You walk into your favorite dispensary, check in at the front desk, step up to the counter and it hits you — the product you came all this way to purchase isn’t even there. If you buy your cannabis from brick and mortar stores, then it’s almost certainly happened to you before; at best it’s frustrating, at worst — like when you need pain relief and the only product that you know works isn’t available — it can be truly distressing.
In the future, cannabis consumers will probably look back on this sort of problem with a mixture of confusion and pity, at least if Los Angeles-based cannabis lifestyle tech company Tokr has anything to do with it.
Tokr Co-Founder and CPO Brian Campbell said their software is bridging the information gap between cannabis consumers and retailers, meaning in the not-so-distant future, users will not only know if their favorite strain is in-stock at their go-to dispensary, the dispensary operator will know how much demand to expect for that strain —meaning it’s less likely to be prematurely out of stock in the first place.
“We’re all about providing consumers a direct connection to dispensaries,” Campbell said. “We’re also giving dispensaries data on who’s visiting them and buying their stuff, how often. It’s a huge opportunity, not just to create a great app, but also to kind of change the industry as a whole; what we’re really looking to do is provide more of a lifestyle mentality — something somebody like my mom would feel comfortable buying for pain or migraines, or that a professional would be comfortable buying for stress or sleep — we’re trying to make cannabis a more professional.”
That’s a tall order, and one being placed by many newcomers in the cannabis industry. Lots of companies are banking on the idea that they can reinvent the way people relate to and purchase cannabis, with varying degrees of success.
But the way Tokr Co-founder and CEO Matt Singer sees it, his company’s success will lie less in “rebranding” cannabis and more in making it quick and easy to access — like almost everything else you might buy in today’s internet-based market and culture.
“Consumers are lacking a modernized approach to finding cannabis and the products that can help them,” Singer said. “Cannabis is doing a lot of positive things for a lot of different people — we want to make it easier for them to access it, like if they were going to buy a t-shirt on Postmates.”
When you watch a movie on Netflix and like it, an algorithm finds similar films and recommends them to you. Tokr’s app does that for cannabis, but it also provides access to discounts, promotional offers and more.
The streamlining of analytics, mass marketing and lifestyle branding is no small feat, but Tokr is running a lean operation, based out of Los Angeles, California’s “Silicon Beach,” a coastal enclave on LA’s Venice Beach that’s home to over 500 tech companies and several incubators and accelerators.
California is a big, somewhat predictive market for cannabis; what happens there has at least a passing impact on how policy and business proceeds throughout the rest of the country. Tokr is focusing its current operations on the Los Angeles medical market, but it has immediate plans to expand to NorCal, national aspirations for medical and recreational markets and rapidly developing plans for expansion on the Pacific coast and beyond.
Singer said that his previous job — digitizing the NFL’s playbook, starting with the Denver Broncos — also put him in contact with major players in Colorado’s cannabis market. Additionally, Tokr has open enrollment for patients and dispensary partners, so much of the company’s growth is happening organically.
“We definitely have Colorado, Nevada, Oregon and Washington on the radar — not sure about the order. We’re extremely automated, dispensaries can enroll themselves straight from our website, so we don’t have to build full sales force teams in all states,” he said. “We’ve actually seen a lot of customers from Oregon and Colorado, where they’re already coming in on the backend because they’ve heard of us.”
Automated analytics are going to be a crucial part of any large, regulated cannabis market, and Tokr provides immediate value for consumer and companies with its data right now, but as the market continues to expand and more people join the system on both sides, dispensaries will be able to practically let the system run itself.
“We do have a lot of tech partnership, like POS systems, that give us direct access — with dispensary approval of course — we get tied into their inventory levels,” Campbell said. “So not only does that allow them to quickly deal with updating menus, we do it on our site automatically.”
The biggest challenges facing the company? Marketing in an environment where traditional outlets for publicity are limited or restricted to cannabis businesses. Like many cannabis companies, Tokr relies on a tenuous relationship with social media to get the word out. But by sponsoring lifestyle events and using guerrilla marketing techniques to spread the word, the company has already established a substantial presence in a major market.
Alex Melillo, Tokr Co-founder and COO, said the industry’s limited access to traditional business tools is a big part of what motivates Tokr.
“The cannabis industry really lacks business tools, and we want to use Tokr as an opportunity to give this industry what it needs to maximize these businesses,” Melillo said. “We also really want to work on taking the negative connotations away from cannabis and let more people know they ways they can enhance their lifestyle, medically and recreationally alike, and give the information needed to get the products and strains that meet their lifestyle needs.”
TELL US, have you ever tried a cannabis app?