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Can There Be An Amazon for Cannabis?

How voice packets, ranking algorithms, and digital fences are making dreams of an “Amazon for cannabis” a reality.

I like to do my shopping online. I can compare products, prices, and reviews at my leisure. Many Americans prefer to shop on the web. U.S. merchants raked in more than 517 billion dollars in online retail sales in 2018, according to a recent Internet Retailer report.

With all of this money pouring into ecommerce, why is the cannabis industry resigned to outdated brick-and-mortar sales tactics? Both cannabis businesses and consumers want the convenience of online shopping, but strict regulations surrounding imports and exports have kept the industry in the dark ages.

Fortunately, some companies are using technology to do the hard work for them. Sophisticated algorithms and geofencing can now ensure products stay within state lines and are only sold to legal consumers. To learn more about the tech making this possible, we spoke with CEO and Founder of CanIDeal Joseph Farruggia.

Related: The Future of Cannabis Ecommerce? Augmented Reality

Cannabis & Tech Today: Tell me a bit about the origins of CanIDeal.

The challenge we set out to solve was, “How can we use the web without allowing the digital traffic surrounding the sale of cannabis to cross state lines, and therefore, technically violate federal law?”

Fortunately, my uncle Albert Maione had worked at Bell Labs and was one of the people who initially turned voice into digital packets, so I was able to ask him if I could somehow keep digital information inside of legal state lines. He said yes, and that is where the concept of geo-ring fencing was born.   

C&T Today: What’s most important for a consumer to make an informed purchasing decision?

Quality information. On CanIDeal, we’re able to offer user reviews, ratings, and ranking algorithms to help the buyers find exactly what they are looking for, at the quality level and price they are hoping to find. In the coming years, as all dispensaries, growers, and other market participants face increasing competition, our platform will be an essential tool that helps companies compete.

C&T Today: What strategies do you find are most effective for both retail and online cannabis businesses?

Being clear about the market, overcompensating when it comes to compliance, and understanding the shifting dynamics of the industry. With our platform, legal compliance is number one. We go overboard to protect the buyer, the seller, as well as our company from legal hassles by being very, very careful about what and how we sell. Our transparency helps us deliver great products on a consistent basis.

As far as understanding the market and shifting dynamics are concerned, no one needs a crystal ball to see how this market is going to perform. We all know that people like cannabis, so there is always going to be demand. But, on the other side of the equation, while the cannabis marketplace is currently unique in that it is a multi-billion dollar industry that has yet to take advantage of today’s technology, that gap isn’t going to last forever.

In time, the cannabis market is going to be like every other multi-billion dollar market. It will be highly competitive, with ultra-thin margins, and the businesses that are able to adapt to that shifting dynamic will be those that are going to be the long term players.

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