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How to Start Selling Cannabis Online

It’s high time to start selling cannabis online


Cannabis and Ecommerce

In our post-pandemic society, disruption is a constant reality.
But sudden shifts also create unexpected opportunities for growth and innovation, especially for the cannabis industry. With market growth projected to reach $73.6 billion by 2027, this category continues to prove its legitimacy and resiliency, and is positioned to thrive in a digital-driven economy. But they can’t do it alone.


Re-adapting to the new abnormal

New regulations and rapid shifts in consumer behavior are nothing new for cannabis innovators. In fact, decades of constant adaptation might give cannabis companies an advantage over businesses that never had to adjust to drastic changes. But unlike most consumer products, the process of buying and selling THC and CBD is bound by a complex web of restrictions and regulations that have serious legal implications, especially online. In short, it’s the kind of job that needs to be done right. And as such, should be tackled by a team of experts.

Click here to learn how we launched an ecommerce platform for the #1 edibles company in the country.


Looking for tips on how to start selling cannabis online? Here’s three pillars you should prioritize when building your digital dispensary:


1. Brand Consistency

There’s no shortage of beautiful branding in the cannabis category. Trailblazers like our partner Kiva Confections helped elevate the industry above the tired stoner tropes with stunning collateral and packaging. But investing only in physical branding will fall flat without the digital infrastructure to sustain brand loyalty over time.

In our increasingly risk-averse society, your website becomes the ultimate brand loyalty opportunity.

If you have a premium product, but your site doesn’t reflect your brand’s values and visuals, it creates a disconnect that causes confusion and erodes trust. Cannabis companies that successfully bridge the physical—digital divide earn a competitive advantage over flashy newcomers who lack substance.

Deliver The Goods
This is a store, not a scavenger hunt. It’s your job to anticipate what your visitors are hoping to see, and make it easy for them to find. When in doubt, err on the side of simplicity, but look for opportunities to surprise and delight along the way.

Here’s four tips to help you design a positive digital experience that fosters meaningful connections with your customers:

  • Make sure it works on mobile every step of the way. Saving this step for the end is costly in the long run.
  • Avoid the stock photography trap. Instead, use compelling photography to showcase the quality of your products.
  • Include helpful content that communicates your value props and brand story.
  • Adopt clean, user-friendly designs to ensure a seamless customer journey.

2. Transparency & Clarity

The days of magic brownies are over, and there’s no going back. After enduring decades of inconsistent dosing and inferior ingredients, cannabis consumers are hungry for transparency. They want to know exactly what they’re putting in their bodies, how it was made, and how it will affect them. Addressing this consumer craving for clarity should be a top priority for any and every cannabis brand in 2020 and beyond.

Product Descriptions
Writing strategic descriptions for each product may seem tedious, but they are a valuable part of your sales pitch. Not only does this copy directly contribute to SEO, it also offers an opportunity to educate, engage, and expand on the features and benefits of your offering. Keep in mind that legal restrictions still apply, so steer clear of any oversells or unsupported health claims.

Virtual Budtender
As the pandemic accelerates a shift from brick-and-mortar dispensaries to cannabis delivery services, consumers must go online to find information they previously received from budtenders. For Kiva, we addressed this knowledge gap by developing a custom Virtual Budtender search feature that recommends specific products based on desired effects and real-life situations.


3. Top-Shelf Technology

Finally but most importantly, your online cannabis store should function flawlessly. Of course, this is easier said than done when considering the intimidating list of legal regulations and behind-the-scenes integrations, including inventory, apps, payments, privacy, regionality, ID verifications, and much more.

These complex challenges have a direct impact on your user experience and bottom line, so each requires a strong technology solution. Some of the biggest culprits of bad bounce rates and shopping cart abandonment are slow page load times and other technical issues that can be avoided. It’s essential to apply the best UX ecommerce standards, while keeping these cannabis-specific considerations in mind:

Launching a cannabis platform requires close collaboration between product, development, creative, and legal teams. Everything from payments to privacy to product descriptions require extra consideration to ensure compliance. Continual legal review throughout the process will help avoid headaches and costly fixes in the future.

“Find Us” Functionality
Establishing consistent ways for consumers to find your products is critical for sustaining brand loyalty over time. Even if a customer swears by your product, they will be forced to buy something else if they can’t locate it when it’s time to purchase. You can address this issue by utilizing map and inventory technology that is both scalable for internal teams and intuitive for site visitors.

Due to their complexity, cannabis ecommerce sites require additional back-end integrations with sales platforms and local partners such as dispensaries and delivery services. Therefore, it’s important to develop an efficient technology stack that doesn’t end up causing loops, lags, or hiccups in your customer journey.

All DTC sites require additional implementation to authorize payments, but it’s especially tricky for cannabis sales. Most traditional ecommerce payment methods don’t currently allow cannabis-related transitions, so you’ll need time to explore alternative payment apps and software that give your shoppers a seamless, and safe, way to pay.

Finally, you have to consider not just how customers will purchase and pay online, but also procure the product. For Kiva, we collaborated on public facing APIs that retrieve dispensaries and delivery services near the user, drawing from Kiva own datasets as well as from their partners.

Sales Software
Currently, Canadian cannabis companies also have the benefit of utilizing Shopify’s ecommerce and POS services, with exciting potential for US companies when (and if) cannabis is federally legalized. In the race to bring cannabis products directly to American consumers, companies who are ready to adopt this technology as soon as it becomes available will likely gain a timely advantage over their less-prepared competitors.

By 2023, ecommerce is expected to comprise 22% of retail sales worldwide. If cannabis follows the same trend, the companies who invest in sales technology now might avoid leaving nearly a quarter of their potential earnings on the table just a few years later.

In an industry and moment in history where change is the only constant, it’s time to work together to finally make it easy for cannabis consumers to shop, buy, and safely enjoy their high.

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