Using ecommerce to support cancer survivors

In March 2012, I decided it was time for Stupid Cancer, the nonprofit I co-founded, to move beyond CafePress and open our very own online store. We’d previously been offering a broad choice of t-shirts and other accessories, but the gains were small.

The shop was launched on a wave of momentum from our company rebrand. Prior to 2011, Stupid Cancer has been known as I’m Too Young For It! Cancer Foundation. While it was a fantastic title that served a purpose, it did not just pass the t-shirt test. Following a year of dual branding, we were prepared to adopt our new identity.

One of the first challenges was deciding what, exactly, to market. We did not have the budget to purchase a large range of items, nor did we have a clear grasp on which direction to head in first. We settled on a white t-shirt with simple design. We printed it on a Gildan 5000 (a thick cotton t-shirt) and charged $20.

Before bringing the apparel creation in-house, we never really promoted it. The shop was a button on the site and it produced a tiny monthly profit. Once we started rolling out new layouts and expanding beyond t-shirts, we saw a trend of people buying several products in one checkout. We had adequate traffic to the shop together with a conversion rate of 6 per cent, double the industry standard.

The first validation that we were on to something came after we began seeing the tops on Instagram. The watershed moment came when we noticed Instagram opinions of”Where did you get that?”

As the months passed, we could check at customer behavior, and reactions to promotions like coupon codes or free shipping offers. We started to know how to better serve our clients.

The company version of the Stupid Cancer shop is that it is to make profits. We want the money to help fund programs and overhead. On the other hand, we’ve got a challenge and an opportunity.

The principal challenge is that the people who want the apparel are often out of work or facing tough financial times connected to their cancer diagnosis. We see family and friends purchasing our apparel for their family members going through treatment. Oftentimes, once we post on social networking, a survivor will label somebody and say,”Hey, I need this.” While that is not always unique to our area, it does affect our marketing strategy.

The largest chance with the Stupid Cancer shop — besides raising the earnings — is the awareness component. Even if we break even or lose money on a sale, it is still yet another person walking around with our new on.

The Stupid Cancer shop has come a long way over the last 3 decades. We have enhanced the quality of our goods, migrated ecommerce platforms (from Volusion to Bigcommerce), and our fulfillment.

I look forward to sharing my ecommerce successes — and failures here on Practical Ecommerce.

Yells Hidden Increases from Credit Card Providers

That some credit card providers occasionally sneak in cost increases for their merchants is not new. The suppliers often do this using a note like this for their merchants:”The card companies have recently altered their rates and charges so we’re passing on the cost rises to the merchant.”

However, the cost increases implemented by a few of those providers have little or nothing to do with the real card company alterations. And there are different ways that providers can improve your processing cost; they might not have anything to do with altering the prices and fees stated on your contract.

Boost Processing Cost without Changing Rates, Fees

Providers can improve your processing costs without altering your prices and fees. Here’s an example item from a real March 2014 statement.

  • Description: Visa Refund Client
  • Number: $470.00
  • Rate: 1.76percent
  • Fee: -$8.27

Visa and MasterCard yields the interchange to the supplier when you refund your client. The amount returned to the supplier isn’t necessarily the specific interchange, but it is very close. In March 2014, this example supplier, above, correctly passed the returned ($8.27) into the merchant.

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However, the supplier made a policy shift after March 2014 and is currently keeping the returned . Refund classes are no longer said on the statements.

A supplier’s return interchange policy is crucial to comprehend, especially for ecommerce merchants as they generally have more refunds than brick-and-mortar merchants. Some suppliers return the interchange as the above-mentioned supplier did in early 2014. But some maintain the interchange, as is currently the case with the aforementioned supplier. What’s more, some suppliers not only keep the interchange but also charge the merchant an additional processing fee for your refund.

Merchants, and especially ecommerce merchants, should know how their supplier manages return interchange before signing a contract. I’ve observed merchants overpay by tens of thousands per year only due to the supplier’s return interchange policy.

Review the Statement — And the Provider

Merchants will need to review their provider in addition to their statements.

Do you occasionally search on Google for your supplier to find out if it is going through changes or to find ratings and testimonials about the business? Do this at least twice annually, especially before your contract expiration date.

There’s consolidation happening in the credit card processing business. Some of the larger providers have been buying smaller ones, particularly those with a market. Your cost and possibly your terms and conditions may change if your supplier is purchased by another firm.

I have recently encountered bothering audit results with a few merchants. By way of instance, in June 2014, a merchant’s speed was on an interchange and pricing program, whereby the supplier had a set markup within the card firms’ wholesale cost (interchange and the pass-through fees).

Here’s an example of a two itemized items from this announcement in June 2014. I’ve eliminated a per-item fee the supplier added to the interchange fee.

  • Description: Interchange
  • Number: $4,166.81
  • Transactions: 27
  • Fee: $8.02
  • Description: Interchange
  • Number: $2,104.30
  • Transactions: 6
  • Fee: $49.00

I can confirm that the $8.02 fee on the $4,106.81 is correctly set at the printed regulated debit rate of 0.05 percent + 22 cents. The $2,104.30 quantity is for EIRF (Digital Interchange Reimbursement Fee) credit transactions and is correctly charged at the published interchange rate of 2.30 percent + 10 cents.

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Fast forward to March 2015, however, and this merchant had governed debit and EIRF credit card transactions as shown below. The announcement hadn’t changed and the merchant was conscious of any pricing changes.

  • Description: Interchange
  • Number: $4,386.66
  • Transactions: 55
  • Fee: $29.19
  • Description: Interchange
  • Number: $2,152.30
  • Transactions: 11
  • Fee: $72.13

I can see that controlled debit cards of $4,386.66 are presently being surcharged 0.5 percent and the speed is currently 0.55 percent + 22 cents. The EIRF credit transactions of $2,152.30 are being surcharged 1.0 percent and the speed is now 3.30 percent + 10 cents. In actuality, all credit and debit card transactions are currently being surcharged 0.5 percent to 1.0 percent.

Merchants will need to periodically review their provider’s internet information in addition to review their statements. One easy way to find out if your supplier has increased or additional new prices or penalties is to simply calculate the effective rate of your current statement against a few statements from a year or more ago. Say you processed $100,000 in April 2015 at a cost of $2,300. Your successful rate was $2,300/$100,000 = 2.30 percent.

The card companies haven’t implemented any substantial changes over the previous year if you don’t accept a high proportion of non-U.S.-issued cards. Consequently, if your effective rate was always around, say, 2.10 percent in March, April, and May of 2014, and today it is 2.30 percent, this could imply that your supplier has added costs beyond card business varies.

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