How Cova Became the Most Trusted Cannabis POS in North America – Gary Cohen CEO of Cova Software

Cannabis retail is no ordinary ballgame. The regulatory frameworks in place demand point-of-sale systems go above and beyond the normal transactions typically seen at mainstream stores, requiring track-and-trace capabilities at all times. The team at Cova understand this notion, putting it at the forefront of all they do. The POS, inventory management, and compliance software company puts the focus on the success of their clients, deploying easy-to-use and reliable solutions that help dispensaries run efficiently and within the letter of the law.

Learn more about Cova, its unique philosophy, and the company’s journey to the top in this exclusive Leafwire interview with CEO Gary Cohen.

Leafwire: What is Cova’s purpose? What is the company’s brand promise?

Gary Cohen: The purpose is to simplify the complexity in managing a dispensary. What people don’t usually realize is, you not only have a retail store, and all of the elements of that, but you also have online elements. On top of that, you have compliance, and all of the different regulatory requirements. Our purpose was to make that easier to manage — to be able to take a lot of that complexity out.

Our brand promise is to do everything possible to help our clients preserve their licenses.

LW: What sets Cova apart from potential competitors? What is your company philosophy?

GC: We were the last ones into the game of the big POS players and we focused on simplicity of use and compliance. We were very fortunate to have the resources and the experience to build Cova in a way that can deliver superior service and support — that’s a people thing. 

Our philosophy from day one was to be the lovable software company in the cannabis space. We really wanted our client’s experience with Cova to be positive in every single touchpoint, in their journey of discovering what software is out there, and which technology can help their stores through the entire purchasing process, setup, launch, and beyond. We’ve always strived to make that the differentiator. The technology is great but the interactions with us are just as great. Hopefully, when someone asks a customer, “Tell us about Cova,” they say “I love those guys.” That was our goal.

LW: Cova was able to beat 40+ POS companies to become the single POS that dispensaries trust the most — how did you achieve that?

GC: It’s this focus on the success of the retailer that really propelled us further faster. It begins with compliance and reliability. It’s what makes our industry so difficult and complex, compared to other spaces with retail. For other industries, if the software doesn’t work properly, or accurately, or it’s unreliable, it’s not the end of the world. But in our industry, they can pull your license and you’re out of business. So the stakes are much, much higher to do things well and do them correctly. That’s where reliability kicks in. ‘

These are incredibly lucrative businesses. If the POS doesn’t work, then you can’t do sales. If you can’t do sales, you don’t have revenue. 

One of the things Cova did that was and still is unique: we built this thing called offline mode. If you lose your connectivity, Cova is caching all of the inventory on the tablet itself and all of the employee credentials. Meaning you can still do transactions even if you’ve lost your connection or you lost the power to the store. Once you get connectivity back, we sync everything back up, not only to your POS platform that does all the accounting, but it syncs it up to the state traceability system so that you’re still in compliance.

All the elements I talked about around service and support are reinforced by the capabilities of the technology. 

LW: Why is support so often overlooked, when retailers are evaluating a POS system?

GC: Because we’re a new industry. What typically happens is, if you’re in a new market, and you’re just getting to open your dispensary, you don’t have experience with other cannabis POS companies. So, you don’t know good from bad support. It’s not until you actually get into the process to open, that the differences become super apparent. But then it could be too late — you might have chosen the wrong one.

In the case of Cova, we put so much emphasis on that initial relationship, to open your dispensary, that we assign a project manager, specifically to every single store, and then they work with them through the entire process of getting up and running. This person is really trying to work with you to get everything right, to understand how the software works, and to set the business up. It also lends to the success that you’re going to have. 

If you understand how to use the software at a high level, it makes you more efficient in your operations, and that makes the whole company run smoother and better, which helps you be successful. 

We have nearly 2,000 stores using our software. We’ve got a lot of people who will attest to the fact that that matters.

LW: How do tech ecosystems help your retailers achieve their vision of success?

GC: The truth is, dispensaries always use other solutions, whether it’s menu boards in the store, an online presence, even an E-commerce capability to place the order and come and pick it up in the store or have it delivered. There’s a whole ecosystem around the way dispensaries operate.

What’s really important is how easily the POS, which is the heart of the technology of a store, connects into these various elements or other companies in the ecosystem? The easier they connect and the relationship of the POS company with those companies just makes it easier and better for the store to operate. 

Having a really good partner like Cova that has purposely built the connectivity between and all these services to be straightforward just makes it easier for the dispensary to get what they need.

LW: What advice do you have for budding cannabis entrepreneurs? If they’re entering retail, what’s the best way to evaluate technology options?

GC: I have three pieces of advice. First, try to determine what the best-in-class for anything you need is, if it’s the POS, or if it’s eCommerce, or if it’s CRM, or loyalty. Evaluate what makes a certain partner provider the best, especially in service and support. 

Second, know what you’re about. You need to have a brand and a brand promise. Cannabis is a repeat purchase type of business. It’s not one and done. So, you want to try to build that loyalty and build a customer base. But you need to give them a reason to come back. Be consistent. 

The third piece is education. Everything about this business revolves around education, educating the consumer or the new customer about cannabis. This is a brand new industry. As new markets open up, there are a lot of people who have no idea what’s behind those doors in a dispensary. They’re a little nervous. If you could make it an educational and fulfilling experience, not just a transaction, you’ll build trust and trust will bring people back over and over. 

LW: Do you foresee any major changes taking place in cannabis this year?

GC: Yeah, I do. And this is coming out of the clear blue sky. But if you look at New York and New Jersey coming online in the next 12 to 18 months, there’s no way they’re going to be able to have the supply necessary to meet demand. Then you look at the West Coast — you have a surplus of supply.

I think something’s going to happen between Chuck Schumer in New York running the Senate, and Nancy Pelosi in California running the Congress. I think there’s a deal to be made for interstate supply to meet demand. 

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