VAPING / E-CIG

HIGH RISK MERCHANT ACCOUNTS FOR THE VAPING / E-CIG INDUSTRY.
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Payment Processing for the Vaping and E-Cigarette Industry

A growing number of electronic cigarette products are entering the market, offering consumers abundant choice in styles and flavors. E-cigarettes have built-in “cartomizer” cartridges, rechargeable batteries and LED-enabled inhalers that light up when in use. Vapes use batteries to transform liquid fillings into inhalable vapor. Recent studies show approximately 10 new brands of e-cigarettes are launched every month.

DigiPay Solutions has created a “Vaping and e-cigarette Industry Primer” with important information about setting up a merchant account, controlling chargebacks, managing risk and keeping merchant accounts in good standing.

Who is DigiPay Solutions?

DigiPay Solutions is a recognized payment processing brand among e-cigarette companies. The company’s extensive network of partner banks, payment experts and elite portfolio of tailored solutions has helped launch entrepreneurial start-ups and take enterprise organizations to the next level of corporate growth.

Thousands of merchants, from start-ups to enterprise-scale organizations, leverage DigiPay’s curated knowledge of high-risk payments to securely process hundreds of millions across an array of vertical industries. DigiPay works closely with vaping partners, providing tailored solutions and timely advice to national and regional service providers, and helping them maintain the highest standards of banking and payment card industry compliance.

DigiPay’s team of experts, combined with our partners’ proven record of e-cigarette sales, can facilitate successful new company launches and help existing businesses grow and scale.

A Vaping / E-Cig Industry Payment Processing Primer

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A Brief Guide to the Vaping and E-Cigarette Industry

The Vaping Industry: An Economic Overview

Industry analysts predict global e-cigarette revenues will exceed $50 billion by 2025, with sustained growth from emerging markets in APAC and Europe. The United States, United Kingdom and China are among the most profitable e-cigarette markets. Analysts predict sales in the retail vaporizer industry to reach 47 billion by 2025. Growing use of heat-not-burn and reduced risk products (RRP) are fueling the nascent industry’s growth.

Canadian online retailer Namaste Industries expects to reach $15.7 million Canadian ($11.7 million USD) in 2017 and $24.9 million ($18.5 million USD) in 2018, sustaining a year-over-year 35 percent increase until 2020. Other e-cigarette manufacturers are reportedly seeing triple digit growth rates, researchers have found.

There is also growing consolidation in the space. Lorillard’s acquisition of e-cigarette maker Blu for $135m and British American Tobacco’s phased takeover of American tobacco company RJ Reynolds (VUSE) are recent examples; additional mergers and acquisitions are expected.

The cannabis industry has cited vaporizer pens as an efficient marijuana delivery system, which may open additional markets for manufacturers of vape products and accessories as various states legalize medical and recreational marijuana.

SIC, NAICS & MCC Codes

Vaping and e-cigarette vendors are categorized by SIC Code, NAICS Code and Visa Merchant Category Code (MCC) to comply with payment card industry requirements. Proper classification is vitally important to prevent funds from being held in reserve for misrepresentation.

SIC Code 5993: Tobacco Stores and Stands

NAICS Code 453991: Tobacco Stores

MCC Code 5993: This general MCC code may apply to Vape Shops, e-juice sellers, and e-cigarette merchants.

Additional information on Visa MCC can be found in this downloadable guide.

Leaders and Rising Stars

Vaping and e-cigarette companies range from small and midsize companies to enterprise-scale organizations, providing abundant choice of products. Here are some leading companies in the space:

  1. Ballantyne Brands LLC:

    Ballantyne Brands, LLC, established in 2012 and based in Monroe, N.C., manufactures electronic cigarettes under NEO and Mistic brands. The Mistic brand of rechargeable and non-rechargeable e-cigarettes includes Mistic Bridge and HAUS vapor products, which are sold in 70,000 retail outlets and wholesalers across the United States. The company’s e-liquid products, including cartridges, starter packs and e-liquid bottles, are made and assembled in the United States

  2. British American Tobacco Plc:

    London, U.K.-based British American Tobacco Plc, established in 1902, is a leading purveyor of tobacco and smokeless tobacco products. The company acquired the remaining 57.8 percent of Reynolds American Inc. in July 2017, and has become a global leader in Next Generation Products, including Vype, Vype Pebble, iFuse, glo and VUSE digital product lines. VUSE is one of the leading vapor brands in the U.S. retail market.

