Tips for Starting an Online Smoke Shop

Tips for Starting an Online Smoke Shop

Published by Denise Mckenzie on Jul 14th 2020

More businesses are moving sales online to make up for lost revenue during the last few months. That said, now is a perfect opportunity to take your smoke shop online, or start an e-commerce head shop from scratch.

Before you start buying inventory and paying for e-commerce platforms, there are few things you should know about how to start a successful online smoke shop.

Benefits of selling online

  • You'll have a lot less overhead, and costs will be lower in general to operate your business.
  • It is easier to cater to the smoke shop industry's growing niche market.
  • Most people are looking online first to find what they need or want to buy.
  • You can offer a broader range of products, especially if you use drop shipping services.
  • You can scout for new business and ship to just about anywhere, growing your customer base.

Are there risks, too? Sure! As with starting any business, you'll likely have some concerns or reservations. You may have to use your personal savings to get your e-commerce off the ground. Maybe you are afraid that it's a waste because there is some much competition in the marketplace. Perhaps you don't have time to focus on SEO and marketing. There are many pros and cons to starting a business online, especially in the cannabis industry.

How to sell your products online

Here are a few tips if you want to move your store online or start an e-commerce store to sell smoking accessories.

Use popular online marketplaces.

Websites and apps like Amazon, Etsy, Pinterest, and Instagram are useful platforms to list and sell products without worrying about building your own website and conquering the algorithms for good SEO. Using a well-trafficked marketplace is a great way to get your foot in the door, especially if you are just starting out.

However, there can be stringent guidelines on what cannabis or smoking accessories you are allowed to sell and how you can list them. Some platforms even specify in their business guidelines that you cannot advertise certain accessories. So, if you are considering any online marketplace to sell smoking or cannabis accessories, be sure to read up on which platforms you can use to avoid getting booted or banned.

Build your own e-commerce website.

Another option is to build your own brand and website. There are a ton of platforms out there that work great for online head shops. Sites like Shopify, Squarespace, and Big Commerce have built-in shops with user-friendly interfaces that are easy to navigate to add products and pages.

An important thing to consider for e-commerce website owners is credit card processing. The smoke shop industry is notorious for being banned from just about every payment processing service available. It's been tough for both brick and mortar and online retailers to find a merchant service that allows the sale of marijuana and ancillary products.

Use industry-specific merchant services.

As cannabis-related businesses become legal and more commonplace, industry-specific services have popped up with great success. For example, Green Birdy offers payment solutions and credit card processing built for the smoke, vape, hemp, and CBD industry. Plus, if you need help with content marketing or social media plans, they've got you covered for these services, too.

Windship Trading works closely with Green Birdy. If you are interested in these services built especially for our industry, please reach out to us directly for special rates!

Be smart about your inventory.

If you are a brick-and-mortar shop owner, you have a great head start. You already have a bottom line, you know which products sell well, and you have a place to store items before they are sold online.

Most likely, you already have a dedicated wholesaler that stocks your store. This means you can take your own product photos and ship inventory you already have on your shelves. You may want to double-up on hot sellers and be sure to promote them online via social media to direct new customers to your online store. This will help you grow your customer reach beyond your local area.

Use drop-shipping services.

If you list items that you don't have in stock at your store or are solely an online seller, drop-shipping is the way to go. Basically, drop-shipping is a way to sell retail products that you don't physically have in your inventory. Windship Trading has a great drop-ship program built to help e-commerce retailers streamline the order process and grow their businesses. 

We don't mind doing the leg work. All you have to do is send over the customer's order with shipping information. We'll ghost-ship it from one of our three US warehouses. To learn more about our drop-ship program, reach out to your sales rep, or fill out a wholesale application on our website.

Get social and promote.

Even if you aren't using Instagram or other marketplaces to directly sell your products, social media marketing is crucial for businesses to stay relevant and keep up with the competition. Here are a few basic steps you can take to improve your presence on social media.

  • Be sure your accounts look professional and consistent across platforms using the same logo and profile photos. This will help people recognize and remember who you are.
  • Post high-quality images and videos, and do it often. Algorithms favor quality and consistency. Posting at least once a day is usually a good rule of thumb.
  • Use social media schedulers to help you remain consistent, such as Tailwind, Buffer, or Later. Many of these scheduling tools have some free features available. Others have small monthly fees or more substantial, in-depth plans you can buy.

Now it's time to dive right in. 

With a little research, the right elements in place, and a straightforward business plan, you are bound to start on the right foot selling cannabis-related accessories. Whether you want to sell on an existing marketplace, or build your own website and brand from scratch, keep these tips in mind to help you along the way.