In the past, starting a Shopify CBD dropshipping store was impossible unless you happened to be a Canadian merchant. Thankfully Shopify extended the ability to sell CBD on its platform to U.S. merchants back in 2019. Now, virtually anyone can take part in the booming CBD industry that’s expected to reach $20B by 2024. In this guide, we’ll explore the requirements, guidelines, and nuances to consider before launching your Shopify CBD business using the dropship model.
- What is dropshipping?
- Why dropship CBD?
- Disadvantages of dropshipping CBD
- Navigating the Shopify CBD Policy
- Where to find CBD products
- Deciding what CBD products to sell
- Final thoughts
Dropshipping is a popular business model found in online retail. Rather than purchasing inventory upfront and managing a warehouse, merchants only pay for products when a customer places an order.
In traditional retail models, a merchant would need to buy products from a wholesale distributor, store them in a warehouse, then pick, pack, and ship them to customers. With the dropship model, these operational tasks are passed on to a third-party supplier so the merchant can focus on marketing their business and driving traffic.
Here's the best part:
By eliminating the need to handle inventory and fulfillment, the dropship model offers the most cost-effective way to start an online store. There’s little-to-no overhead cost to get started and sourcing thousands of products is easy with the plethora of CBD dropshipping apps available today.
Fulfilling dropship orders is a simple process. When a customer places an order on your site, you then pay your third-party dropship supplier for the product and shipping costs to fulfill the order. The supplier then ships the order directly to your customer.
It might feel like you’re just a middleman, but there’s plenty of profit to be had with this simple business model and many third-party suppliers don’t sell to the public.
Millions of people desiring to run a successful online store turn to dropshipping because of its simplicity and low startup costs. Include the fact that you can run your online store from virtually anywhere with internet access and it’s clear why this is a popular path for entrepreneurs.
Easy to Get Started - Starting your Shopify CBD business is easy with the dropship model. Since you don’t need to worry about finding a warehouse or stocking and shipping products, not much is required to get started. Even with little to no prior business experience you can start setting everything up in a couple of hours.
On the other hand:
Don’t take this as a claim that building a successful CBD business with dropshipping is easy. As with most things in life, you get out of it what you put in. Investing time and energy into building your foundational knowledge is key to finding success. This guide will help equip you with the basics of dropshipping CBD on Shopify so you can jumpstart your own business.
Low Startup Costs - Since dropshipping eliminates most of the high-level investments required to start a retail store, you don’t need much capital to get your CBD business up and running. The entire online store can be built from your computer, so your initial costs are low compared to traditional retail expenses.
Wide Variety of Products - Dropshipping offers access to thousands of CBD products you can sell on your Shopify store. This allows you to target different audiences and makes your business dynamic in the sense that you aren’t limited to just one product or category. Again, there’s no real cost to adding new products to your Shopify CBD store since you only pay dropship suppliers when a customer places an order.
Easy to Scale - The dropship model is built to scale with you as your CBD business grows. You’ll invest more time and energy into market and sales efforts, but your daily dropshipping tasks won’t change much. Without the need to purchase inventory or ship orders, your business can continually grow while avoiding any expensive costs thanks to the dropship model.
Be mindful of the work required to get your dropship orders fulfilled. If you’re entering orders manually on a site or emailing them to suppliers one-by-one, the process can quickly become time consuming as your order volume increases. Take into consideration how much effort is required to get orders fulfilled when looking for dropship suppliers. More on this later.
Less Control of Products - The dropship model does not offer much control over parts of the dropshipping process. Suppliers control parts of the fulfillment process like shipping and packaging as well as restocking inventory and product branding. You have to trust that the suppliers you partner with are efficient and consistent when fulfilling orders for you.
Maintaining a positive relationship with your dropship suppliers helps build the trust needed to give up control over the parts of the process mentioned above. It also reassures you that you will be able to resolve any customer issues in a timely manner.
Restrictive Federal, State, and Local Regulations - Due to government regulations surrounding CBD and hemp, there are a number of considerations to take into account when starting your Shopify CBD store. This can increase the time it takes to get your store launched, but it’s worth it to ensure your business is operating within the law.