  3. VMR Products LLC:

    VMR Products, established in 2009 and headquartered in Miami, Fla., designs, produces, distributes and supports a catalog of electronic cigarette products, including V2, the world’s largest online retailer of e-cigarettes and vape products.

  4. Your Name Here:

    With your great brand story and DigiPay Solutions as your processing partner, there’s no limit to how far you can scale your company. DigiPay’s diverse, extended family of electronic cigarette merchant customers process anywhere from $20,000 to millions in monthly revenue.

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Vaping and E-cigarette Products

Quit Smoking Community, a website and online forum designed to help people find healthy alternatives to combustible cigarettes, identified 5 top-selling vapes and e-cigarettes:

eGo Style E-Liquid Vape Pens: These vaporizer pens are equipped with “clearomizers” and e-liquids and have proven to have extended battery life when compared to other e-cigarettes.

Disposable E-Cigs: Disposable e-cigarettes, widely available at gas stations, convenience stores and supermarkets, are a convenient vaping method requiring no maintenance or e-liquid refilling. They are designed to be used and discarded.

Mods and APVs: Advanced Personal Vaporizers, also called APVs or Mods, use a variety of battery sources to power e-cigarettes, including lithium ion batteries, multiple batteries and built-in regulators designed to increase voltage and create a more enjoyable vaping experience. Mechanical Mods are available in tube, series box and parallel box configurations.

Miniature e-Cigarette or ‘Cig-a-Like’ Models: Industry experts consider cig-a-likes to be a “starter” category, useful for beginning vapers due to their ubiquity and simplicity. Designed to look like traditional tobacco cigarettes, they have a cartomizer cartridge and battery and can be used right out of the box. Portable charging cases help extend their relatively short battery life.

Opportunities and Challenges

E-cigarettes have been marketed and sold in Europe and North America since 2007 and contain fewer harmful chemicals than traditional cigarettes. While there are ample opportunities to market and sell electronic cigarettes on the internet, business analysts expect the relatively young vaping and e-cigarette industry to face continuing government scrutiny and regulatory oversight.

In 2014, U.S. regulators proposed treating e-cigarettes as tobacco products, making it illegal to sell to minors under 18 and requiring manufacturers to post warning labels on e-cigarette products. The World Health Organization (WHO) noted that 59 countries have regulated the sale and use of e-cigarettes. The WHO is concerned that e-cigarettes, particularly those that have fruit flavors, may serve as a gateway drug to minors and is calling for additional restrictions.

Because vapes and e-cigarettes have only recently entered the market, scientists have not had sufficient time to study their health benefits and hazards. The American Cancer Society has acknowledged that e-cigarettes are probably less harmful than traditional cigarettes, but warns that vapes contain nicotine, which can be both addictive and harmful when ingested for prolonged periods. Experts say e-cigarettes can be useful for people who are trying to quit smoking but warn against their potentially dangerous and addictive characteristics. There have also been reports of batteries exploding and burning end-users.

V2, a leading provider of electronic cigarette and vaporizer products, surveyed 300 adult “vapers” in the United States between May 16-20, 2016. Two-thirds of the survey respondents agreed that moderate regulation would help the industry maintain consistent quality standards and thereby protect consumers. If e-cigarettes disappear from the U.S. market, 49 percent of respondents said they would go back to smoking combustible tobacco products, 28 percent would stop consuming nicotine or tobacco products of any kind, and 17 percent said they would use some method of smoking cessation, such as nicotine patches, mints or gum.

Recently introduced FDA guidelines require e-cigarette manufacturers to obtain U.S. government approval for each individual product sold. Industry analysts have warned the costly application process may potentially put smaller manufacturers out of business.

