Adweek: This Year’s 4/20 Made It Clear: Cannabis Fans Want Delivery and Ecommerce
Adweek – May 11, 2021
By T.L. Stanley
In prepping for 4/20, the unofficial cannabis high holiday, Chris Vaughn tripled the number of drivers for his Southern California-based delivery service, Emjay.
The CEO, who co-founded alcohol delivery brand Saucey and combined the two “vice” companies late last year, also shored up his web servers to handle an expected spike in weed orders, added support staff and timed his advertising to try to spread buying over several days leading up to April 20.
But even that wasn’t enough to handle the wave of ganja-loving consumers that flooded Emjay with orders beginning on Friday, April 16.
“By 9:45 a.m. that day, we had more orders placed than all of 4/20 2020,” he told Adweek. “By 11 a.m., that had doubled. We couldn’t get the product out of the vaults fast enough.”
Emjay, which operates dispensaries in Los Angeles and San Diego, would go on to reach record-breaking heights for 420 itself, logging a 380% increase in sales from the previous year.
In total, Emjay saw—and Vaughn swears this number is true—a 420% leap in business for the four-day period leading to and including the holiday. (Customers had longer wait times, he admitted, and his staff worked almost around the clock, but everyone eventually got their flower, edibles, THC-infused drinks and concentrates).
Tech savvy cannafans
The eye-popping results solidified a few trends in the industry, he said: Consumer behavior has shifted permanently to ecommerce for cannabis buying, just as it has in other categories. And delivery is a linchpin for weed’s future and a data-driven way to put old-school dealers out of business.
“Reliable, professionalized delivery services are coming to the forefront and becoming more well known, and it’s driving this huge uptick,” Vaughn said. “This is the way people want to buy, and it’s also our best weapon against the illicit market.”
A 4/20 for the record books
Emjay, as it turns out, was just one of many brands that had 4/20 windfalls. According to cannatech firm Akerna, the holiday was the highest sales day ever recorded in retail cannabis, with $111.8 million worth of product sold at medical and adult-use dispensaries.
When factoring in the weekend before the holiday, which fell on a Tuesday, the industry pulled in $373.8 million, Akerna data shows.
Jushi Holdings, with operations in eight states, saw its sales escalate by 289% year over year, while Michigan dispensary chain Lume logged a 313% rise in edible sales alone. Legendary San Francisco-area retailer Harborside reported a 121% bump in 4/20 sales compared to the previous four Tuesdays.
Clicks and mortar
Delivery platform Weedmaps saw significant leaps in activity overall. And in several fast-growing states like Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey, its daily active users grew by 489%, 866% and 902%, respectively, compared to 4/20 in 2020. (The brand also drew more than 750,000 viewers to its virtual 4/20 celebration and mini-conference, Even Higher Together, a 200% jump from its 2020 digital party.)
Eaze, meantime, noted that basket sizes grew this 4/20, with customers buying an average of $200 worth of cannabis products, a 50% increase over the previous holiday. Deliveries were up 185% compared to Tuesdays so far this year.
The California-based delivery platform, which recently announced an expansion into Michigan, also reported a surge in interest in its social equity brands, with “the activism of 2020 translating into consumer choices that prioritize BIPOC entrepreneurs,” Elizabeth Ashford, Eaze’s vp of communications, told Adweek. The service’s Social Equity Menu has sold $6.2 million worth of product since its launch in 2019.
For demo breakdowns, the Oregon-based Dutchie platform found that milliennials bought cannabis online more than any other generation, placing 53% of the orders. But Boomers spent more than any other age group on 4/20, with an average $133 per order versus the $114 average order.
California’s Ganja Goddess, which saw a 135% sales increase on 4/20 compared to the previous Tuesday, surveyed consumers about their buying habits, finding that nearly 90% said they’ve relied on digital shopping and buying during the pandemic. That’s roughly a 70% increase in delivery customers.
Brick-and-mortar, meantime, has taken a back seat with these cannafans, as 6.4% reported that retail was their go-to for weed purchases, compared to 63% who say they shopped at physical stores pre-pandemic.
Cross-shopping, impulse buying
Cannabis researcher Headset reported an 84.5% sales increase in the U.S. on 4/20 compared to the previous four Tuesdays, stoked at least in part by doorbuster discounts and store promotions. Oregon registered the biggest gains, with 130% sales growth on the holiday.
The top-performing categories across America were beverages, edibles and concentrates, which grew 161%, 115% and 88%, respectively, over the previous four Tuesdays, according to Headset, which also flagged consumers’ tendency to cross-shop and branch out from their usual buying patterns.
“This presents an amazing opportunity for brands,” said Cooper Ashley, Headset’s data analyst, “to recruit new customers and convert them into future repeat customers.”