Your 2024 Guide to Essential Cannabis Dispensary Technology

Cannabis Technology for Dispensaries

A cannabis tech stack may not be at the top of your list of things to worry about… but perhaps it should be. As a new dispensary owner, choosing the right pieces of technology can transform how you operate your business and enhance the shopping experience with quality of life improvements for your customers.

To help you through this journey, we have put together this comprehensive guide to essential dispensary technology. As a tech partner, we’ve helped countless dispensary owners, both big and small, introduce plug-and-play cannabis software solutions into their stores. We can help you decide what’s right for you, explain why we believe some functionalities are a “must-have,” and why other features are advantageous only when the time is right.

Refer to the Table of Contents below to navigate through this article and skip to the section you’re most interested in.

For more information on working with different dispensaries and cannabis technologies systems, check our Guide and Best Practices.

Must-Have Cannabis Retail Technology Solutions For a Dispensary

We’re all for minimalistic approaches, but some technologies are more likely to affect a dispensary’s bottom line than others. We work with dispensaries across the North American market and see clear trends amongst successful dispensaries that sustain their businesses and their profits with consistent growth.

Also Read: How Advanced Cannabis Software and POS Increase Retail Sales

Based on this data, we’ve put together two “tech toolboxes” – an essential version and an enhanced version, with a total of 10 technologies and software.

The Essential Cannabis Retail Tech Toolbox

The following four pieces of technology make up the bare minimum, due to the critical value they bring to a dispensary or to meet federal/local regulations, and in the case of our first technology, both…

1. A Cannabis Point-of-Sale System

A cannabis POS platform is arguably the single most important piece of technology for your cannabis business. It’s an absolute essential in 2024 but not all POS systems are created equal. Your cannabis POS should be able to display open orders from all the tablets in the store and all the orders placed online on your cannabis eCommerce store in real time to give retailers a clearer picture of pending orders and identify bottlenecks in fulfillment.

Crucially, a POS specially designed for cannabis dispensaries will also help tremendously in maintaining compliance with state and federal regulations. For instance, sales reports from your Cova POS synchronize directly with Quickbooks® or export into other file formats. They also sync with METRC and other regulatory systems — without the need for manual entry. Moreover, advanced reporting features reduce your payroll expenses because they save time that would otherwise be spent auditing and reconciling daily sales totals.

Also Read: 8 Reasons Why Your Cannabis Business Needs a Dispensary POS

2. Dispensary Website, eCommerce & Online Menus

Every cannabis dispensary needs a static website. At the very least, it’s your online calling card but it can also display products, pictures, and brand information.

An online menu provides the next level of functionality and audience engagement. With an online menu/POS integration, your inventory is displayed in real-time with accurate pricing.

And if you’d like to open up your dispensary to more people, the next step would be an eCommerce site, with in-person pick-up and an option to place online orders and reservations. It’s also worthwhile to have omnichannel ordering so your customers can order in many ways: in-store, over the phone, on your website, or through third-party marketplaces.

Editor’s Note: A cannabis-specific POS like Cova will have integrations for online menus, added functionality for sales on your website, and integrations with the best cannabis eCommerce solutions. Cannabis technology has now expanded, so you turn on your phone, browse, and place your order at a trusted online dispensary.

3. A Cannabis Inventory Management System

An inventory management system monitors inventory levels in real-time, allowing you to re-merchandise, mark down slower moving items, and transfer items between stores. In the cannabis industry, your inventory management system must communicate with regulatory databases. Ideally, it should have seamless integration with traceability systems like Metrc for easier seed-to-sale tracking.

Good inventory management also keeps your product levels accurate for your customers. Two-way synchronization with third-party sources ensures your customers won’t go back disappointed when they arrive at your dispensary or worse, submit an online payment for a product that’s out of stock.

Daily, weekly, and monthly reports give you an accurate view of your product movement: what’s selling, what isn’t, and what has the highest turnover ratio. You can use that data to make inventory choices based on shifting consumer tastes and experiment with new products, all while easily tracking the results.

4. Surveillance and Security Systems

In many states and provinces, cannabis retailers are required to install surveillance and security systems. Security cameras can help resolve minor incidents of product diversion and keep better tabs on who’s accessing the register.

Even better if you integrate your surveillance system with your POS. For instance, Cova’s cannabis POS integrates with security systems enabling owners to view your transactions overlaid with the camera footage. That way, they can see if the budtender has properly charged the customer and keep track of dispensary operations. Owners can also queue up footage using just the transaction information.