Enabling E-Cigarette Commerce

How do I create an eCommerce merchant account?

Establishing a merchant account to process payments is the first step in enabling ecommerce. E-cigarettes and vapes are considered high-risk business categories, making industry product and service providers ineligible for merchant accounts at numerous sponsoring banks. DigiPay’s expanded network of banking relationships accepts the vaping and e-cigarette business category and provides competitive rates, terms and conditions.

E-cigarette and vaping business owners find it advantageous to work with processing partners who are familiar with their industry, jargon and common business practices. Payment processing sales representatives who are not familiar with e-cigarette products, services and terminology may be less effective at managing relationships, due to their learning curves. By working with knowledgeable processing partners, e-cigarette companies can save time and money, improve efficiencies and attract and retain more customers and followers.

Why is Travel considered High-Risk?

Many banks will not accept e-cigarette merchants due to the industry’s higher-than-average chargeback ratio. Vapes and e-cigarette businesses, especially entrepreneurial start-ups, may be unfamiliar with related risks of marketing their products to underage consumers or non-compliance with FDA and government guidelines, which may expose them to fines, penalties and even imprisonment. Additional risks associated with online marketing may expose merchants to refunds, chargebacks and fraud.

Here are some risks commonly associated with e-cigarettes and vapes:

  1. Subscriber Remorse:

    Consumers who opt in to monthly reoccurring payments may forget that their credit card will automatically be billed every month. They may then dispute the charge that appears on their credit card statement. Many card issuing banks require consumers to contact the merchant before they process a chargeback request.

  2. Consumer Complaints:

    Consumers may complain that a merchant was discourteous or failed to meet terms of service obligations. They do not have to prove these claims to initiate a dispute; a simple complaint about an e-cigarette retailer can prompt regulatory agencies to launch an investigation, creating additional exposure and negative publicity for vape and e-cigarette companies and marketers.

  3. Lack of Infrastructure:

    E-cigarette and vape start-ups in the early stages of setting up their businesses may not have appropriate customer service support to deal with consumer complaints and inquiries. Consumers who are unable to communicate their concerns to merchants are more likely to turn to their payment card issuers for refunds and chargebacks.

Can DigiPay acquire Vaping and E-Cigarette merchant accounts?

Yes, DigiPay welcomes vaping and e-cigarette merchants. As financial services specialists, we are familiar with the industry’s unique framework and diversity of categories, business models, SIC and NAIC codes and VISA MCC. We underwrite our merchants before sending their applications to our sponsor bank.

Once new merchants establish credibility and trust with DigiPay banking partners, they receive personalized attention and ongoing risk management from DigiPay’s team of payment specialists. This personalized service, coupled with the sheer volume of transactions we process through multiple banks, ensures our merchants receive the highest level of service and support.

Choosing the right payment processing partner is critical, because without the ability to accept payments, merchants are out of business. DigiPay’s merchant onboarding process combines sophisticated technology with human oversight. Experienced underwriters who understand the e-cigarette industry, and have expertise in payment card brand and banking industry compliance, bring a refreshingly holistic approach to new account set-ups.

Vaping and e-cigarettes are a diversified and growing market and DigiPay can accelerate that growth, by giving e-cigarette merchants the attention and resources they deserve and a one-stop shop for processing solutions. The first order of business is eliminating any barriers to progress. Look no further than DigiPay Solutions, where getting a merchant account will open doors to a bright and prosperous future.

Why is so much information required to open a vaping/e-cigarette merchant account?

Because of the risks and unknowns of the relatively young e-cigarette market, more due diligence is required during the merchant onboarding process. Underwriters need to review a range of documents to assure the business is compliant, financially sound, and a good credit risk. DigiPay is unique because we underwrite merchants in-house before we submit applications to the bank. Our team of experienced, high-risk underwriters will present your business to the bank with all required documents and full disclosure, to engender trust and stability.

