Nexternal's eCommerce Platform is used by hundreds of wineries and other businesses that offer clubs, for example, wine clubs, olive oil clubs, coffee clubs, beer clubs, etc. Numerous features are built into the Nexternal platform specific to the wine industry and that benefit other industries that offer clubs. While the Nexternal platform can accommodate a wide variety of club structures, this article assumes a typical wine, coffee, olive oil, etc. club format, where members join, are automatically charged for club "shipments" (whether for pickup or for shipping), and remain as club members until they terminate their membership.
One of the great advantages of using Nexternal's cloud-based club software is that members can log in and update their preferred shipping, billing, and credit card information online. If a merchant chooses to use OpenEdge credit card processing which includes Decline Minimizer, VISA and Mastercards will automatically update upon expiration or replacement, reducing the number of declines with each club shipment. And club member data and customer data are all housed in one location. Additionally, tracking information is automatically emailed to customers which reduces customer service calls.
The purpose of this document is to provide some best practices for managing club memberships and club orders within the Nexternal system. The process can be broken down into five components:
- Setting up customer types to identify club members
- Setting up a club membership sign-up as a product in the store
- Processing a club membership sign-up order
- Creating a club shipment (club order)*
- Processing club orders
*Please note that different set up procedures and processes relating specifically to Member Choice Clubs, which allow customers to customize each shipment, are addressed here. However, sections 1, 2, 3 and 5 of this document apply to Member Choice Club processing as well.
We strongly encourage any merchant offering different pricing, products, or other treatment to different customer types, (such as club members who get different pricing than consumers, and possibly different pricing than members of different club segments) to preclude the customers' ability to create multiple accounts using the same email address. If this is not done, customers will be able to create multiple accounts that will not have the same customer type that affords them the special treatment, and therefore they will not see their special pricing or products when they log in. To accomplish this, navigate to Settings / Boolean Options / Prevent Duplicate E-Mail, check the box to turn this on, and click Finish. Now you're ready to set up your clubs.
1. SETTING UP CUSTOMER TYPES
In the Customers section of the Nexternal Order Management System (OMS) you can set up multiple customer types (Customers / Types). By default, Nexternal's software has 3 customer types that can be added to or modified. We recommend setting up a new type for each type of club segment that you have. So, for example, if you have a Red-only Club with a red-only ship segment and a red-only pickup segment, that would be two separate customer types, and so on. Also consider creating a type called "Former Club Member", which you would apply to members who drop out of the club so that you can track club member attrition.
2. ADDING CLUB MEMBERS
The most effective way to allow customers to join your club is by setting the club membership up as a product itself in the storefront. Many wineries and other club businesses capture club memberships using separate forms on their web sites. However, if these forms and databases aren't set up correctly, the merchant could face unnecessary security risks. By capturing the membership as a product itself in the Nexternal storefront, you can be assured that all data is properly encrypted and secure.
Nexternal's software supports both attributes and write-in attributes if there are additional bits of information that you wish to collect pertaining to your club. When you set up the club signup product, you can specify a Customer Type Upgrade on the first edit product screen, or on the SKU screen if you have multiple club sections, like ship and pickup, or red only, white only, and mixed. If you select your Club customer type(s), once the customer adds the product to the Shopping Cart, the customer's shopping session proceeds as if the Customer Type had changed to the upgraded Type (unless the product is later removed from the Shopping Cart), potentially impacting Product Prices, Product and Category Visibility, Product Allocations, etc.; however, the change does not become permanent until the customer places the order. When they place the order, they will also automatically be typed with that customer Type designation. If you take advantage of the customer type upgrade, we also strongly recommend turning on the "Upgrade Autosave CC" feature in Settings / Boolean Options. This ensures that the customer's credit card will be saved as a preferred card.
It is common for wineries and other club merchants to allow members to join for free. In that case, set the price of the membership (product price) to $0. If you would like your product to display "Free to Join" instead of reflecting a $0 price, simply set the price at $0 and check the box at the bottom of the price section called "Hide Price (Below MAP)", click finish, and then navigate to Layout / Edit General Layout / Labels / Hidden Price, change the contents of that field to say "Free to Join!", click finish, and you're all set.
Even though membership signup may be free* (see exception below) and the resulting order total may be $0, you will be billing these members for their recurring orders moving forward, so it is important that the system still capture payment information. To do this, visit Settings / Edit Billing Options and uncheck the box labeled, "Do not require payment when order total is $0."
Also, be conscious of how shipping will be calculated if someone orders a membership. Provided you are setting up weight-based shipping in general, you will likely want to set the membership product weight to zero so that shipping rates are not assessed* (see exception below). In the rare event that you are not setting up weight-based shipping in general, you will likely want to set up a shipping override on the second page of the product set up, overriding any shipping to zero.
*Exception: However, if you intend to send the current shipment out upon member sign up, then it makes sense to add an appropriate price and weight for shipping and ignore the previous directions to set the price at zero and zero out the shipping.
If you have an existing database of club members, you may also use the Customer Import to upload those members into the Nexternal database and simultaneously assign them the correct Customer Type. Note that the customer types must be set up prior to uploading the customers.
