, when executed poorly or not updated regularly, technologies like TV walls and digital menus lose their value.
“Although everyone wants TV walls and touchscreen menu boards, clients need to consider that they need to consistently push content to these devices for them to truly be effective,” said Virginia Maggiore. “Technology for the sake of technology is not going to go far. The technology must do something more for the customer, and truly elevate the space.”
How Can RDC Help?
RDC’s team of architects and designers have worked extensively with retailers in the cannabis industry. Our team works with dispensary owners to design successful and compliant businesses and we are ready to integrate the newest technologies into our upcoming dispensary designs!
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