How to Sell CBD Online – The Ultimate Guide for 2023
How would you like a share of $5.3 billion? Sorry; we can’t hand it over. But if you start a CBD business in this day and age, you can potentially capture a share of the burgeoning CBD industry—which today seems to be growing by leaps and bounds. The CBD market is rife with opportunities. And given the prevalence of the modern digital ecommerce platform, it’s never been easier to start being a merchant yourself.
But if you’re wondering how to sell CBD online, you may find that it’s not as easy as signing up on Amazon and watching the money roll in.
Fortunately, we live in the digital age. High-quality ecommerce platforms are abundant. Accepting credit card payments is as easy as signing up to the right platform. And building an online CBD business can be as simple as rinse and repeat.
Even so, that doesn’t mean there’s a one-click “install” that you can follow. CBD is regulated, after all. You’ll have to know what the FDA thinks before you start selling cannabinoids on your own, before you open that edibles store, and before you delve into the worlds of topicals and vape products.
But let’s get back to the good news. Even if there isn’t one one-click “install” button, or one magic wand that will grant you success, there are easy ways to get started. You just need to know not only the right principles to tackle as you start selling your CBD creams on social media (or whatever your chosen approach might be), but the platforms and tactics that will help you make sales.
Let’s break it down, section by section, to help you better understand how to sell CBD online in a way that makes you proud of the business you’ve built.
What is CBD?
The Legality of Selling CBD
Finding and Sourcing CBD Products to Sell
Building the Store
Setting Up Payments
Choosing a Fulfillment Service
Marketing Your Store
Making Selling CBD Online Work for You
What is CBD?
Cannabidiol, or CBD for short, is “the second most prevent active ingredient in cannabis (marijuana),” according to Harvard Health. Touted as having a number of health benefits, CBD and CBD oil are “infused” in a number of products—from juices and workout smoothies to, as Harvard Health notes, even a sports bra.
In short, the CBD industry is blowing up, often due to two reasons:
- CBD is easy to infuse into other products, which adds a unique “twist” to those products that can potentially make them more interesting for consumers
- CBD does indeed have positive benefits for many people who are struggling with certain health issues.
One thing that distinguishes CBD from marijuana is the presence of THC. Or, in the case of CBD, the lack of it.
THC is the prevalent substance in marijuana that gives it the mind-altering effect that people associate it with. For this reason, CBD products online often don’t have the stigma of “getting high,” because that’s not what CBD is about. Instead, it’s a substance derived from plants that may have all sorts of beneficial health effects—without the mind-altering effects of CBD.
Let’s briefly explore what those benefits may be.
The Health Benefits of CBD
Now, we’re not going to make any claims that we’ve solved the mysteries of CBD in any official way. However, there are all sorts of studies that point to the health benefits of CBD. Places like Forbes Health have identified many of these potential health benefits.
Note that you’ll want to be very careful about claiming health benefits that have not been reviewed by the FDA. The FDA can crack down on anyone who makes big claims about their products without scientific backing. Still, the potential benefits below should help introduce you to the target markets involved—and what kinds of products you can sell that may potentially help people with these issues.
- Potential to help with anxiety and depression. As Forbes noted, “A 2017 study in the Brazilian Journal of Psychiatry tested the anxiety levels of 57 men in a simulated public speaking test.” You can probably guess the results. Those receiving 300 mg as part of the study had significantly lower rates of anxiety and depression against the placebo.
- Potential help with epilepsy symptoms. Managing epilepsy symptoms can feel like a cure to many people. For that reason, people with epilepsy often reach out to CBD products for help in managing the symptoms.
- Potential in treatment for opioid addictions. According to the CDC: “The number of drug overdose deaths increased by nearly 5% from 2018 to 2019 and has quadrupled since 19991. Over 70% of the 70,630 deaths in 2019 involved an opioid.” This helps highlight just how destructive opioids have become—and how widespread the need for help in treating opioid addiction is.
- Potential for pain relief. This is a big market. After all, how many people struggle with pain? There may be no quantifying something as unquantifiable as pain. Many people across a wide range of issues have sought out CBD brands because they believe they may help them manage their pain, even when working with a myriad of potential cuases.
This is only scratching the surface of what CBD can do for people. Ask any popular CBD sellers and they’ll probably be happy to tell you what CBD offers. The cannabis industry itself is completely aware of the potential health benefits.
But that’s not the only question here. Yes, health benefits are the primary reasons people seek the CBD you may be selling them. But before you become anyone’s CBD supplier, you need to know the rules—pricing, dealing with the cannabis plant, and what you can and can’t say in your content marketing efforts.