In some states CBD is still illegal. In other states, the sale of CBD may be legal but requires a certain license or permit. Familiarize yourself with state laws so you know where and how you can sell CBD. Leafly has an informative guide with resources regarding CBD laws and regulations.
You should also consider where your products come from. Since you won’t be growing your own hemp, it’s important to select the suppliers you source products from carefully. Make sure they provide certificates of analysis for all products and are transparent about where and how their products are manufactured.
Payment Processing Challenges - Because CBD businesses are considered high risk, you’ll find that the process of finding a payment processor for your online store is more involved than what you might experience in other industries. Luckily, there are a number of payment processors who work specifically with high risk businesses. Some even specialize in the CBD industry.
Slim Margins - In order to avoid taking on the risk of purchasing inventory, you sacrifice some of your profit margin in most cases. Dropshipping CBD can be a profitable business venture, but understand that the price you pay to dropship a product is usually more than what it costs to purchase the product upfront in bulk.
The CBD industry itself offers very healthy profit margins. Largely because many CBD products come in a cosmetic form such as lotions and balms. The beauty and cosmetics industry offers some of the highest profit margins in retail, so there’s plenty of room to make money with the dropship model.
Before registering for a new Shopify store or selling CBD products on an existing store, Shopify recommends consulting with an attorney to ensure you’re in compliance with the evolving CBD and hemp laws in the U.S.. In a message to merchants interested in selling CBD on the platform, Shopify states it cannot provide advice on what or where you can sell regarding CBD products.
If you’re looking for accurate information regarding the regulation of cannabis and cannabis-derived products, check out the FDA website.
Now let’s review how new and existing Shopify merchants can start dropshipping CBD.
To start a new hemp or CBD store, first sign up for a Shopify CBD free trial. This trial is customized specifically for hemp/CBD merchants.
After starting your free trial, you will be required to complete a CBD attestation. This document outlines requirements set by Shopify to sell CBD and hemp products on the platform. Completion of this form is required to start your Shopify CBD store.
Following completion of the attestation, you’ll be prompted to apply for a third-party payment gateway. Typically, new Shopify stores are able to use Shopify Payments, however Shopify Payments is not available for merchants selling hemp or CBD products.
Shopify offers a shortlist of third-party gateways that support the sale of certain CBD and hemp products:
New merchants will need to apply directly to a payment gateway and can only sell CBD or hemp products after approval. Expect a more in-depth approval process due to the vetting process of payment gateways for hemp-derived product transactions.
The process is similar for existing CBD Shopify merchants.
What does this mean for you?
Rather than signing up for a free CBD trial, your first step will be to review and submit the CBD attestation. Following submission of the document, existing merchants will also need to select and apply for a third-party payment gateway.
While the popularity of CBD continues to rise among consumers, the industry is still fairly new to retail. As a result, your options when it comes to dropship suppliers are limited. This can make the process of finding the right CBD supplier time consuming and expensive, but knowing where to look and what to look for can help speed up the process.
Let’s first review where you should turn to find CBD suppliers.
Where To Look
Manufacturers - A common way to find suppliers who will dropship their CBD products is to contact manufacturers directly. While manufacturers typically don’t sell to the public, they usually have a list of wholesale distributors they can share with you. With a list of wholesale distributors, you can begin contacting them directly to find out if a dropshipping program is available.
Use Smoke Drop - Smoke Drop does the hard work of finding quality CBD dropship suppliers for you. We’ve curated a collection of quality suppliers offering great CBD products like oils, gummies, and lotions. In the Smoke Drop app, you can browse through suppliers and their products, add them to your Shopify or WooCommerce store, and start selling them in just a few clicks.
Hundreds of CBD Products
Shopify & WooCommerce Integrations
Search Google - This is an obvious one, but keep these things in mind while you’re searching.
