There are so many technology bases businesses in the cannabis industry, each addressing a unique need. In this partner series, CUE Cannabis is speaking to Founders and owners within our network of partners. 

CUE cannabis is a resource for dispensary owners, operators, cultivators, and anyone in the flower touching side of the business to find all the software that they need we can help you get connected with the best partners. We are highlighting not only what their business does but also what they are excited about for the future of the cannabis industry. 

We recently caught up with BirdEye’s Director of Channel Partnerships, Zach Barger to ask about BirdEye’s mission to not only help the online reputation of dispensaries & brands in this time of COVID-19  but also thrive. We discuss the importance of reviews and strategies the cannabis industry can be utilized as we move into the future. Check out the full written interview below.

Sean Glynn: We’re doing a series of partner spotlight interviews that feature software in platforms. We believe to be crucial to retail cannabis operation or brand as we head into an economic recession and post COVID-19, facing the realities of social distancing, etc.? These platforms are crucial for these types of businesses to survive right now and thrive in the future.

Today, we’ve got Zack Barger from Director of channel partnerships from BirdEye – an online reputation management tool. Welcome, Zack and thanks a ton for taking some time to join us appreciate that.

Zach Barger: Absolutely, appreciate that it’s good to be here.

Sean Glynn: BirdEye is a comprehensive customer experience platform, with a ton of features we will probably dive into in a bit.
But you know a little bit of context again why we love this platform.
First and foremost, it enables dispensaries and brands to engage with their customers and prospects via their websites and other digital communication platforms. That allows everyone to stay safe and to drive additional new users. And for the canna-curious crowd to find you, which is also essential in today’s data-driven.
First and foremost, one of the primary reasons why we like the BirdEye platform. Secondly, you guys rank highly in all facets of our vetting process, from affordability to user experience user interface, customer service, and financial stability. That’s the reason why we want to spotlight you guys today to appreciate you. Can you give us a little bit of background about BirdEye and what you do, and BirdEye’s contribution in the cannabis space?

Zach Barger: Of course, I do work as Director of Channel Partnerships at BirdEye.
I typically focus on partnerships with either strategic alliances where we’re partnering with a company or maybe go co-sell together on a certain angle. We help people grow kind of get our philosophy Reputation management industry as a whole on how this is a gateway to brand experience, employee experience, customer service, or customer experience in general.

Sean Glynn: BirdEye has been active in other industries as well.

Zach Barger: That’s correct. We started in medical; we’re fully HIPAA compliant. Our data is as sensitive as you know, any HIPAA compliant software out there, where we don’t share data. It is an encrypted end to end system and progressed into more industries like home services, automotive, etc. We stretch across all verticals and now the Cannabis industry.

Sean Glynn: I think that’s kind of it’s an important point to make.
There are a lot of startups in the cannabis industry that are, trying to get their foothold in cannabis, specifically as a start. In contrast, you guys have a pretty deep foundation built in many of these other industries that apply well in the cannabis, so I think that’s important.

Zach Barger: This translates well into the especially the retail side and the brand side of things. Even the direct open API relationship with Google & Facebook, we have established has allowed us to seep into their map functionality and star ratings.

Sean Glynn: What role does reputation management play in the overall marketing strategy of a retail dispensary?

Zach Barger: It’s the inception of any customer journey like its cradle to grave. Where did your customer find you first?
Being found can be from paid ads, billboards, blog content, guerilla marketing, or SEO. It all just depends, and I do understand that there are restrictions sometimes on ads in the cannabis space
So BirdEye puts a focus back on the things that you can do, and one of those things is the search engine optimization.

You have to get into the head of your searcher of your new customers like how are they searching? Are they searching based on zip code, city, or is it more of a best like a searchable action term like best cannabis, dispensary near me, or best delivery service?
83% of consumers trust online reviews over friends or families like referrals. So when you think about that, it’s a compelling promise even if you’re spending fifteen hundred dollars a month in ads like an average small business or something being able to reduce that bounce rate and get people to convert the first time. Because you have relevant reviews and they are not skewed or fake, you can capture new customers.
When it comes to this industry, the Canna-curious crowd is the lifeblood of repeat business because new business becomes old business right.

Sean Glynn: In the post-COVID-19 world, the consumer is researching before they decide to take the trip into a dispensary. Even with the proliferation of online ordering curbside delivery and from at-home delivery, everything starts with a search.

How are you integrated with specialized search engine cannabis listings such as Weedmaps, Stickyguide, or Leafly within the cannabis space?

Zach Barger: These listing companies are publishers or API partners for us, so we can generate when we send out a review or invite via SMS.

When a consumer leaves a dispensary after purchasing, we can send them a text with an option to leave a review on Google, Facebook, or Leafly. We can push reviews to those platforms and then allow you to respond to them as well inside the BirdEye dashboard in UI.

Sean Glynn: That’s powerful.
A lot of retail operations are looking into overhead costs and how much time they have to manage those reviews in real-time and across multiple review sites. If you are running a lean operation with not many people on staff anymore, reputation, management becomes a pretty heavy lift at this point. BirdEye platform is quite powerful in this regard.
These are the types of partners and platforms and tools that we want to highlight for our potential audience out there for potential clients.