The Legality of Selling CBD
According to Payability.com, “Yes, CBD with less than 0.3% THC is legal nationally in the United States.”
But there’s a caveat here. CBD is not “generally legal” in the sense that you can go and sell it whenever and wherever you like. The 2018 Farm Bill, passed into law, created some regulations for hemp-derived CBD products and industrial hemp. And if your CBD is non-compliant, it becomes a Schedule 1 substance—putting it in the same category as marijuana and even heroin.
So the short answer is simple: you have to be careful. That’s especially true for anyone who makes bold, unfounded health claims about what CBD can do. Before you ever think about becoming a CBD distributor or taking on dropshipping, you have to know that you can’t make bold medical claims that have no basis.
On a national level, there are those CBD restrictions that you have to pay attention to. But perhaps even more important are the state laws you’ll have to adhere to. If you live in a state with lax CBD selling regulations—great, you’ll generally have an easier time. But not all states are made alike.
Typically, state regulations on CBD fall into one of three big categories:
- Making the sale/consumption of CBD completely illegal
- Limiting the CBD products that you can sell, or requiring licensing to sell CBD products
- Allowing marijuana-made CBD or only industrial hemp-produced CBD
The trick here? We can’t tell you what your state does, since we don’t know what state you live in. But as long as you adhere to the laws of your state—and make sure that you look these laws up before reading on—you’ll do a much better job of setting the proper expectations for what you can and can’t do within the world of CBD selling.
A Note on CBD Compliance
What does it mean to have CBD that is compliant with laws? Typically, you’ll find that a state may require that you only use industrial hemp produced CBD, for example.
CBD that is derived from marijuana, for example, may not be legal to sell in many states. You may have better chances at achieving legality by working with properly-made CBD, which means CBD derived from the industrial hemp that meets federal compliance standards.
We’ve previously noted that the THC content of the CBD will need to be less than 0.3%. Additionally, the CBD you sell online should be absent the chemicals or contaminants that pop up during the CBD extraction process. CBD itself, after all, doesn’t grow in the ground—it has to be derived from existing products like industrial hemp.
You’ll also want to know about the payment processing and payment gateways that make a CBD business possible. We’re referring to the sales platforms—many of which we’ll dive into greater detail later—and whether they allow you to sell CBD online.
For instance, the popular platform Shopify will only allow United States businesses to sell topical or consumable hemp or CBD products derived from hemp.
Before you pick a platform (Magento, BigCommerce, WooCommerce, and more), you’ll want to double-check that their allowable products line up with the goals of your new business. You won’t be making any sales of CBD products until the platform lines up with what you do.
Finally, you may need to obtain a business license to make sure that you’re selling CBD with full compliance with the regulators.
Finding and Sourcing CBD Products to Sell
Once you’ve checked on federal law and legality of what you’re going to do, you enter the first stage of business optimization. It’s at this point you’re going to look for high-quality CBD products that will make your business come alive.
There are a few keys here that you’ll have to understand. You’re not selling the average dietary supplement, after all. CBD laws rule the roost, and you’ll have to make sure that your CBD products are both compliant with these laws, and high-quality. Here are a few points to consider.
- Verify that your supplier manufacturers quality and uncontaminted CBD—derived from hemp, and not marijuana. We’ve touched on the reasons for this in the previous section. Working with uncontaminated CBD that comes from compliant hemp and not marijuana will help you make a normal business out of selling CBD. Consider asking for a certificate of analysis from your supplier before you begin, as this will create written documentation that the CBD you’re selling in-store is what you legally need it to be.
- Look for high cultivation standards. What is cultivation? This is the entire process of growing CBD and processing it into the hemp from which your CBD may be derived. When you consider a supplier, make sure to do some research on these cultivation standards. If their website offers any videos or background on how they create and process their CBD, you’ll want to know about it.
- Use only a certified supplier. No matter what you’re selling—creams, tinctures, topicals, etc.—you’re going to have to work with a certified supplier to ensure that you achieve both regulatory compliance and high standards for the products you sell. At this point, you’ll also need to start thinking about your customer. And when a customer asks you about your CBD, they’re going to ask about your supplier. Don’t skimp out on quality supplies here, because your customers are going to want to know. And their recommendations to other customers may depend on your answer.
You’ll find that many businesses and CBD suppliers have popped up over the years to help businesses like yours, so it won’t be as if you’re left on an island. Just make sure that when you do identify a supplier, they have regular third-party tests to verify the quality and compliance of their CBD.
Why go through all the trouble? It’s not just about quality. It’s also about ensuring that you have peace of mind. If you’re going to invest the time in learning how to sell CBD online, you’re going to want to know that an issue with a supplier isn’t going to set you back.