Presenting your business in the best possible light from point of first contact is important because merchant accounts are essentially a line of credit from a processor. Because high-risk merchants have higher chargeback ratios and regulatory exposure, financial institutions are concerned they may violate card brand rules, laws and regulations. Complaints to the FDA and the FTC against a merchant create liability not only for merchants, but can also hold processors accountable under Know Your Customer (KYC) regulations.

DigiPay’s in-house team of underwriters and risk managers have curated knowledge in all areas of high risk. We are best qualified to guide you through the process efficiently and painlessly while helping to present your business to increase approval and gain credibility.

How do I increase my processing limits?

Once a high-risk vaping and e-cigarette merchant account is approved, payment processors set monthly processing limits, typically between $10,000 and $30,000 per month, for the first three-to-six-months. This gives processors time to develop a customer risk profile by evaluating payment flows, average ticket sizes, processing levels and chargeback ratios.

E-cigarette companies that maintain a stable, consistent performance throughout their initial trial periods can usually increase their processing limits. DigiPay’s risk management team works with merchants and sponsoring banks to shorten trial periods and raise processing limits.

Managing Alerts, Refunds and Chargebacks

Chargebacks can be an emotionally charged issue for many merchants, but with the right systems in place, managing and defending against them can be a routine part of any merchant’s business. DigiPay Solutions’ team of Chargeback Champions works with business partners to identify the root causes of chargebacks, proactively avoid them whenever possible and effectively address each chargeback and retrieval request.

DigiPay’s elite team of Chargeback Champions treats each chargeback request with an open mind and ample resources. Maintaining a low chargeback ratio is key to maintaining a healthy merchant account. When chargebacks exceed card brand maximums, your merchant account is at risk of being shut down. If a merchant category has consistently excessive chargebacks, banks will sometimes shut down an entire vertical industry. For this reason, it is critical for high risk verticals to self-regulate and work collaboratively to establish industry best practices.

How can I track my chargeback and refund ratios?

Keeping track of your Transaction Chargeback Ratio as well as your Volume Chargeback Ratio is critical because this is what Visa, Mastercard and payment processors monitor. Payment processors with high chargeback ratios in their merchant portfolios can trigger unannounced audits by Visa or Mastercard. For this reason, DigiPay, powered by TranZlytics, closely monitors chargeback and refund ratios, reacting quickly to spikes in activity. Excessive refunds, frequently the result of alerts, can be a sign of fraud or poor business practices, information the card brands and banks may consider when assessing risk.

The formulas shown below use simple math to derive Transaction Chargeback, Volume Chargeback and Refund Ratios:

  1. Transaction Chargeback Ratio:

    Add total monthly number of chargebacks and divide by total monthly number of transaction. For example – if during a month you processed 500 sales, and there were 10 chargebacks, your chargeback ratio would equal 10/500, or 2.00%.

  2. Volume Chargeback Ratio:

    Add total monthly dollar amount of all chargebacks and divide by the total monthly sales volume.
    For example – if during a month, you processed 500k in sales, and your chargebacks were 10k, your chargeback ratio would equal 10/500, or 2.00%.

  3. Transaction Refund Ratio:

    Add total monthly number of refunds and divide by total monthly number of transactions.
    For example – if during a month you processed 500 sales, and there were 10 refunds, your refund ratio would equal 10/500, or 2.00%.

  4. Volume Refund Ratio:

    Add total monthly dollar amount of all refunds and divide by the total monthly sales volume.
    For example – if during a month, you processed 500k in sales, and your refunds were 10k, your refund ratio would equal 10/500, or 2.00%.

How do I Maintain Low Chargeback and Refund Ratios?

It is important not to ignore chargebacks, because win/loss ratios matter. Visa and Mastercard can impose penalties and fines in the tens of thousands on payment processors and their sponsoring banks for continuing to process transactions for merchants that exceed the permissible 2 percent chargeback ratio. Non-compliant processors and banks may also be subjected to further scrutiny and potential shut-down by card brands and regulators.

