Background

The Evergreen Market owns and operates a chain of high-end cannabis dispensaries. At the time they began working with Wheelhouse DMG, the company operated three locations, with two more in development (for the maximum of five locations allowed per licensee under Washington State law).

Although in-person sales at their retail locations were strong, the company lacked a cohesive digital strategy and online revenue was significantly underperforming expectations. With two new locations about to open and new competitors popping up every week, the company urgently needed a revenue-focused digital strategy and turned to Wheelhouse DMG for help. The company’s goals were severalfold:

  • Increase brand awareness in the geographies they serve
  • Make clear how The Evergreen Market offers an elevated experience that is meaningfully superior to that offered by other dispensaries
  • Increase foot traffic to stores
  • Increase online revenue

Our Work

Data is the lifeblood of every Wheelhouse DMG digital strategy, so we were deeply concerned to discover that a previous, very poor analytics implementation left all of us blind to all but the most basic performance metrics. The cannabis industry is emergent and exists in a sort of legal netherworld between recent state approvals and continuing federal prohibition. As a consequence, many of the vendors and ecommerce platforms provide services and technologies that are “non-standard” and often quite limited in their functionality. In this instance, the consequences were two-fold:

  • Reliance on newly developed and technically limited ecommerce and POS systems combined with lack of sophistication on the part of the professional services teams that implemented these systems resulted in poorly implemented analytics that incompletely captured critical performance data (e.g. visits, revenue, page views). Among many critical ramifications, this left all of us with an inability to understand performance by channel and hobbled the data analysis that typically informs our digital strategies.
  • Especially critical for our needs, we had no visibility into local SEO performance as that data was incorrectly being comingled with the organic channel.

In any engagement, if performance data is incorrect or incomplete, we start by fixing it – ensuring that our strategies and tactics are well-informed and that our decisions rest on a solid, analytical foundation. Our analytics and engineering teams quickly set about resolving analytics data integrity issues, developing and implementing custom scripting to properly integrate with ecommerce and POS systems. We also implement tailored UTM parameters, reconfigured analytics channel definitions created custom segments – all of which enabled us to capture clear analytics data for local search performance.

With accurate data now available to us, we set about developing and implementing a new digital strategy for The Evergreen Market. Here again, the emergent nature of the cannabis industry precludes strategies and tactics that are available in other industries. For example, most forms of digital advertising and forbidden as are many GMB features commonly available to other clients. But, as is often the case, opportunity can also be found in these limitations. Analysis of search engine results pages for the cannabis industry showed that, for all non-brand queries, Google structured search results with a Map Pack at the top of the results page, followed by the conventional “ten blue links” – nearly all of which were dominated by third-party aggregators. This was creating a “feast or famine” dynamic for dispensaries – and a big opportunity for The Evergreen Market.

Clearly, this was an industry in which achieving top ranking among local search was the single most valuable thing we could achieve for The Evergreen Market. And the now accurate analytics data available to us bore this out – local search already accounted for approximately 55% of all revenue previously attributed to the organic channel.

And so, we recommended and implemented a “local-first” strategy – pivoting away from the content-centric strategy (primarily focused on blog posts) previously employed by the company’s in-house team. We started with localized keyword research, identifying the most valuable queries for each location and establishing baseline pre-optimiztion performance.

Our optimization work began shortly after the company’s fourth and fifth stores opened – both of which were facing stiff competition from dispensaries already established in those locations.

We needed to create value as quickly as possible – and we did. Examples of our work include:

  • Strategically optimizing Business Descriptions to improve search visibility for high-value queries as well as end user value and engagement
  • Optimizing NAP (name, address, phone number) data for each profile and ensuring consistency among all web citations
  • Augmenting all profiles with high-quality photography
  • Optimization of all website location landing pages optimizations, incorporating best-of-class features from strong competitors
  • Designing and guiding implementation of an integrated, low-friction review system, the result of which was a consistent flow of new reviews to GMB profiles for all locations
  • Expanding local search optimization to Bing Places to ensure comprehensive coverage, to maximize performance and to eliminate spurious duplicate listings created by third-party aggregators

The Results

Within six months of implementation of our local strategy, total monthly revenue for The Evergreen Market (offline and online) increased by 135% and revenue directly attributable to local search increased by 212%. All five locations now consistently achieved top placement in Google’s Map Pack, which contributed to a 92% increase in click-through from GMB profiles for the company’s five locations.

135%

Increase in total monthly revenue (offline and online)

212%

Increase in revenue directly attributed to local search

92%

Increase in click-through from GMB buisnesses

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