CBD merchants—as you’re aspiring to be—can work with a large number of products. But before you think about sprays vs. creams, for example, or vaporizers vs. tinctures, you’re going to need to focus on the core of the business in the first place. That all comes down to the quality of the CBD.
And how do you find CBD suppliers when you’ve made quality a priority? We recommend looking for third-party insights, such as Discover Magazine’s recent roundup of CBD suppliers.
Building the Store
Now that you’ve weighed the compliance rules and regulations and identified potential suppliers for your business, you can now shift your focus. It’s time to think about the customer. Just as important, it’s time to think about what that customer sees when they browse the types of CBD products you have on offer.
It’s time to build your store.
The good news here is once you get a little momentum, the process of signing up for an online ecommerce platform is fairly straightforward. There are all sorts of great options for sellers, and many of them are perfectly happy to let you sell compliant CBD on their platform.
Let’s start by talking about which platforms might serve you best:
- Shopify. One of the leading ecommerce platforms, Shopify makes it easy to set up a store online. But it also makes it easy to add all sorts of features to that store. Want to add review features to highlight your quality products? Shopify probably has an app for that. Want to make it so your shopping cart experience is simple and easy to use? Shopify probably has an app for that. There’s virtually no limit to what you can do with online sales when you have a Shopify store.
- BigCommerce. Another simple-yet-robust option for building an online CBD store, BigCommerce takes a slightly different approach than Shopify. It’s more of an out-of-the-box solution that aims to solve all of your problems as you build a store and attract new customers.
- Squarespace. Part website builder, part ecommerce solution, Squarespace is a great and simple way to build an elegant store design to highlight products like gummies and lotions. Like the other options on this list, you’ll find that it syncs well with email marketing, which allows you to capture the email addresses of your customers and build a community of fans.
Although we could go in-depth with comparisons on pricing and features, the truth is that each of these platforms is perfectly adequate. There’s no need to get paralysis-by-analysis here. Double-check your chosen platform’s policies on selling CBD products. Then get started.
Now it’s time to build. No matter what store platform you pick, there are some principles that you should adhere to:
- Take high-quality product photos. Product photos are worth their weight in gold in the online world. People shopping online expect everything just short of the ability to pick up a product and hold it in their hands. (And even in that case, some people are doing that with virtual reality.) Take a clear, well-lit, high-resolution photo of your products and make them look as appealing as possible.
- Reduce buying friction. Buying friction refers to any extra step or frustration that comes from ordering a product from you. Amazon, for example, revolutionized a frictionless experience with one-click buying. You can browse through the features and add-ons of your chosen platform to make sure you create a low-effort buying experience for your customers.
- Add trust badges. When people are buying a CBD product, they’re trusting you with a high degree of their wellness. You want them to be able to trust you. Add trust badges, such as certificates and regulatory compliance notices, which help demonstrate the quality of your CBD products.
Setting Up Payments
Let’s say you’ve done a bang-up job of every step on this list so far. You’ve adhered to all regulations and laws. You’ve find a good supplier. You’ve built a fantastic-looking website and store. Now a customer is looking at your product, pulling out a credit card, and…
…welcome to the most important stage of the process: payments.
We can hear you now. “Huh? Payments? Didn’t I take care of that part by signing up for a platform in the previous section?”
The answer is: it depends. What we’re talking about here is a payment provider, or the tool you have to use to accept credit card transactions for your business. If you signed up for Shopify, for example, you can use Shopify Payments and start taking payments quickly.
But you may also found that you want to use an alternative payment method, such as:
- Meta Pay
- Amazon Pay
- Apple Pay
- Cryptocurrency (fairly popular in the CBD world)
Some of the providers above, for example, can enable very low-friction experiences for people who already have a product like Apple Pay. This means that buying from your CBD shop can be as easy as downloading a quick song, for example.
Obviously, that should be your goal: to be as easy to pay as possible. Doing so will ensure that you create a low-friction experience. You’ll also build trust with your customers when you accept the payment provider with which they’re familiar.
Generally speaking, the more payment providers you enable, the better. This gives your customers all sorts of options for getting you paid, and it means that you’ll capture a greater percentage of customers. After all, customers may be less likely to pay if they find that you only take PayPal payments and they want to pay with Apple Pay.
Do some digging with your ecommerce platform to see what they offer. For example, Shopify Pay is a robust payment provider that lets you open up all sorts of different options.
