After 18 months of selling online, Foria Wellness finally feels like it’s hitting its stride, says co-founder and CEO Jon Brandon. February has been its best online sales month to date, and it has a solid plan in place to grow, he says.
The retailer sells THC- (the active ingredient in cannabis), Cannabidiol oil– (CBD) and hemp-infused products, such as lubricants and topicals. Consumers can’t buy THC online in the United States, and the legality of selling CBD and hemp is murky because it is sometimes treated as a controlled substance, Brandon says. Because of regulations around cannabis-based products and vendors assessing the market as risky, Foria has encountered a number of hiccups during its ecommerce journey, such as finding a payment processor for its site and using alternate advertising channels beyond Facebook and Google.
Foria started selling its THC products five years ago in California and Colorado dispensaries. Thanks to word of mouth, its products gained popularity and garnered media attention. For example, British GQ magazine hailed Foria as “the most enjoyable sex product of the year” in 2014, which drove a surge in traffic to its informational website. ForiaWellness.com began receiving 3,000-4,000 visitors per day but had no options for shoppers to buy its products online.
This proved to Foria that there was demand for its product across the United States. That realization drove it to develop two products without THC that it would be able to sell online and integrate ecommerce into its site.
Challenges to success
Developing the products was only the beginning of Foria’s challenges. The retailer struggled to find a payment processor for its site because many larger banks still assessed the market as risky and weren’t willing to take it on even though Foria’s products were legal to sell online.
“The notion of what’s restricted is not a black-and-white issue,” Brandon says. “People can make the case it’s legal to be sold. People interpret the laws differently. And any time there are gray areas and risk, that’s where subjectivity comes in.”
Plus, there was little transparency with the firms it was working with; one day the site would be able to accept payments and the next day it wouldn’t, Brandon says. Foria went through seven or eight payment processors before it finally reached a steady state, he says. Two of its payment processors it has had without issue for nine months and another one for three months. Foria keeps three processors in place now—just in case one stops processing, ForiaWellness.com can still take purchases, he says.
“It’s been a pretty bumpy road for us,” Brandon says. “We’ve been able to survive and overcome all of these non-normal challenges.”
Besides having payment processors in place, other factors are moving in the right direction for the retailer. President Trump last December signed the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 known as the Farm Bill, which allows hemp and hemp-derived products to be sold across state lines. And even though all policies won’t change overnight, this should make things easier for Foria to conduct business online, he says.
Hitting its stride
Now, ForiaWellness.com has three products for sale, which is about half of its total products that it sells both on and offline. Ecommerce is about 70% of its sales, he says.
With the basics in place, Foria can now concentrate on growing its business. Online revenue tripled in 2018 compared with 2017, Brandon says. Plus, based on January and February indicators, Foria is projected to grow another two- to three-times year over year in 2019, he says.
ForiaWellness.com routinely generates up to 4,000 web visits per day, without any paid advertising. On average, its conversion rate is 4-6%, which Brandon is extremely happy with because it proves that there is demand for its product outside of California and Colorado, he says.
From the beginning, Foria has championed the wellness attributes of the plant itself such as increased blood flow, and not necessarily for the psychosis attributes that consumers mostly associate THC with.
Ecommerce has been a boon to Foria as it allows the retailer to reach, and sell to, consumers who might be more interested in its product.
“People that are going to a THC dispensary generally have a sense of what they are going and shopping for, and its typically not sexual health and wellness products,” Brandon says.
So, the crossover into ecommerce gives Foria the opportunity to “speak to a much larger and broader community to people who might never step into dispensaries,” Brandon says.
Valentine’s Day is largely contributing to the healthy sales volume this month. “Our niche and what we’ve been known for is sexual health and wellness products,” Brandon says.
“We keep our eye on February as the most on-brand and on-message opportunity,” he adds.
Foria held it biggest sale to date around Valentine’s Day. Although it didn’t see a spike in traffic, it did see an uptick in its conversion rate and average transaction value during February, he says.
Foria’s growth plans
For the rest of the year, Foria is looking to expand its product line, such as with the introduction of a vape pen, and to focus on marketing since Foria faces regulations on Google and social media.
“Now, all of a sudden, we’ve got something stable, and we’re not always dealing with the next fire,” Brandon says.
Foria plans to launch a customer referral program, loyalty program and a subscription service.
“We’re increasingly up-leveling our ecommerce game,” Brandon says.
Since the start, Foria has provided content on its site about its products, such as medical information and the benefits of its product. It also sends that information in its email newsletter, which has “north of 100,000” subscribers, he says.
Email is a “very desirable” marketing avenue, Brandon says. “Because of the sensitive nature of what is being shared or discussed, email is a more personal approach versus a banner ad,” he says.
It is also looking into working with affiliate channels, where people can reach their own audiences and speak to their testimonial of using the product. The peer-to-peer communication will also resonate for its product, Brandon says.
Foria has 12 full time employees and its main office is in Boulder, Colorado.Favorite