This year, according to market research company eMarketer, online sales accounted for one-tenth of total retail sales for the first time. As the cannabis industry grows, one entrepreneur plans to take advantage of this trend by creating the Amazon of weed.
Before Socrates Rosenfeld got into the cannabis industry, he was just a veteran using marijuana to manage his stress. He always knew he wanted to help fellow veterans and civilians get easy access to cannabis. But it wasn’t until he started studying at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) that he realized how.
Shortly after graduation, Rosenfeld partnered with his brother and classmates to form Jane Technologies, Inc. Now, their growing company IHeartJane.com, is transforming brick-and-mortar dispensaries into “click and mortar” dispensaries in California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Nevada, and New Mexico. The company partners with local dispensaries to make their products available online on an easy-to-navigate platform.
“The way we have gone about doing it is we’re going to make online shopping for cannabis as simple and straightforward as shopping is on Amazon,” Rosenfeld says.
As with most online shoppers, the priority for online cannabis shoppers is convenience. This means something different, says Rosenfeld, to consumers depending on how experienced they are with weed. The amateurs, he said, like online shopping because it allows them to do research on products and get answers to simple questions they might feel silly asking at the dispensary. After cannabis newbies have used a platform like IHeartJane, Rosenfeld says, they “feel a lot more comfortable, for the first time, going into a dispensary and having much more informed conversations with the budtender.”
In some ways, experienced pot lovers want a digital dispensary for the opposite reason. They know exactly what they want and they want those products either delivered to them or ready when they show up at the dispensary.
Rosenfeld and his partners actually discovered a way, which they’ve recently patented, to integrate online menus in real-time with any point-of-sale system.
“So to give an example, if you’re in Denver and you’re looking for OG Kush, you just simply come to our website and type in ‘OG Kush,’ and we’ll show you all the dispensaries in your area that currently carry OG Kush,” Rosenfeld said. “You can compare by convenience, by price or by reviews, similar to how you’re used to shopping on Amazon, GrubHub or Netflix.”
Exploring New Weed Products
Think about the last time you shopped on Amazon with all the product suggestions based on selections you’ve already made or what you’ve been thinking about buying. Now, imagine how much fun shopping online for weed could be. Rosenfeld said the average consumer spends $45 when they start shopping online for weed, but, over time, their cart averages $90 because they discover so many new products.
“So, for instance, when you go on Netflix and they say ‘Welcome back, based on your previous watch history, here’s what we recommend for you.’ It kind of takes the thinking out of it for you, and Netflix does an unbelievable job,” Rosenfeld said. “And you go on Amazon, and you’re looking for a product, and it says, ‘other people who look at this product ended up buying X, Y, and Z.’ That’s where we’re headed.”
Rosenfeld says the search and suggestion features are particularly helpful for people who don’t even know about all the cannabis products that are now available, from tinctures to lotions.
“The newer consumers, like my parents, they maybe tried cannabis 30, 40 years ago,” Rosenfeld said. “And just now, they’re learning all the anti-inflammatory and health benefits of this product. And they’re going to want a shopping experience that replicates everything else in their lives.”
The “local retailers” thing is ultimately what distinguishes IHeartJane from Amazon (well, that and the cannabis). Whereas Amazon sometimes stresses out local retailers, IHeartJane helps support local jobs at dispensaries.
The other retailer-friendly component is that there’s no subscription cost for IHeartJane.com. “We only charge the retailer a flat, $1 referral fee for every order that we bring them,” Rosenfeld said. “If we don’t bring them an order, the system is completely free for them.”
“As an e-commerce platform, I can’t have a huge warehouse where I have thousands and thousands of products that I mail across state lines,” Rosenfeld said. “So when we were thinking about building our marketplace, we really had to view our dispensary retailers as true partners, rather than as competition.”