You’ll also want to make sure that you structure your business in such a way that the incoming payments go to the right place. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Open a business checking account. This is, after all, a business—any payments that go to your personal account will be harder to keep track of. A business checking account can accept incoming payments. You can also sync these accounts with corporate accounting software so all of the payments are automatically tracked and organized.
- Set up accounts with this business checking account. Even if you previously had a personal PayPal account, for example, you’ll want a business account so you can accept valid payments through your business name only. This will organize your payments and help it when it comes time to file taxes.
Keep your business accounts separate from any personal accounts, because this will make things easier to manage from the get-go. You may also find that many payment providers will require upfront business information to get registered.
Choosing a Fulfillment Service
Once the order is placed, you need a way to get your products from A (your store) to B (your customer’s home). You’re certainly not going to do it. But just like everything else online, there are digital platforms and services you can enlist to take care of this stage of the process. Here are a few of our favorites:
- ShipBob. ShipBob can optimize for fast, no-frills shipping—or create a unique unboxing experience if you really want to highlight the uniqueness of your brand. They also offer two-day express shipping, which can be a really appealing feature for people who are used to the Amazon Prime experience. Keep in mind, however, that there may be limits on this—for example, their two-day shipping process means anywhere in the continental United States, not the world.
- Red Stag Fulfillment. Offering ecommerce fulfillment services like same-day orders, accuracy guarantees, and more, Red Stag Fulfillment is aimed at companies who want to ensure quality fulfillment at every stage of the game. Even better, it seamlessly integrates with top platforms like Magento and Shopify so you can keep your ecommerce platform running like a well-oiled machine. You’ll barely have to lift a finger as customers place orders and the fulfillment services click into place.
- ShipMonk. Shipping from a supplier direct to the customer, a technique known as dropshipping, is common practice with ShipMonk, which can take much of the business processes out of your hands and put your company in the unique situation of sitting back and collecting the money. ShipMonk offers plenty of features, including subscription box fulfillment, ecommerce fulfillment, and the like, which helps you build a more robust business capable of handling one-time orders as well as monthly requests.
Want to know a little secret? Outside the occasional feature that pops up here and there, if you sign up for any of the fulfillment services in the list above, you’ll probably do a good job of getting your packages out to your customers. This only highlights how easy it can be to learn how to sell CBD online in the modern age.
However, one area you will want to keep a tight eye on is pricing. Depending on the margins you’re working with, shaving off a little bit of pricing on each package can make a major difference in your business’s bottom line.
Marketing Your Store
Now that you have a fully-functioning store, it’s easy to sit back, relax, and—oh wait. There is that one teensy-tiny aspect of running a business that we haven’t addressed yet.
Let’s look at some of the most popular online methods for getting customers to come into your online store:
- Email marketing. It’s easy to set up a lead capture pop-up that offers people discounts or free guides in exchange for signing up to your newsletter. The good news? Once you’ve signed people up to an email marketing newsletter, it becomes one of the most effective ways for you to market your products. You can use email marketing for new product launches, to send out discount codes to promote poorly-selling items, or simply create an enthusiastic community.
- Search engine optimization. One of the top “inbound” marketing methods is to optimize your site for search engines. A well-optimized website can rank well for both top-traffic keywords and long tail keywords, drawing in people who are searching for key phrases like “CBD FAQ.”
- Content marketing. One way to draw in customers is to entice them with a well-written or well-produced piece of content that they just can’t ignore. A free blog post on the potential health benefits of CBD can offer people some practical knowledge, for example—and then they stay around your site and poke around what you have on offer.
- PPC. Pay-per-click advertising, or sponsored search, is a way of buying your way to the top of platforms like Google. This costs money, of course, but if you can optimize your keyword analysis and conversion rates, you can make sales at high volumes.
- Social media marketing. Either through sponsored posts or organic social media growth, your ability to get clicks on social media can translate to real-world sales. Social media is especially adept at improving brand awareness, which can be a clear need for anyone new to the selling CBD online marketplace.
We’re not going to tell you which avenues you should seek out—but there’s a good chance that one of these is already standing out to you as a method for getting new customers.
Making Selling CBD Online Work for You
Selling CBD online isn’t for the faint of heart. It takes the willingness to adhere to regulations and laws. It takes patience with those same regulations and laws. It requires setting up an ecommerce platform, selecting a way to accept payments, and then setting up a fulfillment system so you can deliver your goods to customers with ease.
But there’s also good news. Once you’ve secured a good supplier and a good system of doing things with your CBD store, there’s almost no limit to how much you can sell. CBD is an exploding marketplace, and people all over the world are finding out how beneficial it can be for them. If you can capitalize on a small section of that marketplace with an online business that drives sales, you’ll be well on your way to CBD selling success.