Here are some recommended ways to maintain low chargeback and refund volume ratios:

  • Stop fraud before it happens:

    Proactively identify fraudulent and stolen cards and suspicious behavior when possible. Having items like an SSL certificate, additional billing details, and other fraud detection tools.

  • Be accessible to customers:

    Dissatisfied customers who have access to live support will frequently be satisfied that they had the opportunity to air their grievances. They may be satisfied with a simple return or refund and find it unnecessary or initiate a dispute or chargeback.

  • Maintain a high transaction count:

    Companies with high levels of credit card transactions are in a better position to absorb chargebacks. Low-volume merchants can find themselves in the dubious position of having a high chargeback ratio with just a few chargebacks.

  • Maintain excellent communication:

    In the always-on, always-connected world, customers expect immediate confirmations and emailed receipts. A good CRM program can automate this process. The DigiPay TranZlytics Gateway is preconfigured to display a merchant’s contact information and customer service number.

  • Use email marketing:

    Follow up with a simple survey or thank you email. This simple gesture will improve brand recognition when customers receive their credit card statements and make it easy for them to contact your company to complain.

  • Initiate pre-chargeback and refund alerts:

    Create instant notifications of incoming requests for refunds, chargebacks and assorted customer inquiries. These services can be implemented in-house or outsourced to third-party providers. Merchants have a small window to react to customer disputes before card brands rule in favor of consumers. Automated chargeback and refund alert systems help merchants mitigate risk.

  • Implement a billing support hotline:

    Providing customers with a dedicated, toll-free number and email address will alleviate their concerns and build good will. Vaping and e-cigarette merchants that are responsive to customer inquiries have been shown to decrease chargeback and refund ratios.

  • Create an easy refund process:

    Refunds are a reality of life and a cost of doing business in the vaping and e-cigarette industry. By accounting and budgeting for refunds, e-cigarette merchants can accommodate dissatisfied customers, avoid chargebacks and improve transaction flows.

Chargeback Mitigation Companies for Vape/E-Cig related Businesses

Merchants can handle chargebacks in-house or outsource to a Chargeback Mitigation Specialist. The following companies are experienced in identifying all forms of fraud, including friendly fraud. They will investigate chargeback claims and retrieval requests on behalf of merchants:

Chargeback Mitigation Companies:

  • MIDigator
  • Chargebacks.com
  • Chargeback Guru
  • Chargebacks 911
  • Chargeback 360

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How do I choose an eCommerce gateway?

Many vaping and e-cigarette merchants rely on eCommerce and Mail Order/Telephone Order (MOTO) sales to scale their businesses. Credit card payments transacted online or by phone are called Card Not Present (CNP) transactions. Online CNP transactions involve credit card gateways that transmit payments from merchants to their payment processors.

Following is a list of recommended attributes of payment gateways that address the unique requirements of the vaping and e-cigarette industry:

Support multiple merchant account IDs (MIDs):

Many vaping and e-cigarette companies need multiple merchant accounts to support their diversified array of products. Gateways should ideally be able to manage multiple merchant I.D.s organized under one master MID relationship.

Simple integration:

Payment gateways need to seamlessly integrate CRMs, POS systems, third-party software, and eCommerce shopping carts to facilitate all forms of online, MOTO and in-store commerce.

Enhanced reporting tools:

Vaping and e-cigarette merchants rely on a variety of real-time reports and transaction data to grow and scale their businesses and manage chargebacks and refunds.

Merchant Dashboard, with permission levels:

In addition to enhanced reporting, vaping and e-cigarette merchants need to securely access transaction data from anywhere they happen to be working, with built-in permission levels that facilitate all levels of employees and management.

Payment gateways must comply with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). Ask your gateway provider if they are PCI DSS compliant and verify their certificate annually. Vaping and e-cigarette merchants also need a gateway with a data vault for tokenization of credit card numbers and encryption of customer personally identifiable information (PII).

Tokenization replaces a Primary Account Number (PAN) with a randomly generated set of numbers and records this in the data vault. This is to prevent hackers from accessing customer data. By storing PII and PAN in a highly secure, offsite location merchants shift their liability to the gateway provider. Encryption and tokenization keep your customer’s information safe while allowing merchants access to the data for future transactions.