Search Extensively - You’ll find hundreds of thousands of results when looking for suppliers to dropship CBD. The perfect fit for your business might not be on pages 1 through 10, so be prepared to do a deep dive when researching CBD suppliers for your brand.
Use Search Filters - Take advantage of search modifiers to narrow down results. A comprehensive list of modifiers is available from Search Engine Journal.
Directories - You can find online directories that contain a list or database of suppliers in various industries. The best directories will organize suppliers by niche or industry and screen suppliers added to the list to ensure they are reputable. There is typically a one-time fee to gain access to a supplier directory, so make sure CBD suppliers are included before purchasing one.
What to Look For
Automation - Great suppliers invest in automation for their dropship program. Imagine partnering with a CBD supplier who has hundreds of products you can dropship, only to find out you have to scrape all product data from their website because there’s no integration or even a CSV available.
Features like automatic inventory updates, automated order processing, and one-click product sync not only make getting set up easier, but it makes scaling easier as well. Delays in inventory updates or order processing can threaten the success of your business, so reliable technology and automation is a necessity.
Quality Products - Product quality should be a main focus for any supplier you partner with. Given the nature of the CBD industry, you can’t afford to sell products with questionable quality or inconsistencies. Ask questions about the manufacturing process when considering suppliers and even place sample orders to see for yourself.
Location - The location of your suppliers will directly affect delivery times, so look for suppliers with warehouses close to your target audience.
Customer Support - When contacting potential suppliers, be mindful of how responsive their support team is. Long periods of time between responses or inquiries going unanswered should be a red flag. Customers with order issues will look to you for updates, so you need an open line of communication with suppliers to resolve any problems.
Smoke Drop eliminates the time and energy wasted trying to find the right supplier. We’ve curated a collection of reliable, established CBD suppliers with quality products. Each supplier is vetted using the information above along with other criteria.
Get the Smoke Drop Shopify app today and browse our CBD collection for products you can sell on Shopify.
Can’t find the products you’re looking for? Let us know! We are continuing to build out our CBD catalog, but are always looking for dropship suppliers and product recommendations. Message us in the app regarding any suppliers or products you’d like to see in the catalog.
Where to start
With so many different types of CBD products available, it can be difficult to determine where to focus your product offering. Should you build a general CBD store or focus on one specific product type like CBD candy? A case can be made for both, but product and market research is required no matter what approach you take.
Before you start deciding what products to sell, take time to study your competitors. Understand their unique selling propositions and any gaps in the market your business could fill. If you’re still unsure, remember that there’s no cost to add or remove products from your dropship store so embrace the opportunity to test different products.
Cost - How much does it cost for you to ship the product to a customer? Anytime a customer purchases a product, the order is forwarded to the supplier who will require payment to fulfill the order. Included with the product cost is the cost of shipping as well. Identify these two costs when looking at potential products to sell on your store.
Inventory - Nothing is worse than finding a winning product only for your supplier to run out of stock as soon as orders start coming in. You want to find suppliers and products that have a lot of inventory available or at least restock inventory on a regular basis.
Quality - Last, but certainly not least, is product quality. Even though suppliers are shipping products to customers, your brand is what the customer sees and interacts with. Make sure the quality of the products you’re selling meet customer expectations and reflect the quality of your brand.
Following consumer trends is an excellent way to determine what type of CBD products you want to sell. In-depth market research on the CBD industry as a whole will help you understand the marketability of your products and can assist in identifying your target audience as well.
Let’s review a couple of places you can find information about CBD consumer trends.
Google Keyword Tool - A great way to measure demand is looking at search volume for keywords related to your product. Google offers a look into their search volume through the Google Keyword Tool.
Google Trends - After looking through Google Keyword Tool, get additional insights from Google Trends. It offers similar features with more advanced metrics.
As a Shopify merchant, it’s important to know and understand your responsibilities. As with all Shopify merchants, the responsibility to comply with federal, state, and local laws falls on you. This includes the policies of Shopify, its app ecosystem, partner network, and any third-party providers. If you still have questions about CBD dropshipping on Shopify, review the Shopify CBD FAQ or consult with an attorney.