Sean Glynn: You know it takes one bad review to put a dispensary behind a long way even if you have thousands of outstanding ones.
It’s the negative reviews that consumers tend to focus on, and if you’re not able to address those efficiently and effectively, your dispensary might suffer.

Zach Barger: Exactly. We’re trying to give a voice to 95 of the people who are happy with you, but only the select number of people leave a bad review or a good review. You either have to impress a customer or pissed me off. We try to give everybody an opportunity, with an ease of use style platform where, even if you get negative reviews, we’re going to be able to dilute them to a certain extent. You can leverage the BirdEye platform to boost your retail operations sales by giving a voice to the customers who have had a fantastic experience at your dispensary.

Sean Glynn: How are Cannabis dispensaries leveraging BirdEye platform?

Zach Barger: Yes, so like the first thing I would start with is the check-in feature. What you do is you load the BirdEye onto an iPad device for your some to check-in when they are in the waiting room. This is a powerful method to capture all of your customer data.

Second is reducing the cost of ads. With BirdEye, you could increase somebody’s conversion rate positive reviews. What we look for is to speed up that transaction and make it more of a conversion on the spot if possible.

Third, is our interactions tool – live bot, chatbot, and web chatbot.
So the difference in these three is there’s some automation for questions that can be answered quickly, like are you open right now? The computers can go ahead and answer those for you.
With a live chat feature, you can have a conversation with a human being.
You want to ask a specific question about a string; those messages can be funneled with inside the organization with bot capabilities.

Sean Glynn: Are there any more you want to highlight?

Zach Barger: You know, as far as overall features, there’s something that I want to open everybody’s eyes here, especially in the cannabis world, because it’s something that everybody’s going to be embarking on.
I deal with a lot of upmarket Brand X companies that all they do is focus on market research when it comes to leveraging brands, and BirdEye has taken a unique approach. Yes, we can get you reviews for your brick-and-mortar location, but what about that next generation of data? How tangibly can you make changes to your business based on what the data tells you, and really, it’s that solicited kind of unsolicited data mix.
For the cannabis industry as a whole, being able to understand your review core. How are you going to analyze that data, and then how can you take appropriate action on it? Are you listening to social media channels and seeing if your perception of your brand is the actual reality?
Are you capturing data and then analyzing the data? And that’s where you’re going to get that solicit and unsolicited product mix. When it comes to those two parts of data, we can have those branding conversations, but we’re able to take that and have a small business be able to utilize it. So BirdEye could be a strong up and down market tool for dispensaries as well as brands who are scaling.

Sean Glynn: Any road map items you’d like to share?

Zach Barger: We’re very progressive as a company. We are expanding our insight and interactions tool, so we’re going to continue to extend those two fascinating things on the horizon.

Sean Glynn: How has COVID-19 changed or accelerating the importance of reputation management

Zach Barger:There’s going to be a certain percentage of market share that’s just up for grabs now. A lot of market research companies that are busy and that funnels down to a solution like us.
You have to think about the businesses, local businesses, your competitors, who stayed open, who closed down. Where are those customers going? If a dispensary or brand wants to grab the new market share, how do you do it with an excellent online reputation right away?

There is a lot of opportunities out there in every industry if you have the right tools and the right expertise, then there’s a chance to take advantage of that. Stay safe at the same time right and have public health concerns first and foremost addressed.

Sean Glynn: Cannabis space has respected client privacy and understood the importance of public health and safety. I’ve always admired about the cannabis industry.

What’s one thing you’d like to recommend to dispensary operators and brands that would have the most significant impact on their brands out there in the public space?

Zach Barger: Yes. For brick-and-mortar locations, I would highly recommend investing in a chat solution, which can act as a lead converter. More and more people are going to want to text; we’re just evolving as consumers, so definitely have something in place and have some strategy moving forward to convert leads.
I didn’t realize it until we launched the product that we did on how important it is. Then I go back to my consumer behavior personally, and I was blown away with how many I left a message, rather than call. That’s step one for a brick-and-mortar location.

The second piece of advice would be able to start listening. This goes to the brands as well. What are people saying about you? It’s effortless to have a perception in your head that your brand is what it is, but do you have data behind it to support it? The brand of the more higher-level kind of companies that are focused on brands, start looking at your unsolicited channels. Some of the platforms available are deep, and then you have you the other 50% of the unsolicited, which is review data, so be able to get those two lines to listen to those two channels and come up with some understanding or benchmark.

Lastly is dispensaries and brands to roll out survey tool. No matter what company you go, you’re going to elevate your services and reputation as a company.

Sean Glynn: Is there anything else you wanted to share with with with with us here at cue or the audience?

Zach Barger: One thing I would like to close on is we are very cannabis-friendly. We have a mix of small dispensaries and larger clients, including brands & dispensaries leveraging BirdEye platform.

Sean Glynn: That’s an excellent point, thanks for pulling that up to the front.
If anyone out there is interested, I highly recommend getting a demo set up. You just go to CUE cannabis, and we will get a customized demo set up.

Thank you for your time, Zach. It was a pleasure speaking with you today.

Zach Barger: Thank you. I appreciate everybody on the call today.

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