TranZlytics Gateway:
Choosing the right gateway provider is critical for high-risk merchants and their processors. DigiPay’s chosen gateway is TranZlytics. TranZlytics offers high risk merchants a Gateway and HUB built from the ground up for high-risk and CNP merchants. The solution includes transaction analytics and fraud prevention and built-in advanced chargeback management.

TranZlytics also offers advanced real-time reporting for faster and better use of CRM data. Payment descriptors are registered with a Chargeback Alerts program; re-presentments are pre-integrated with the gateway.

With a single HUB for transaction management and an expert risk management team to monitor your data, you can focus on what you do best, growing your business. Think of Tranzlytics as a Vaping and E-cigarette HUB with the IQ of Einstein and the memory of an elephant.

CRMs for Travel Businesses

Customer Relations Management (CRM) software is a basic requirement, both for large enterprises and small companies that want to scale and grow their businesses. These systems are designed to automate the lifecycle of product offerings and to facilitate payments. As with payment gateways, it is vitally important to validate the CRM is PCI DSS compliant if it is touching customer information. Unlike payment gateways, CRMs are not rigorously monitored for PCI DSS compliance; a security breach can devastate your business and erode customer trust.

Below are examples of CRMs used by e-cigarette and vape startups and enterprise-level companies:

  • Konnetive CRM:

    Konnektive is CRM of choice for a diversified array of vape companies. The CRM’s expanded solution suite shopping cart technology, logistics and fulfillment and call center integration. The platform also provides advanced reporting and analytics and PCI certification. Subscription prices vary.

  • Zoho CRM:

    Zoho, a generic and inexpensive CRM program provides tools for recurring billing, customer tracking, customer satisfaction emails and a customizable database. While the service is not specifically designed for the e-cigarette industry, it is affordable and supports multiple MIDs.

  • Limelight CRM:

    Limelight is the go-to CRM created “For Marketers, By Marketers”, for a travel businesses. The reason it’s so popular is its integration with NMI and some robust call center integration. The biggest downside to LimeLight is that they’re expensive. Everything is done via a custom quote, but a vape business can expect to pay at least $500 per month, plus a one-time setup fee. Whether or not that fits within your budget is obviously up to you, but it is probably worth doing an intro call just to see why so many travel businesses end up choosing them

  • Google Sheets:

    Google Sheets is a free service that provides a basic spreadsheet for start-ups. Its biggest asset is that it is free.

Growing and Scaling Your Vape/E-Cig Business

It’s a Great Time to be in Vape/E-Cig

The electronic cigarette market is a highly competitive and rapidly expanding, and DigiPay is excited to be part of it. Our extended family of e-cigarette and vape merchants, with vastly different models and product sets, are equally committed to optimal results, performance metrics and profitability. All want affordable and easy high-risk payment card processing, which is our specialty.

Mike Ackerman
Co-Founder, CEO, DigiPay Solutions

Affiliate Marketing

What is affiliate marketing? Affiliate marketing is a partnership between merchants and affiliated individuals and companies that sell for them on the internet. Companies of all sizes, from leading global brands to start-up entrepreneurs, use the affiliate marketing model to great advantage, finding it an effective and lucrative ecommerce strategy. For example, thousands of Amazon.com affiliates promote products on their websites, redirecting buyers to Amazon’s site where they can check out and complete the sale. These sales are tracked by unique URLs that enable affiliates to earn commissions.

Creating an effective affiliate marketing plan begins with identifying trusted and reputable affiliates with extensive networks and followers, retail analysts have noted. These sources can help introduce products and services to markets outside a company’s traditional marketing footprint. Some examples might be a blogger with thousands of followers, or an e-zine with a strong vertical industry focus.

Because affiliate marketers are ideally an extension of a company’s brand and salesforce, it is crucial for organizations to create an affiliate program with clearly articulated terms and conditions, leaving nothing to chance. Some companies may outsource most of their promotional efforts to affiliate marketers. Others may supplement their traditional salesforce with a few affiliate partners.

