For legal cannabis businesses, one of your first tasks should be launching a website.
A common misconception is that your web presence isn’t important because you're a local business. That’s just not the case.
Local customers won't know about your dispensary unless they happen upon your store or hear about you through word-of-mouth. Your ideal customer might not even realize you exist and Google won't be able to help them find you if you don’t have a website.
A professional website is no longer optional. Your website will likely be the first interaction a potential customer has with your dispensary and brand. Without one, you’ll miss out on customers who might be a perfect match for you, but find your competitors instead.
Read on for some helpful tips for how to create a dispensary website.
Creating a dispensary website
When building a new website, the first thing you need to think about is purchasing a domain name. Use a domain search tool to see what URLs are available. You may have to choose a variation of your business name.
You can purchase and register your domain name from a domain registrar like GoDaddy or NameCheap. Some content management systems (CMS) like Squarespace allow you to purchase your domain name and build your site from one place.
When it comes to design and development, you can hire an expert, or do it yourself.
Hire an expert
You can hire a web designer or agency to create your website. This route is easier, no doubt.
A cannabis website design firm will take care of it all for you — from purchasing the domain to coding to launch. But it’ll cost you. The average cost for a new business website is between $5,000 and $10,000. Expect to pay more if you need a highly customized or animated site experience.
Depending on how the site is built, you may have the ability to log in and make changes on your own. Or the designer/web developer can make all updates for you on the backend.
Do it yourself
Another option is to make your own website. Website builder softwares were designed for small businesses and make web design easy.
Popular options include:
Rather than having to code your website from scratch, these services provide a variety of website templates to get a beautiful, responsive website up quickly.
The tools will generally walk you through the steps of setting up your domain and connecting it to your website design. Or if you've already purchased a domain, you can connect it easily.
Cannabis web design basics
Here are some best practices to consider while planning your dispensary website launch.
Use a content management system (CMS)
A CMS, like Squarespace or Wordpress, helps you build, maintain, update, and monitor your website. You can log into your CMS at any time to update or add pages, post blogs, promote new products, view website traffic, and so on.
It is nice as a business owner to be able to edit your website content whenever you need to rather than having to consult with your web designer or marketing agency.
Most also allow integrations so you can connect other online business services, like ecommerce, product ordering, scheduling, social media, and more. Native plugins take the guesswork out of things like SEO and analytics.
Keep it simple
Don’t worry about adding animations, pop-ups, or anything like that when you first get started. Customers don’t need that — they just want clear answers to their questions.
Keep user experience in mind when designing your site.
A website is most eye-catching when it’s clean and simple. Choose an uncomplicated design template that looks professional and fresh. Break your text into small, easy-to-read chunks. And use large enough font (at least 16px) with high color contrast so your text is easy to read on any screen.
Make important information prominent and easy to find. Potential customers want to know your hours, location, whether you offer medical or recreational cannabis, what THC and/or CBD products you have available, and how to order online.
Use beautiful photos of your products, store space, and employees to draw attention. Professional photos are well worth the cost here.
Prioritize mobile-friendly layouts
Google is the king of search, so it's important to understand their search ranking factors.
While their algorithms change regularly, one thing we know is that Google looks at mobile-friendliness first, meaning your site has to work well on mobile devices, including tablets.
Luckily most CMS platforms have responsive design standards, so the site you build should be mobile-friendly from the get-go. But make sure you’re writing for mobile users, including short sentences, clear headers, and large enough buttons to easily click.
Use SEO to increase online presence
Search engine optimization, or SEO, sounds confusing, but it doesn’t have to be.
SEO is the practice of putting commonly-searched keywords on your website so it’s easier for customers to find you on Google. Think about what your ideal customer might be typing or saying into their search engine and make sure your website includes those words.
Feature words like your location, the cannabis brands and products you sell, customer benefits, and why you’re better than your competitors. Just make sure to not stuff these keywords in where they don’t fit.
As a local, brick-and-mortar business, you want web traffic to be from people within driving distance from your store, so you should emphasize hometown keywords on your site. Here's a great guide on how to increase your local SEO.
Another trick is to enter a competitor’s website into a free SEO analyzer like Ubersuggest. This scans your competitor’s website for keywords that drive Google traffic to them. Feature these keywords on your site so customers will find you instead!
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Another way to boost SEO is to keep your website updated. One tactic is posting high-quality blogs of at least 1,000 words (implementing SEO keywords!) once or twice a month. Beware though, blogs are time consuming and if you can’t commit to posting regularly, it may not be worth it.
What to include on your dispensary website
While your recreational or medical marijuana website is technically about you and your business, it should actually be for your target audience.
Focus on the benefits you provide your customers. How does your dispensary solve their problems? How are you better than your competitors? What makes your flower different from others? What unique products do you offer?
Make sure that your site is well organized and easy to navigate. Every page should be only one click away from the homepage.
You don’t need to make a huge, complicated website. At a minimum, include these pages on your site:
- Homepage: The first page your customers see. Get their attention with high-quality photos and easy navigation.
- Products: List your cannabis products or link to your live menu. If you allow order ahead and/or delivery, make this prominent on your site.
- About: Introduce yourself and showcase your company culture.
- Contact: Include your phone number and email address and/or contact form.
- Locations: Clearly list your location(s) and if they are recreational or medical marijuana dispensaries.
Nice-to-have, but not required, pages include:
- Jobs / careers: Are you hiring? Describe open positions and how to apply.
- Blog: A blog is a great way to build a relationship with clients and boost your SEO, but only undertake a blog if you can continually publish high-quality content.
- Specials / loyalty program: What deals and discounts do you offer? How can customers be rewarded for shopping regularly?
Online dispensary menus
Online marketplaces like Weedmaps or Leafly have become an important tool for cannabis brands. While these cannabis dispensary directories are a great way to drive visibility and traffic to your store, they are not a substitute for your own cannabis website. It’s important to own your brand's web presence.
The best approach is to use a combination of tactics.
Make sure your live inventory can be found anywhere customers are looking for cannabis products, but also embed your online menu directly onto your website using ecommerce platforms like Dutchie, Jane, or Olla. This provides the best experience for customers who want to browse your menu and order ahead online for either pickup or delivery.
Age or medical marijuana card verification
As you have probably noticed, most retailers’ websites in the cannabis industry feature a security pop-up when you first enter to verify that you are 21+.
Does your cannabusiness need this? YES.
Cannabis is a product for adults and can only be legally marketed and sold to those above the age of 21. The only minors who can legally use cannabis are medical patients.
Protect yourself and minors by adding an age verification pop-up. Most CMS platforms make adding one really easy.
Opt-in for mailing list
Don’t let your potential customers leave your website without introducing themselves. Include a link to a mailing list sign-up.
Make it clear that by providing their email address or phone number, they are giving you explicit permission to email and/or text them. And do not email or text customers that don't sign up for this list.
Starting a customer mailing list is a great way to stay in touch with your customers and build up your digital marketing efforts.
It is illegal to collect information from minors online, which is another reason you need that aforementioned pop-up to verify age.
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You're now ready to build your dispensary website!
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*Disclaimer: Some states have unique regulations around marketing your dispensary. It's your responsibility to understand and abide by those rules.