Also Read: A Complete Guide to Cannabis Dispensary Security Systems

The Enhanced Cannabis Retail Tech Toolbox

An advanced cannabis retailer will have all of the cannabis dispensary technologies listed above as well as some of those listed below. The more sophisticated a dispensary operation becomes, the more it utilizes data to improve its results and expand its reach. While the following features may not be right for small retailers, enterprise cannabis retailers are using them to grow their businesses and get further ahead.

Also Read: How Much Does Cannabis Retail Software Cost?

1. A Cannabis Delivery Service

Delivery orders are an essential revenue stream for many brick-and-mortar dispensaries and many states and provinces have started having permit licensed cannabis delivery. To implement a delivery service, you’ll need a system that can organize orders from multiple sources. And you’ll need a way to segment the reserved cannabis products from the rest of your inventory. They’re still in your inventory; they’re just not available for sale to other customers. Your POS integrations can collate all of your orders in one dashboard, making fulfilling and dispatching them easy.

You’ll also need compliant delivery management software to organize your deliveries into efficient delivery routes. That same software will track your drivers via GPS to ensure they’re on-task and on schedule.

Editor’s Note: Regulations often require a documented record of delivery routes. Delivery management software is the only feasible way to generate compliant delivery manifests and make that happen.

At the doorstep, your delivery personnel will need to check IDs and collect signatures. POS tablets make that easy, and some have the ID-scanning technology you’ll use at your storefront. The POS system used for deliveries must also be functional off-site. A wireless hotspot may be available on the road, but it’s not a reliable solution. So, you’ll want a POS system that can work offline and sync inventory when internet connectivity resumes like Cova.

Also Read: Top 4 Reasons Why Your Cannabis POS Must Support Offline Mode

2. A Dispensary Loyalty Program

A cannabis loyalty program rewards your repeat customers with special deals and store credits. Seattle-based marijuana analytics firm Headset found loyalty programs are proven to make your bottom line greener. Just by choosing the right POS, that is, one with a loyalty program system built in, dispensary owners can increase sales by up to 13% on average.

An example of automation technology for dispensaries and cannabis retailers is the Springbig marketing platform. This platform uses data to connect the dispensary to the members at times that are convenient for them to deliver offers, discounts, gifts, and more.

Adding a marketing integration also allows you to add a layer of interaction in your shopping experience as shoppers can view points and redeem rewards directly through their smartphones.

Editor’s Note: Some cannabis POS systems like Cova come with a built-in Cannabis loyalty program that allows you to track individual member purchases and points.

3. Clienteling Capabilities

Personalization has become one of the most important product differentiators in the last five years. Customers don’t just want dispensaries to know their collective needs but also their individual preferences. Integrating clienteling capabilities into your dispensary allows you to track customer data and provide better service and accurate product recommendations.

Some POS systems come with clienteling built into them and let budtenders create individual customer profiles that document purchases across multiple sales channels. The Clienteling app shows your budtenders what product categories a customer shops for, their typical price range, and how they usually prefer to shop (either online or in-store). Then, the system’s algorithms offer tailored product recommendations based on the customer’s purchase history. This creates a more engaging shopping experience, enhances trust, and ultimately drives more sales and repeat business.

4. An Advanced Data Analytics Tool

An advanced data analytics platform built into your dispensary POS system uses your sales history to guide you into better inventory management. Based on what was sold in previous weeks or years, the system suggests optimal inventory levels. And it’ll give you feedback about which products and budtenders are performing well.

For instance, Cova POS also incorporates industry benchmark data. Benchmark data, or market research data, is considered priceless because it enables comparisons between retailers and industry norms. How will you know how you measure up — or where you can improve — without knowing how other retailers are faring? With benchmark data, you can identify gaps in your performance and improve.

Editor’s Note: All Cova clients get complimentary access to for free industry data.

5. ERP Integration Capabilities

An ERP system centralizes all of your company’s information into one database and automates routine tasks. Like a POS, an ERP simplifies many business processes and increases efficiency. As you grow into multiple locations across multiple regions, you may discover enterprise resource planning software (ERP) is necessary for human resources management, accounting, customer relationship management, etc.

Most ERP software can be connected to POS systems, granted the POS has the functionality for it. For instance, Cova’s cannabis POS system features an open API for ERPs like Oracle and Microsoft. The data from your POS (sales, inventory, and staffing) is uploaded into your ERP for an all-in-one control center for supply chain management, accounting, and HR.

Also Read: Tips for Effectively Managing Cannabis Dispensary Inventory

6. Menu Boards and Digital Signage

Most cannabis retailers have ditched the menu chalkboard for digital displays, and most use an inventory integration to make sure the products they show are in stock and accurately priced. Digital signage goes beyond a simple price list. You can run promotions that display across all your stores — easily changing the imagery and copy of your ads. Some dispensaries use their digital signage for entertainment too, by running videos that represent their brands or explain their products.

