What E-Commerce Platform Should You Use for your CBD Store?
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With the sudden and huge growth in the CBD market over the last few years, driven in equal measure by high-profile cases of medical benefits and the steady legalization of CBD the world over, it’s never been a better time to get on board.
With the health and wellness communities wholeheartedly embracing CBD and its benefits, and more and more studies being done alleging its efficacy, the only question remaining to be answered is what’s the best way to go about setting up your e-commerce store to catch that wave.
Having been recently legalized to sell CBD online, there’s currently something of a rush to get the product on the shelves and available, so to speak, but before you get your site up and running, you’ve got to think about the best way to do it.
There’s two major options out there: self-hosted and SaaS. We’ll run through the various details and benefits of each, so you can make an educated decision and get your e-commerce off the ground.
What is CBD?
Cannabidiol, or as it’s more commonly known, CBD, has been seeing a huge surge in popularity over the last few months. With its many purported medical benefits as well as recent legalization, it’s no wonder people are starting to take an interest.
While initially limited to niche healthcare, generally for the seriously ill, more and more people are looking to improve their wellness with CBD. One of the biggest questions for most people is; isn’t it the same thing as cannabis?
In short, kind of, but not really. CBD is one of the many chemical elements found within cannabis. CBD is not psychoactive and is all about the health benefits.
The legality of CBD was caught in limbo for several years, but with increasing amounts of evidence and supporters as to its medical benefits, combined with the lack of any psychoactive effects, many countries are legalizing it, and it’s now legal to open an e-commerce store selling CBD.
Generally taken as a tincture, by dropping under the tongue or adding to smoothies, or even applied topically in creams, CBD oil is being used to treat a huge variety of things, from acne to depression.
With a growing amount of anecdotal evidence as well as some studies done on animals, some clear benefits of CBD have been found. From helping to reduce inflammation to easing anxiety and depression, as well as some potential benefits when it comes to treating epilepsy, many people are using CBD to treat and alleviate a huge range of conditions.
As a result, the market for CBD has increased massively. Projected to hit a total value in the United States of $22 billion in the next three years, the farming industry creating the necessary plants is also set to keep growing massively. This has meant that alongside the legalization for selling online, the demand has only kept developing.
Which begs the question, when it comes to opening up your own online CBD e-commerce store, which e-commerce platform should you be using?
The Two Major Options; Self-Hosted and SaaS
When it comes to creating the perfect e-commerce site as quickly as possible in order to start getting your CBD flying off the shelves, you need to be thinking about the best platforms for your website.
There’s two major options out there (as well as plenty of smaller, more niche alternatives), self-hosted and SaaS. Both have a range of pros and cons, and both can create powerful, dynamic e-commerce sites.
When it comes to creating your site, you’ve got to remember that it’s much more than it looks like. It’s your shopfront, shop floor, billboard, business card and much more. No one, especially in today’s crowded marketplace, can afford to have a dated, amateurish website anymore. It simply doesn’t cut it.
That’s exactly why you need to be going with the best possible options for your e-commerce store. With that in mind, here’s a quick rundown of the various pros and cons of the two biggest contenders when choosing your e-commerce platform.
Self-Hosted using WordPress and WooCommerce
WordPress has long dominated the net, hosting a huge percentage of the total sites live today. It’s never been easier to use, and with some practice, virtually anyone can set up a very simple website using their software. This has a range of pros and cons attached, but can be very straightforward for simple websites.
WooCommerce is one of the premier e-commerce platforms designed and built specifically for WordPress. With plenty of customisability and loads of different options, this can be a solid platform when it comes to setting up your e-commerce store.
There are plenty of big e-commerce stores using this combination out there. WordPress’s straightforward, simple interface and WooCommerce’s solid customisability can make for a powerful combo.
However, without expert web designers, WordPress sites can become a little bit limited and amateurish. Best practice when it comes to setting up a site can be a little bit complex and making sure that your site is as optimized and powerful as it should be ends up being a job best left to the experts.
SEO, site speed, branding, and design are all elements that anyone can take a bash at, but if you want your websites to be as good as they need to be to catch that initial wave of online CBD e-commerce; you need all these things to be solid.
While WooCommerce has a huge number of extremely solid customer reviews, and it’s been thoroughly proven with many other sites to be a powerful tool for e-commerce, it’s not without its drawbacks.
One of the biggest problems encountered by WooCommerce users is similar to WordPress’s main issues. In order to hit the upper echelons of really putting the platform to use, you do need some understanding, skill, and ability when it comes to using this kind of software.
Combine that with their limited customer support and the frequent need to add in other plugins and add-ons, and you can have a really steep learning curve.
That means that while as a combo WordPress and WooCommerce can be amazing and powerful, they’re not for the completely inexperienced, and in most cases will require skilled web designers and developers on hand to help create the site that you have in mind.
SaaS Can Solve Problems Simultaneously
The other major option is SaaS (Software as a Service). The two best SaaS platforms for CBD out there are Shopify and BigCommerce.
BigCommerce offers a platform that combines all the major tools and software needed for running any kind of e-commerce business, from business-to-consumer, to business-to-business. It’s a powerful platform, with virtually everything a business could possibly need to get set up, started and grow.
BigCommerce boast some pretty huge e-commerce businesses among their users, powering some of the worlds most successful brands. The focus isn’t simply on e-commerce either, but branding and marketing alongside it. In short, it can make for an extremely potent combination.
Designed for the less technically skilled to be able to create, customize and optimize their own e-commerce stores, BigCommerce allows anyone to build the site that their business idea needs.
It’s not just for individuals without technical skills either, with plenty of tweaking and options available within HTML and CSS for developers too.
Through making extensive use of templates and simplified customisability, anyone can create a site that really works for them and their ideas.
The biggest risk when it comes to a service like BigCommerce or Shopify is simple. As you pay a monthly fee and don’t own any of the software, if they were to suddenly shut down overnight, you’d need to transfer your site over to another service. That, as you can imagine, is pretty unlikely.
But Which is Better?
Overall, unless you’re willing to undertake the arduous and lengthy process of self-hosting and building your own site yourself, SaaS can make for an extremely effective and speedy solution.
When it comes to catching a trending wave, it’s crucial to get your site live as quickly as possible. You need to be taking one of the high-ranking top spots, so speed is of the essence. In terms of cost in general, you want to get selling and get the money flowing as quickly as possible anyway.
That being said, if you’ve got either the developer skills or the funding to hire proper website designers, WordPress and WooCommerce can work extremely well too.
It all comes down to picking the option that works best for you and what you need. You’ve got an idea in your head as to what you want to create, and one of the two options is going to be able to help you produce that.
Take a look at the many successful brands and businesses operating on both platforms, as well as our pros and cons, and make an educated decision.
If you are interested to know more about all the aspects of launching an online CBD store – legal status, market research, competition analysis, UX/UI design, corporate branding, product packaging, and marketing – check out our CBD guide Learn CBD: A Step-by-Step Guide For 2020.