3. PROCESSING CLUB MEMBERSHIP ORDERS
When an order is placed for a club membership signup, there are special steps that should be taken. If you are not using the Customer Type Upgrade as recommended in step 2, change the customer type to the appropriate club member type. The customer's last name is a hyperlink on both the customer list and detail screens. Click on that link to visit the customer detail screen and change their type accordingly using the "type" select box. Next, review the addresses. When the club order is placed, the system will use the primary ship to and primary bill to address if defined. If these are not defined, the system will use the customer's general contact address. On the customer detail screen, you will see the listed addresses and whether or not they are designated as primary. If the bill to and ship to addresses are not the same for the order as the customer contact record, edit the additional addresses and define the Primary Bill to or Primary Ship to accordingly. If you have activated the "Upgrade Autosave CC" feature and are using the Customer Type Upgrade mentioned in step 2, you are done with step 3! If not, ensure that the customer's credit card has been marked as a "saved credit card." To do so, on the customer detail screen, check that the credit card the customer used is listed as a saved credit card. If it is not, return to the order detail screen, edit Payment Information and mark the credit card as a saved credit card.
4. CREATING A CLUB SHIPMENT
Before creating a club shipment, it is recommended that you:
- Turn off credit card authorizations if you are currently authorizing at the time the order is placed. (Settings /Edit Compatible Software / Payment Gateways Preferences /Authorization Preferences). To turn off authorizations use the pulldown to select "Validate Only". Leaving authorizations on can significantly slow down the creation of club orders, and may make it harder to track declines.
- Double-check your shipping calculations (Settings / Shipping / Show Zones and Rates)
If this shipment contains wines or other products that aren't currently available in your online store ("Currently Unavailable Products"), you may consider setting the visibility of the Currently Unavailable Products to "Internal" or, if you don't need the specific wines or other products listed on the packing slip for fulfillment, consider creating a new product for this one-time use (for example: "Spring Club Shipment"). Once you have the club shipment product(s) created, go to Orders, then click the "Wine Club Order" button (or if you are not a winery, it will be called "Bulk Order" button) at the top of the order list screen. Name the order (for example: "2021 Spring Club Shipment"), select the appropriate club member customer type, select the Credit Card Payment Method, and click Next. You will now see how many club members are eligible and how many are excluded because of a credit card or ship state issue. Pull up and save the report. If time is not pressing, consider running the report and trying to remedy the excluded people before placing the order to create as many successful orders as possible. (In fact, we suggest you run this report a few weeks before your club run, to ensure plenty of time to resolve as many issues as possible to maximize the number of member shipments that are successfully processed.)
If there are many excluded people*, consider emailing using the Mail Wizard button at the bottom of the report screen to email them. You can instruct the excluded people to update their credit card on file by going to:
https://store.nexternal.com/ACCOUNTNAME/storefront/login.aspx?Target=account.aspx (ACCOUNTNAME to be replaced by your Nexternal account name which can be found in the URL of your Order Management System (OMS):
Once they log in, they may update or add a new credit card.
Once you are ready to continue, click the Proceed button, add the club product(s) to the cart, then click Check Out. On the final order screen, you have the option of whether or not email confirmations are sent to customers for their club order.
Later, if some members were excluded from this order and then resolve the reasons for exclusion, you may generate another club order and exclude the valid members from the first club order to prevent any duplicates.
*Note that Nexternal offers integration with payment processor OpenEdge, which includes Decline Minimizer for free. Decline Minimizer automatically updates expired and replaced VISA and Mastercard numbers and expiration dates, which dramatically reduces the number of credit card issues requiring resolution prior to a club run. If you offer clubs (or subscriptions) for wine, food, non-alcohol beverages, or other items, we recommend that you consider using OpenEdge for processing. (Note: OpenEdge may not be available to some higher-risk industries.)
5. PROCESSING THE CLUB ORDERS
Once you have all of your club orders in the system, they are ready to be processed.
First, modify any and all orders for which you need to make exceptions, to ensure that every club order to be batch processed has the correct contents and total. After that is complete, you are ready to batch process the orders.
You may process payment separately, or if you are using a payment gateway and the Online Shipping Tools, you can capture payment and create shipping labels simultaneously. In Orders / Batch Process, if you are processing shipping along with payment, we recommend checking the box in the Shipping section that states, "include only orders with a billing status of paid." Because you are not authorizing orders at the time they are placed, there will likely be some orders in the system that result in a declined credit card because, for example, the customer may have reached their credit limit or may not have paid their bill yet. Checking this box will ensure that labels are generated only for orders which have been paid.
Once you contact the excluded customers and customers whose card declined upon processing payment and obtain new credit card information, edit the order to apply the new card and process it again by clicking on the dollar sign tag. Be sure to mark the new credit card as a saved credit card so that it will be applied to the customer's record for future orders. After running the batch process, if you have processed shipping, visit the reports section to print out the shipping labels.
If you use a 3rd party fulfillment company to handle your order fulfillment, you may export an Excel or Access file containing the order information and email the attachment to your vendor to process. Note you may also pull the information in a 205 format which is required by several fulfillment companies. Another option is setting up limited user access to your OMS for the trusted fulfillment company so they may process orders directly from the OMS or obtain the information to export themselves. Some fulfillment houses may also be able to query the order data out using our XML Tools.
- The Nexternal platform does not allow a customer to downgrade their own customer type or quit the club on their own. Therefore, if a member wishes to discontinue their membership, someone from the merchants' business will need to log into the OMS and change the customer's type accordingly so the customer is not included in future club orders.
- If setting up your club for the first time, there are several imports that can be used including a customer import, an address import, and a credit card import.
- Consider offering club members a discount on online purchases. You might add an addendum to the order and/or shipment confirmation email that points out the benefits of your club program and specifically invites them to join.
- If you are wondering if the subscriptions feature can be used for your club to automate the club shipment process, please see this article.
- Find best practices for managing gift club memberships here.