This wraps up our 10 software solutions for your dispensary technology stack but becoming a data-driven cannabis business is more than just computers and data. Part of it is embracing the technology and understanding its value to your business.

And most of the time, that begins with answering a simple question…

Is Cannabis Dispensary Technology Worth the Investment?

There are numerous ways businesses extract value out of their dispensary technology. The most obvious is through the increased operational efficiency and reduced administrative overhead. Tasks that were once labor-intensive become seamless and automated, and depending on your tech stack, these productivity benefits will be felt across sales, management, inventory, and more.

Technology also makes your business more accessible to customers, improving their sales experience and making them more likely to purchase from your dispensary. Similarly, technology can make regulatory compliance a lot less daunting and easier to manage for smaller dispensaries.

But perhaps the biggest difference maker is all of the added benefits dispensary owners get access to with the right tech stack. We conducted a quantitative study on the theoretical ROI of cannabis dispensary technology and found that with the right POS solution, retailers can get thousands of dollars in value within the first year itself. For instance, with the Cova POS system, retailers get free eCommerce solutions, free analytics and tracking integration, market research data, marketing freebies, etc.

Also Read: How to Calculate ROI for Cannabis Dispensary Technology

Can Cannabis Dispensaries Take Credit Cards, Debit Cards, and other Cashless Payments?

Canada’s federal legalization keeps it simple – dispensary owners are allowed to accept credit and debit cards for payments. This means there are plenty of reliable payment processing solutions, both integrated and non-integrated.

Things are slightly more complicated south of the border.

While cannabis consumption for medical and recreational purposes is legal in many states of the United States, marijuana and all its purchases are illegal under federal law. This has caused many problems for dispensaries in finding banks that can work with them – pushing many dispensary owners to look into alternative solutions for accepting payments and tracking transactions throughout the cannabis supply chain.

Editor’s Note: The following section is meant to educate readers and spread awareness only, and should not be considered legal advice.

We are continuously vetting payment methods to find the best option for our users and the most recommended alternative to cards is ACH (Automated Clearing House). Despite being the most reliable, most consumers are not familiar with ACH, and the one-time setup isn’t always popular amongst users who just want to make a quick purchase.

Another alternative for accepting payments at your dispensary is Cashless ATM, aka Point of Banking, a secure option that allows customers to pay with their debit cards. Unfortunately, crackdowns from payment processors like Visa and Mastercard made this solution less reliable and popular than it once was, but Cashless ATM is making a comeback as the more resilient vendors have evolved their solutions.

Also Read: Top 2024 Cannabis Payment Trends Dispensary Owners Must Know

Speaking of debit card-based solutions, there is (or was) also PIN Debit. With PIN Debit, you can charge the exact dollar amount instead of a rounded value but similar crackdowns have made it unfeasible in 2024, especially as your only option.

And of course, there are also cryptocurrencies. As of February 2024, cannabis dispensaries can accept various forms of cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin, ETH, Monero, etc. There aren’t any legal regulations that limit their ability to do so but we do not generally recommend cryptocurrencies because they are higher risk due to their unregulated nature. More importantly, a large portion of cannabis consumers would not have the technical know-how to pay with cryptocurrencies, and even the solutions that make it easier for them, don’t ease their apprehension about perceived risks.

Also Read: How to Choose a Legal Digital Cannabis Payment Solution (FAQs)

AI Applications for Cannabis Dispensaries

Increasing productivity with artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming the norm and it can be in your dispensary too. Through advanced data analytics, cannabis technology systems can help cannabis companies collect and process data, track analysis, optimize inventory, staffing, discounts, and more.

For instance, the Cova Dispensary POS System comes with an AI-powered analytics integration that helps dispensaries optimize marketing campaigns, loyalty programs, and new customer discounts – enhancing operational efficiency and customer engagement. While the full potential of AI in navigating the cannabis market is yet to be fully realized, its impact is already evident across various facets of marijuana dispensary operations.

Choose the Best Tech for Your Dispensary

With over two decades of experience, Cova cannabis POS systems have helped many dispensary owners across North America open and grow their businesses. Our POS systems backed up with the latest in dispensary technology, are ready to help you achieve your business goals.

Cova understands the importance of cannabis technologies and works hard to provide a retail platform that simplifies your operating system. Scheduling your COVA Software Dispensary POS Demo. Our team of experts will help you understand the capabilities of our award-winning POS system and how it can meet (and exceed) your business’s unique needs.