Picture this: cannabis from a vending machine.
That is essentially the concept behind “anna” (yes, all lowercase), a new product being rolled out by a Boston-based cannabis tech company of the same name. Here’s how it works, per a demo on the company’s website: a customer walks into a dispensary, where they are met by an “anna.agent”; after completing the check-in, which includes verification of the customer’s drivers license, the agent then wirelessly unlocks the machine, a self-checkout kiosk through which purchases are made.
The kiosk allows customers to browse the selection of cannabis or CBD products by using a touchscreen and complete the purchase by selecting “checkout.” The agent then is notified of the checkout, reviews the purchase and asks for payment from the customer. Upon verification of payment, the agent dispenses the products wirelessly.
Welcome to 2020, right? Retail stores across the country have embraced automation in the last decade, replacing cashiers with self-checkout mechanisms. That appears to be the motivation behind anna, which claims that its product “cracks the code for bringing today’s advancements in retail automation to the cannabis industry.”
“The retail technology available to dispensaries has inhibited the cannabis industry’s path to normalization. In many traditional retail industries, self-checkout transactions are standard,” Matt Frost, the founder and CEO of anna, said in a press release this week. “With anna, our stakeholders will see very quickly that prioritizing retail efficiency improves store traffic, and allows associates to spend additional time with more inexperienced customers. anna epitomizes ‘Cannabis Retail for Now’.”
But the company is also seizing on this new era of social distancing and limited interactions ushered in by the COVID-19 pandemic. Frost said that the product is all geared toward getting customers in and out of the store more efficiently.
“A self-checkout solution does lend itself well to these times,” Frost said, as quoted by the Boston Business Journal. “There’s a bigger appetite for what we’re doing now.”
Along with the touchscreen interface, customers can also complete their purchases via anna or by utilizing “online ordering by scanning their QR code upon arrival, keeping the checkout process to under a minute,” according to the company’s press release. This, the company says, will allow “dispensaries and CBD retailers to service customers while adhering to today’s social distancing guidelines.”
The product is launching this week in two Colorado dispensaries: Strawberry Fields in Pueblo, and Starbuds in Aurora. According to the press release, the company also plans to launch the product next month in Massachusetts, while also expanding its presence in Colorado. By next year, anna hopes to expand to Canada, California, and Nevada, as well.
So what will it all look like exactly? “A typical anna setup involves three to four units placed on the dispensary or retail sales floor, creating a subnetwork within anna’s larger cloud architecture,” the company said in its press release. “The interior can be configured to accommodate products of all sizes, and its capacity exceeds 2,000 products in a footprint just under 8 square feet.”