Marijuana Industry and eCommerce
In today’s business environment, no market or niche can survive without a strong eCommerce presence. Whether it's business-to-customer (B2C) or business-to-business (B2B), eCommerce must now become an essential component of any marketing or business strategy.
In 2016, the total US projected retail eCommerce sales stood at $392.5, growing to $440.4 in 2017. By the end of 2018, it is projected to be around $491.5 billion. This translates into over a 41% growth over that period. Shopify eCommerce for marijuana is certainly big business!
Similarly, the marijuana global industry continues to display strong growth characteristics as a multibillion-dollar market with no visible indications of slowing down. As this phenomenal growth continues, it brings with it endless eCommerce investment opportunities.
Decriminalization and Legalization
The legalization, as well as decriminalization, of this product for medical and recreational use is gaining momentum. In the United States, medicinal cannabis is currently legal in 33 states, making room for a big industry with a broad range of customers and products. It is now legally accessible to over 13 million people, and those numbers are set to grow as more states move forward in the process of legalizing it for both recreational and medical use.
By 2019, the legal marijuana market in the US has the growth potential to be worth nearly $11 billion annually. If the current trends were to continue to the point when all 50 states legalized the use of recreational marijuana, the combined market value would top a whopping $36.8 billion. The commercial cannabis market would surpass the entire US organic food industry by $3 billion.
Although there are a few eCommerce outlets in the country, most of the legal marijuana industry is currently offline. Consumers typically access marijuana, cannabis seeds, paraphernalia such as vaporizers, and other cannabis-related accessories in small shops and dispensaries. As legalization continues in more states across the US, the commercialization of cannabis is primed for rapid expansion, including expansion into the nearly untouched eCommerce marketplace.
Barriers to Marijuana eCommerce
When it comes to cannabis and eCommerce, there are lots of gray areas within the green. For example, except for hemp products, marijuana and its derivatives cannot be readily sold online without facing some restrictions or complications.
For example, a retailer may have a business Facebook page but is not allowed to make sales offers. However, Facebook Inc. has not clearly defined what constitutes a sales offer which makes it difficult to ensure compliance. Consequently, some members of the National Cannabis Industry Association have had their business pages pulled down or rejected by Facebook because listing the locations of their stores are considered a sales offer.
Other complications are due to the intricate state-by-state regulations and laws., Many retailers only accept payments in cash, which places cannabis eCommerce in a kind of limbo. Credit and debit card transactions for cannabis are quite rare because most banks are federally insured and are not ready to risk the potential legal complications with the U.S. government, that is responsible for regulating them.
In addition, processing payments for cannabis-related products are typically considered “high risk” transactions. Payment processors and banks find the risk is higher for fraud or chargebacks in commercial cannabis due to its mixed legal status.
Payment processing for cannabis-related products is typically considered falls under what is referred to as “high risk”. This literally means that the payment processors and banks are dealing with someone at a higher risk compared to others. For the cannabis industry, Payment processors find the risk is higher in terms of fraud or chargebacks in commercial cannabis due to its mixed legal status.
Though it may not be simple to sell marijuana online through an eCommerce outlet or storefront that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. You can still seize the opportunity offered by the growing demand for cannabis and its related products by setting up a thriving cannabis-related Shopify dispensary business.
eCommerce Shops: People who live where cannabis is permitted are now accessing the product in dispensaries and to some extent, online. For companies hoping to make an impact in the cannabis industry, an excellent way to gain more visibility and more customers to set up an eCommerce Shopify store. For those lacking the web design acumen, there are many B2B cannabis companies offering assistance in setting up a Shopify eCommerce business.
Cannabis Products:Cannabis culture and vape culture currently have a passionate and cult-like following, making it the perfect time for your business to capitalize on the forward momentum by thinking about the diverse products you can easily integrate into a cannabis Shopify eCommerce store. This will not only bring you more money but also boost brand recognition by, allowing those who are not typically in your sales range the opportunity of connecting with your brand.
Social Media for Cannabis
The internet is perhaps the most pragmatic media for any marketing campaign. It offers entrepreneurs a way of directly engaging with their clients/customers, managing brands, networking, and educating communities. Businesses can analyze the shares, likes, retweets, and comments, then mold their business models to meet the needs of their customers. In this respect, the cannabis industry is no different from any other. Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are social media behemoths which the marijuana industry can target to create business strategies and increase their business.
Social media influencers have been around for some time and although they are not new, they are a great way to promote brand awareness. Micro-influencers, those who have around 10k to 100K followers, can be a strategic way to reach your target audience. Usually, micro-influencers don’t ask for much compensation and have enough of a following to help bring your brand to life. Posting frequently, anywhere between 1-3 times a day will help to get your message across as well as making the most of social media best practices.
Blockchain technology has managed to establish a stronghold within the cannabis business sector. By virtue of its transparency, blockchain is helping business become more lucrative and provides a verifiable option for growers and emerging cannabis start-ups. In addition, it’s one of the best channels for dispensaries to manage their money despite the lack of bank support.
Since it removes the need for 3rd party verification, blockchain technology can help transform social networks into a one-stop shop for cannabis entrepreneurs. When contracts or payments are processed over a social network, the blockchain on the site can be used to verify the transaction as well as streamline the buyer experience. Though Hawaii has become the first US state to push for a cashless cannabis payment system, in the rest of the US a “near eCommerce” scenario is still the norm.
While big merchants such as Authorize.net and PayPal are remaining distant from cannabis-related business, there are various third-party merchants who do provide high-security payment processing for eCommerce companies that sell and distribute marijuana. Some of the more well-known ones include but are not limited to:
Evergreen Gateway: From cash advances and checking merchant accounts, to credit card processing, they have the know-how and solution to get your cannabis business started.
PayQwick Inc: An easy-to-use payment gateway, PayQwick has what you need to get started with your marijuana eCommerce including credit card services, instant pay, and invoicing.
Naturepay: This unique merchant offers a POS (Point of Sale) system connected to the cloud. In addition, it offers merchant accounts, banking services, armored trucks to handle your money, and branded e-cards for your customers.
eMerchant Broker: This is probably one of the best merchants overall. They offer merchant accounts, chargeback protection, check processing, business funding, and payment gateways.
The Future of the Cannabis Industry
According to one industry expert, cannabis is going to become a lucrative industry. Cost-efficiency and entrepreneurialism will allow this product to disrupt the current healthcare sector in a similar way eCommerce disrupted traditional retail. Currently worth billions, the legal cannabis industry is predicted to triple in terms of total annual sales by the year 2021. It, therefore, comes as no big surprise that it's catching the eyes of powerful business leaders across the world.
As legalization spreads, the demand for online sellers offering a broad range of Marijuana strains, products, and accessories continues to develop. As demand grows and regulations loosen around the usage of recreational marijuana, there is no better time than now to create a cannabis-related eCommerce store. Data shows that this is one the fastest growing US industries.
If your cannabis business is lagging in terms of Omni channel strategies, then you could be left behind. It’s incumbent on you to optimize the cannabis buying experience. As an eCommerce entrepreneur, the opportunities are not just promising but exciting and intriguiging.