Just a few short years ago, the idea of being able to buy and sell wholesale cannabis online approached the absurd. In addition to the legality issues and trust issues, the means for transacting online weren’t yet in place.
Fast forward to today and you have a dozen or so options, depending on the state market, to buy and sell wholesale cannabis via the Internet. Variations in the available platform models give you a few different options for offering or purchasing everything from genetics to edibles. Among the choices, you’ll typically find open marketplaces, direct marketplaces, inventory and order management software, CRM and sales management software, as well as any combination of the aforementioned tools.
A number of cannabis platforms have been modeled after or taken directly from mainstream consumer packaged goods management software. These types of platforms work well for edibles, topicals, and other items that follow the units/packages/cases model. However, they can sometimes fall short when it comes to the core of the cannabis industry – flower, trim and extracts – where products are measured in fractions of pounds or grams and don’t often have yields in round increments.
Early on, the concept of an open marketplace, much like Amazon, or Alibaba (since we’re looking at B2B rather than B2C) was viewed as the logical route to bring wholesale cannabis sales online. In theory, an open B2B marketplace makes quite a bit of sense – a seller posts their products for a fair price and the buyers come and choose what they need for their stores, based on a number of selection criteria such as product type, price, potency, quantity available, etc. So what’s standing in the way?
The cannabis industry is still heavily reliant on relationships. Oftentimes, pricing breaks aren’t based solely on volume but come from the long-term bonds formed between companies and friends. Therefore, posting wholesale cannabis products in an open marketplace can give the impression that the prices are inflated.
Some platforms offer tools to create the sorts of one-to-one relationships common to the cannabis industry. These are sometimes referred to as “direct marketplaces.” In direct marketplaces, buyers can view products and information about sellers and then engage with them directly to establish prices.
Things to consider when choosing a platform
Whether you’re dealing with a direct or open marketplace, you’ll want to ensure accurate inventory, standardized invoicing, and required compliance/ingredients/testing documentation. What’s more, order and sales history allows for reporting and analysis to ensure both buyers and sellers are making informed decisions with regard to price, product mix, margins, inventory levels, seasonality, etc. Plus, the addition of CRM features can make managing your clients and your sales team much easier and could also eliminate the need for more expensive tools such as Salesforce or Hubspot.
Some wholesale cannabis platforms offer integrations to required or standard applications necessary for compliance or traditional business operations. You’ll find METRC or other seed-to-sale software integrations, Quickbooks and other accounting software integrations, Slack integrations, POS integrations, as well as open APIs so you can connect to nearly any software.
Some platforms have tools, online menus and widgets to help sellers present their products with great efficiency to existing clients or to help win new buyers. These tools allow wholesale cannabis producers to send out links to custom-tailored menus where pricing and products are set for a specific client. What’s more, some online menus can easily be integrated into a seller’s website, eliminating the need for them to manage their own commerce platform.
It’s fantastic that the wholesale cannabis industry is taking off and being supported by all of this innovative technology. And, it’s only going to get better as the markets mature and standardize from state to state.
Apex Trading trading offers an array of features including Quickbooks, Slack and METRC integrations, CRM functionality, inventory, order and sale management tools, custom, live, shoppable menus and more. To see if Apex Trading is the right platform for your wholesale cannabis business, we encourage you to book a demo here.