Companies need to consider their primary objectives and corporate culture when creating an affiliate marketing program. Companies that manage more than one sales force, such as telemarketers and outside sales, have learned to structure sales programs to ensure that different teams are not competing against each other. This principle is equally relevant when working with affiliate marketers, who have proven to be most effective when they are not in direct competition with internal sales teams.

What are Five Essential Components of an Affiliate Marketing Plan?

Payment acceptance: Affiliate marketing takes place on the internet, where payment methods vary. Merchants that only accept traditional credit cards will miss the opportunity to scale their businesses globally, by not accepting the most popular payment methods of other countries. Partnering with a company that specializes in cross-border payments and understands the unique regulatory environments of different countries around the world, will solve this issue.

Establish dedicated URL links: Targeted, accurate URLs are directly tied to affiliate marketers’ commissions and need to directly link to landing pages and product codes. Companies need to work with IT specialists to accurately track and promptly commission affiliate sales.

Create a coupon program: Considering how many consumers search for coupons and offers online, doesn’t it make sense to create coupon programs that help affiliate partners attract prospective buyers? Discount codes are one of the biggest growth hacks on the internet and show no sign of slowing down.

Stay in touch with affiliate partners: Establishing deep ties with affiliate partners means notifying them in real-time of any changes in inventory, pricing models and promotions. No company can afford the embarrassment of having an affiliate learn of a discontinued item or clearance sale through a third party. As sales representatives on the front lines of selling a company’s products, affiliate marketers deserve real-time alerts to keep them agile and motivated.

KPIs, banners: Affiliate marketers, like any sales professionals, need to know their key performance indicators, not only to track their closing rates but to be inspired to reach even greater heights. While there are multiple ways to do this, establishing a secure portal where they can log in and view their activity, commission status and current promotions will help them stay on track and cut down on customer service calls.

How can Merchants Prevent Affiliate Fraud?

  • Know Your Affiliate (KYA):

    Before you approve a new affiliate, your first step in preventing fraud is to fully vet them. Ask them about their current brand relationships and how they promote their products. Their responses will help you evaluate if their values and culture are consistent with your company’s image and brand. Ask how the affiliate will drive traffic & sales to your offer. Check to see if the affiliate has behaved fraudulently in other programs

  • Review the Affiliate Site to See:

    • Is their website(s) compatible with your brand standards?
    • What visual impression are they creating?
    • Is the copy written in a way that will enhance or cheapen your brand?
    • Are the product descriptions accurate?
    • How well are they promoting their site?
    • How well do they integrate with social sharing options?

  • Enforce Affiliate T&C and keep them updated:

    To stay apace with ever-changing rules and regulations, it is necessary to periodically update your affiliate terms and conditions. Let your affiliates know how these updates will be broadcast and request confirmation. Be sure to include a due date for compliance to the new terms as well as an enforcement strategy.

  • What is the best way to enforce Affiliate Terms?

    Monitor for violations using technology and human intelligence. Consider contracting with third-party service providers that use technology to monitor websites, or build those capabilities in-house. Ideally, machine learning coupled with human intelligence is the best way to ensure compliance.

  • Can Enforcement Be Outsourced?

    Yes, DigiPay powered by Tranzlytics provides high-risk merchants with Pro Managed Services to ensure compliance and to detect and prevent fraud. Tranzlytics fraud detection includes daily screen shots that identify changes to a website. In addition to monitoring for key word violations, Tranzlytics can monitor affiliates and sub-affiliates traffic to ensure compliance.

What is the best way to spot affiliate fraud?

The adage, trust but verify, applies when monitoring affiliates. The following guidelines can help identify potential fraud:

  • URLS’s with multiple redirects: It is important to know if the affiliate is using an approved site for your offer or unapproved sites to send fraudulent traffic.
  • Look at referring URL’s for the original source of leads and sales. Check for trends to identify sub-affiliates associated with fraud and high chargeback ratios.
  • Multiple transactions from a single IP address. This could indicate an affiliate or sub-affiliate is running stolen credit cards to place multiple orders.
  • Use transaction history and trends to Investigate spikes in leads or sales.

