The Cannabis industry has seen hyper-growth over the last 5 years and chances are if you’re reading this, you yourself are looking for guidance for your own cannabis and hemp website design. This can be an intimidating task if you’ve never built a website or if you’re new to the cannabis and hemp industry. The FDA is still establishing its own guidelines around Cannabidiol (CBD), individual states are still developing their hemp rules and banks may still be on the fence about accepting your hard earned e-commerce dollars.
So what should you expect when you take on the task of cannabis and hemp website design? We walk you through the basics of what is available and which option might be best for your cannabis business long-term.
Cannabis and Hemp Website Design
The CBD and hemp market are continuing to see exponential growth as we enter into 2021 with online sales currently making up more than 60% of total revenue. The market glut we experienced to begin 2020 has begun to subside and CBD products are becoming a more mainstream and affordable option for many different consumer
segments; CBD food and beverage, smokable CBD, CBD topicals, CBD cosmetics, and CBD edibles. This trend is likely to continue through 2021 and lead to sustainable growth for the market as a whole. So how is the world of e-commerce integrating CBD and cannabis products into their systems?
Slowly but surely!
We have been building cannabis and hemp websites for over 5 years now. In that time we have witnessed a transformation with hosting providers, payment processors and e-commerce giants, all trending towards normalization. We will discuss a few of those changes and additional areas of concern below.
Choosing An E-Commerce Platform
When it comes to building a website, you have more options now than ever at your disposal. The introduction of drag & drop website builders has never made it easier to build your own website with the likes of Wix and Squarespace and setting up your cannabis e-commerce online shop is relatively simple with options like Shopify. Then you have the website industry standard option of WordPress, with its limitless capabilities and complete control over customization and content.
So how do you choose what’s right for your business?
It comes down to a few quick questions about your business: Is this a long term business move and are you selling CBD or hemp products directly to consumers?
If the answer is yes to both of those questions, then undoubtedly you will want to immediately start building a WordPress website.
If you answered no to one of those questions then you still have options available to you. The beauty of do-it-yourself drag & drop website builders is that you yourself can be the website designer and save yourself some money in the long run. This might be a critical differentiator for a small business with a minor budget, just wanting to get a product out quickly. The down-falls to this are that consumers can typically see the difference between a thoughtfully designed website and a small business owner quickly setting a site up, so this could hamper your long term credibility.
On top of this, when you build your website on a third-party site such as Shopify or Squarespace, you do not actually own your website and you are obligated to oblige by their terms of service, some of which are not friendly to the cannabis and hemp industry. This leaves you at risk of having your site shut-down and your hard earned SEO and design work lost in the process.
This is why it is imperative for long-term cannabis and hemp businesses to seek the secure solutions that WordPress offers. With WordPress, you own your website, you own the content and you own all of the SEO work you build through its lifetime. Considering your e-commerces online shop IS your business, building your website should be thought of as one of your most crucial business investments. Experiencing a website shut-down can wipe out that investment in a matter of seconds, a risk that may not be worth taking.
On top of the security of owning your content with WordPress, it also offers tremendous flexibility with website development and design in contrast to the limited design and development capabilities of an all-in-one website builder. Paired with WooCommerce, it is not just a go-to, it is the gold standard of online e-commerce.
With that said, if you have an ancillary business that does not sell any CBD or hemp products and are working with a budget, all-in-one website builders can be an excellent option for securing an online space quickly and without burning through your much needed budget.
What About Payment Processing?
If you thought things were sticky with where to build your website then think of payment processing as the stickiest of the icky! One of the last remaining hurdles of the cannabis industry breaking into the mainstream has long been the matter of cannabis banking.
Luckily in 2021, cannabis and hemp banking is much more accessible but we aren’t 100% in the clear yet!
The first item of business in setting up an online payment processor almost always requires a bank account. While large national banks have long refrained from banking cannabis companies, many are opening up to hemp and CBD touching companies, with local credit unions being the best available option. Once you have obtained a bank account, you are not out of the woods yet! You will still need a merchant or payment processor to handle your online payments. Think of this as the mediator that helps to verify and transfer funds from a customer’s bank card to your bank account. Occasionally your bank may also have merchant processing services, though typically you will need a third party solution.
Solution providers like Shopify will provide a payment processor for you, however it is subject to their terms and conditions which as we discussed before can leave you with risks of getting shut down. Likewise, simply setting up a PayPal or Square account are not so simple and present a risk in themselves. In fact, we would highly discourage using PayPal with their history of shutting down anything cannabis related and locking up your funds for up to 180 days. No thanks!
Square has recently unveiled a merchant processing solution specific to CBD companies and we have had great success with our clients utilizing this option. However, there are some restrictions regarding smokable hemp products and the THC side of the cannabis industry, so be sure to check their terms of service to see if your products/services are allowed.
Another option that we occasionally employ is Authorize.net. Authorize.net has been in the payment processing arena for decades, in fact they have provided secure payment processing for a number of adjacent “high-risk” industries. They offer competitive rates and a number of options outside of e-commerce solutions but most importantly they can provide the peace of mind of secure payment processing without the risk of getting shut down.
Alternatively, you can choose from a number of cannabis and hemp specific payment processors for your online e-commerce shop, giving you ample options to get your CBD business online!
To wrap-up, cannabis and hemp website design can be cumbersome but not impossible by any means. As time has progressed, a number of solutions have surfaced and there are now amble options to build your cannabis and hemp website without the risk of losing your investment.
While drag and drop websites are gaining in popularity amongst mainstream industries, they do present some risk to cannabis and hemp companies. You should utilize them when your budget is constrained and your product mix does not violate their terms of service.
WordPress and WooCommerce stand as the tried and true methods for developing a long term cannabis and hemp e-commerce store online. They provide a secure space to educate consumers, sell CBD products and ultimately build your brand. When paired with a proper payment processor, your online investment is secure from the threat of a shut down and you can focus your time and attention on doing what you do best! YouWho Digital specializes in cannabis and hemp website design and we stand ready to help YOU establish your online presence. Take a look at a few of the cannabis and hemp websites we have built over the years and then send us an email to set up a free consultation to discuss your project specifically.