Ecommerce Lesson from Scout Camp

Last week, I had the opportunity to herd 15 boy scouts around scout camp.  There are some merit badges where you need to pay for supplies, such as the leatherwork merit badge.  No problem, there is the Trading Post where you can get your kit to make a belt, bracelet or even moccasins.  There are, of course, other things at the Trading Post of equal or more importance to my scouts – candy, chocolate, soft drinks, ice cream and even slushy drinks!  The parents were warned to send money with their boys, and as their scoutmaster, I cautioned the boys not to spend it all in the first two days!

The Trading Post accepts cash, but of more interest to me was a $5 punch card with your name written on it.  You then had the option to use the card at the Trading Post or directly at certain merit badge classes if they needed to charge you for something.  At the end of the week, you could trade it back in for the cash that was left on the card.  If you lose your punch card, hopefully someone finds it and turns it in, since it has your name on it.  In theory, this was a good system for preventing the loss or even theft of a scout’s money.  Some of my scouts lost their cards.  If it was in the lake, then there was no way anyone would be able to identify the owner – the ink for the name would be unreadable at best and likely to be washed off completely.  One of my assistant scoutmasters joked that the trading post probably made more money on lost or unredeemed cards that on actual sales of products!  I don’t think that was the case, but no doubt they did make some money off the lost cards.

Allow Gift Certificates in your ShopSite StoreThe system used at scout camp is similar to using a gift certificate or card at an online or physical store.  You purchase a gift certificate for a certain amount that can later be redeemed at the store.  Generally speaking, gift certificates are just that, a gift that you purchase for someone else to redeem.  You get credit for buying someone a gift and they get to purchase exactly what they want.

But, just like my scouts, some people will lose their gift card (for physical stores) or entirely forget to redeem it (or remember after the expiration date has passed!)  A couple of years ago, Consumer Reports indicated that $8 billion in gift cards went unclaimed.  A whopping 27 percent of gift card recipients had not used their cards!

If you’ve read some of my previous posts, you know that I’m a proponent of letting shoppers pay using any method they want.  Gift cards/certificates are really just another payment mechanism that you should support.  You get the money up front, which is always a good thing!  Also, if some shoppers choose not to use them right away or ever, you come out even further ahead.  But the real benefit is ensuring that someone shopping for a gift doesn’t abandon your site because they don’t know what the recipient wants.  Hey, it’s hard to choose between a leather belt, bracelet, or moccasins!

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