This Bowling Green, Kentucky-based enterprise is the brainchild of digital marketing expert Jeremy Jacobs and attorney Colby McKenzie, who saw golden opportunities for profit in the rapidly expanding cannabis industry.
Specializing in retail and marketing technology, Enlighten has become the largest cannabis technology company in the United States. This feat is especially impressive, given the fact that Jacobs and McKenzie only launched Enlighten in June 2018. Enlighten was born out of a reposition as part of a more extensive technology acquisition and rollout strategy. Enlighten’s predecessor, Eyechronic, launched in early 2017 but was only focused on an in-store education network.
Pioneering a strategy that integrates and balances the needs of marketers and retailers, Enlighten provides its advertising clients with access to nearly 2,000 digital screens operated by more than 1,000 dispensaries in the United States, Canada, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico. Many of those same dispensaries have chosen Enlighten to develop their retail software, which is deployed inside stores and on dispensary-affiliated e-commerce websites.
When Clients Talk, Enlighten Listens
During its reign as the cannabis industry’s preeminent technology enterprise, Enlighten has become known for its innovative and proactive approach to problem-solving.
“There are two kinds of companies,” explains Chairman and CEO Jeremy Jacobs, “the kind that figure out some sort of product they can make, and how they’re going to sell it. And then there are companies like Enlighten that figure out the real challenges and problems people face and then develop solutions for those problems.”
Jacobs and McKenzie have developed a simple but highly effective strategy for ascertaining the nature and depth of those problems. They speak directly and frequently with existing and potential clients, to find out where the bottlenecks are and to discover which of their needs are not being met. They then tailor their research and development efforts to create products that could fill those needs.
“Retailers were complaining that they needed better technology systems, especially the ones that they were communicating with their customers on, like online ordering platforms, self-service kiosks, and their [in-store] menus that they needed to be updated in real-time,” Jacobs explains.
Meanwhile, cannabis producers have been eager to spread the good word about their products to recreational and medicinal consumers. But they’ve been prevented from doing so by special legal restrictions that are unique to cannabis.
“The brands were complaining that they didn’t have anywhere to spend any advertising and marketing dollars, because you can’t do YouTube, Facebook, Google, or television,” Jacobs says. “In the early days, you couldn’t even do billboards. There were so many restrictions.”
Once they knew what their customers wanted, Jacobs and McKenzie knew how to proceed. Not with caution but with creative flair and vivid imagination—qualities that the still-developing cannabis industry desperately requires.
“You don’t see anybody else doing this with the expertise and sophistication with which we are operating,” Jacobs told the California Business Journal. This was not braggadocio but a straightforward statement of fact.
On its retail side, Enlighten creates state-of-the-art digital menus for in-store display screens, e-commerce sites, and self-service kiosks. On its marketing side, Enlighten creates original programming for dispensaries that feature traditional ads, as well as,
- brand videos,
- instructional videos,
- trivia challenges,
- educational presentations,
- interactive social media displays,
- and other information-packed audio and visual presentations that sell specific products along with the benefits of cannabis as a whole.
There is a symbiotic relationship between Enlighten’s retailers and its advertising clients. They rely on each other to generate revenue and inform cannabis customers of the options they have as either medicinal or recreational consumers.
Introducing the Enlighten SMARTHUB
In the first year of its existence, there was an ad hoc element involved in Enlighten’s R&D strategies. Building a business from the ground floor up, they naturally focused on solving immediate problems encountered by cannabis dispensaries and their advertising customers.
But there were still holes in the retail ecosystem that needed to be filled. Specifically, gaps that could only be bridged through the implementation of integrated technological systems capable of performing essential tasks simultaneously and instantaneously.
“We had all these solutions, but they didn’t really fit together, and 100 percent solve the problems in their entirety,” Jacobs says. “All these independent solutions, you’ve got to log in to them through different systems.”
In a digital environment, the distance between the stock room and the company’s consumer outlets can, in theory, be bridged almost instantaneously. This should be the case even if multiple consumer touchpoints require updating since digital networks to connect these various locations can be created.
Systems that can accomplish this are available in other industries. But they have been slow to arrive in cannabis, opening opportunities for forward-thinking companies with the vision and expertise to take advantage of this situation.
Companies like Enlighten, for example. With the introduction of its new SMARTHUB system for retailers, Enlighten has beaten the competition once again.
“Enlighten SMARTHUB is the culmination of years of listening to dispensaries and retail operators, and finally now condensing it all into one system,” Jacobs explains.
Enlighten SMARTHUB is a centralized inventory management program that integrates cannabis dispensaries with their point-of-sale outlets. Using SMARTHUB software, inventory data can be translated simultaneously and in real-time to multiple e-commerce vendors, in-store digital menus, and self-service kiosks. This automation allows for accurate and lightning-fast updates wherever customers are perusing a dispensary’s list of products.
Before the development of Enlighten SMARTHUB, dispensary employees had no choice but to enter this data manually, and separately for each POS location. This method was slow, cumbersome, and challenging to execute rapidly. From the standpoint of sellers, it added a level of inefficiency that could ultimately cost them both profits and clients, given the lost opportunities and customer dissatisfaction inevitably created by failed attempts to purchase out-of-stock items from outdated menus.
But the arrival of Enlighten SMARTHUB has changed everything.
“Now, all of your online orders, all of your in-store sales service kiosks, all of your TV menus, all of this product information is stored in one single solitary place, and all can be instantly updated in real-time,” Jacobs explains. Back-end storerooms and upfront sales displays can now be fully integrated, with minimal intervention required on the part of dispensary employees.
For Enlighten, the creation of the Enlighten SMARTHUB system was the logical next step. Enlighten SMARTHUB was released on June 10, 2020, and the retailers who’ve already installed it are raving about the system’s speed and efficiency. In another month or two, Enlighten will introduce additions to Enlighten SMARTHUB reserved exclusively for its marketing clients, which should delight advertisers, who will be able to control their messaging across multiple digital platforms simultaneously.
Cannabis Needs Enlightenment
Despite its explosive growth, the cannabis industry remains partially segregated from the rest of the economy. In order to survive, cannabis entrepreneurs must rely on internal developments that can essentially pull the industry up by its bootstraps. These will include the adoption of mutually beneficial technologies, along with the use of smart business strategies that aren’t hindered by continuing legal impediments.
By offering innovative and carefully targeted software solutions that increase efficiencies at the retail-marketing nexus, Enlighten is setting an inspiring example that other cannabis entrepreneurs would be wise to follow. With its groundbreaking SMARTHUB system, Enlighten is lighting the path to a brighter future for all.
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