What are common affiliate marketing words, expressions and phrases?

Affiliate software: Unique applications developed by companies to track and manage their affiliate marketing programs.

Affiliate link: This distinct URL, created for each affiliate marketer, enables companies to recognize, track and pay commissions to affiliates.

Affiliate ID: These unique IDs are sometimes used in addition to unique URLs on websites to identify affiliate marketers and ensure that they are compensated for sales.

Payment Mode: Pertains to the method of payment used by a consumer to complete an affiliate-referred sale. Most affiliate programs offer payment methods beyond traditional credit cards to appeal to global consumers.

Affiliate Manager/OPM: Affiliate managers, who specialize in all aspects of affiliate marketing, provide expert guidance on establishing and maintaining affiliate programs.

Commission percentage/amount: This refers to the percentage of each sale that companies provide in commissions to their affiliate marketers.

2-tier, or multi-tier, affiliate marketing: Like multi-level marketing schemes, this method rewards affiliate partners for referrals and recommendations, creating a second tier of sub-affiliates who can also earn sub-affiliate commissions.

Landing pages: This web page is used to promote a specific product and is frequently used to test a market’s receptivity to a product or service.

Custom affiliate income/account: Some companies reward top-producing affiliates by creating an elite sales program with higher-tiered commissions.

Link clocking: Link clocking shortens affiliate-identifying links, keeping them short and easy on the eyes.

Custom coupons: Custom coupon programs, directly linked to specific affiliates, help companies track and analyze affiliate sales.

A growing number of companies are working with DigiPay and TranZlytics to optimize and grow their affiliate programs. Contact us today for a no-obligation review.

Industry Associations

The following membership organizations and trade associations represent the interests of the vaping and e-cigarette industry:

Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives: CASAA, a nonprofit 501(c)(4) consumer advocacy group formed in 2009, was created to promote healthier alternatives to combustible tobacco and has more than 120,000 registered members. The association provides member with Call-to-Action alerts, scientific research studies, petitions, legal actions, notifications of pending legislation and educational materials related to electronic cigarettes and smokeless tobacco.

Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association: Alpharetta, Georgia-based TVECA is a nonprofit organization focused on creating a responsible electronic cigarette market through education, communication and research.

The Smoke-Free Alternatives Trade Association: SFATA is a nonprofit, 501(c)6 organization and advocacy group, headquartered in Wash., D.C., committed to creating a reasonably regulated U.S. marketplace to facilitate the distribution of smoke-free products to adult consumers, while promoting a positive public image for vapor products and educating businesses in our industry.

Vapor Technology Association: VTA represents manufacturers, wholesalers, small business owners and entrepreneurs who develop innovative vapor products, providing adult consumers with a better alternative to traditional combustible products. VTA and its members promote small business and job growth, responsible regulations, and strong industry standards.

Annual Events and Conferences

Annual conferences and events provide electronic cigarette professionals with networking and educational opportunities. Here are some examples:

E-Cigarette Summit: The first annual E-Cigarette Summit USA was held in May 2017 in Wash., D.C., preceding the fifth annual international event scheduled Nov. 17, 2017 at the Royal Society in London, U.K. The exponential growth of e-cigarettes and latest scientific research are among trending industry topics. Experts examine the latest evidence on the safety of e-cigarettes for users, their public and private use and effects on children and non-smokers. The role that e-cigarettes play in ending or extending the smoking epidemic remains a contentious topic for consumers and public health officials.

Vape Industry Trade Show & Expo: Hosted by the Electronic Cigarette Convention, the 5th annual vape convention will be held Aug. 25-27 in Santa Anita, Calif. at the Ontario Convention Center. Day one is for business-to-business attendees only, and days two and three are open to the public (21 & over or 18 or over with valid military ID). VIP Passes are available online; general attendees can register and purchase tickets at the event ($20 cash at the door).

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