What's the Difference? Marketplace vs. Dedicated Dispensary eCommerce Solutions

From fashion to video games, plane tickets to groceries, online shopping dominates the way consumers buy products and services today. It’s only going to grow, with retail eCommerce sales projected to top 7.4 trillion dollars by 2025. And this includes cannabis.

Dispensaries are a business like any other, and they need powerful tools for tracking customer data and analytics, managing online orders, and connecting all points of management. These tools are standard for businesses selling online – why should cannabis be any different?

Cannabis dispensaries deserve access to the same advantages of eCommerce best practices as other established industries. Most consumers have visited a Marketplace. Like Amazon or eBay, online marketplaces host a variety of third-party sellers under one roof, and these platforms are alive and well in cannabis. But these marketplace solutions may actually cause businesses more problems.

When it comes to online shopping, dispensaries have two potential paths: online marketplace or a dedicated eCommerce software solution. What’s the difference? Let’s get into it.

Marketplace vs. Dedicated Dispensary eCommerce Solutions

Pros & Cons of Marketplace Cannabis Solutions

Working with a third-party marketplace to sell cannabis online has its benefits and disadvantages.


  • Quickly Acquire New Customers & Brand Visibility 

By partnering with a third-party eCommerce provider, your company has the advantage of being immediately visible and pushed toward the marketplace’s targeted audience. This allows for a decent amount of brand promotion and exposure through the marketplace’s online platform, without the surplus work and time often associated with enhancing your brand visibility through manual marketing.

However, the drawback here is that many standard marketplaces tend to prioritize focus on the marketplace company itself, pulling consumers to associate with the online marketplace brand rather than driving traffic to your dispensary brand and website. 

At Dispense, we encourage retailers to list on marketplaces for increased brand awareness and to take advantage of omni-channel opportunities. But that’s where the benefits end. Owning your business’s eCommerce platform is a crucial piece in running a successful business online, and you can’t do that with a marketplace.


  • Lack of data transparency and ownership

Similar to many other eCommerce platforms, marketplaces fixate on the initial information customers share when making a purchase. Their name, address, email, demographic information, and purchase history are collected and saved for further marketing and customer relationship management. But unlike traditional eCommerce, such as Dispense, marketplace platforms often limit the amount of collected information they share with their vendors. Marketplaces like Dutchie and Weedmaps collect customer data for their own customer relationship process, but not for the brands and vendors partnered who use them.

This prevents individual dispensaries from the opportunity to leverage customer data and information for future individual marketing purposes. Without direct access to your customer information, it can be challenging to establish customer relationships and use this information strategically, moving forward. Moreover, it’s your business – shouldn’t it also be your data?

Pros & Cons of Dedicated E-Commerce Cannabis Solutions

Next, let’s take a look at dedicated eCommerce solutions for cannabis.


  • Owning Customer Data & Emails for Marketing

Directly selling cannabis to consumers through your own website frees you from the limitations of a third-party marketplace. By collecting your customer data and establishing your own CRM (customer relationship management), your business can directly track and access any relevant consumer data to use for future marketing. 

This includes gaining full control over your shop’s analytics and reports, without having to share the information with a third-party marketplace platform. 

According to BDSA’s 2022 Cannabis Consumer predictions, consumer purchasing habits this year will be more driven by brand recognition, strain specification, and terpene and cannabinoid data. Take advantage of these trends with Dispense! Users can list all of this information (and more) in their online menu, while also promoting their brand itself. This opposes third-party marketplaces that often leverage this information for their own benefit.

Data is more than numbers and statistics – it’s a lifeline to your customers. Collecting customer data can help you easily target a larger audience with shoppers’ email addresses to send announcements, promotions, and other marketing information to keep them coming back for more.

  • Increased Brand Visibility & Online Presence

The cannabis industry is hotter than ever and totally saturated with resources and businesses catered to services and goods for consumers. To succeed, companies need a strategy that enhances their brand to stand out in the crowd. Data can drive this strategy, but only if you have access to it.

Connecting an e-commerce platform to your dispensary allows you ultimate control over your brand and online presence. 

Dispense gives dispensaries the ability to customize and modify online menus and overall cannabis commerce. Create clickable homepage banners, and change button colors to reflect your brand all through Dispense’s built-in tools. Easily schedule and promote daily, weekly, or holiday discounts all within the Dispense dashboard.

  • ‘Out-of-the-Box” Benefits

At Dispense, we’re often asked questions such as, “How long will this take to implement?” and “How much does the set-up cost?” Answer: 1 hour, and no extra cost.

While other eCommerce options like Dutchie+ and JaneRoots require custom development (ie. extra time and money), Dispense software is ‘out-of-the-box,’ and we help you set up on a 1-hour call from a member of our customer support team. No coding, no headaches, and no hidden fees.


The cannabis landscape is still growing and changing, but much of the industry is far behind other sales solutions. Cannabis deserves better, and so do your dispensary customers. We might be biased, but data shows that dedicated eCommerce is the best path for securing a premium online ordering experience customers expect. The biggest con with a dedicated solution is wishing you had switched sooner.

Dispense Team

Dispense is ecommerce software for cannabis dispensaries. We give dispensaries the tools they need to list and sell products on their own website, leverage their menus and data to drive SEO traffic, build direct relationships with their customers, and scale their businesses.

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