University of Missouri

Mizzou centralizes eCommerce and improves customer experience

TouchNet’s uPay and uStore solutions — already popular among campus groups — yielded unexpected benefits during the pandemic and helped keep good programs up and running.

University of Missouri campus

Photo courtesy of the University of Missouri.

Each of the University of Missouri’s four campuses followed separate policies and procedures for years. So when university leadership wanted to centralize their e-commerce practices to decrease risk, strengthen cash management, and improve customer service, all four schools decided to adopt the same solution. Collectively they chose TouchNet Marketplace, a platform that allows Higher Ed institutions to create, manage, and operate online storefronts, registration sites, and secure payment pages.

A governing board was formed to centralize procedures for TouchNet Marketplace and to help university employees who had existing online payment sites transition to the new unified system. The board also established a policy in June 2019 requiring all new e-commerce activity to use TouchNet’s Marketplace unless the program or department could demonstrate why the platform doesn’t meet requirements. Since enacting the policy, the end-user experience feedback has been extremely positive, and only two exceptions have been approved.

In addition, the board is working to move smaller business units, which tend to accept cash more often, onto the TouchNet Marketplace. The transition will enable them to receive ACH or card payments for goods and services instead of cash.

“Our goal was to start developing the policies, procedures, and tools to help us succeed and to support the very different needs and diverse groups on our four campuses with our Marketplace governing board,” says Lisa Fetrow, Marketplace Liaison at the University of Missouri-Columbia. The board meets quarterly to review Marketplace activity, compare results with the university budget, and to discuss next strategic steps.

Adding refund capabilities to help during COVID-19

After all four campuses migrated to the shared gateway, the university had a total of 45 uPay and 45 uStore sites. Marketplace uPay provides a PCI-compliant payment processing and centralized storage for web-based, front-end applications. Marketplace uStore lets users shop online, register for events, and make donations.

After the initial rollout, Mizzou onboarded additional sites and now has nearly 200 uPay and uStore sites combined. The university system had planned on adding another 30 sites before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, which eventually forced all campuses to cancel most events and meant the university had to provide a significant number of refunds.

“We worked together to develop some best practices for refunding, and TouchNet was able to expand our ability to make payments for older or outstanding accounts,” says Fetrow. “This was crucial for some groups, especially one of our programs that made as many as 3,000 refunds.” Despite the disruption caused by the pandemic, Mizzou has seen payment processing continue to grow, with monthly transactions increasing from roughly $250,000 per month between March and September 2019 to $1 million a month between March and December 2020.

Creating a community of merchants

Fetrow now manages the day-to-day operations of every Marketplace site and serves as the primary point of contact to resolve any issues with TouchNet. She also meets with program leaders on all four campuses who want to add an online store and oversees the onboarding process.

Some internal and external merchants create Merchant IDs (MIDs) to host a uPay or uStore site for a temporary program while others have MIDs for ongoing initiatives. These MIDs are supervised by a campus manager who allows other merchants campuswide to join and create their own uStore or uPay site. “Other programs or departments can join if it’s deemed appropriate or is a good match,” says Fetrow. “However, programs need to be PCI compliant, so this involves educating newcomers about their role in ensuring compliance and how to use the administrative tools.”

Keeping good programs running

So far, the university has partnered with 12 TouchNet Ready Partners, a program that certifies on-campus service providers for schools to use through TouchNet's central, secure, PCI-compliant payment system. “Our sites include payments for events, registration fees, application fees, one-time events, and even payment for the sale of a pig in our agriculture program,” says Fetrow.

The university has three new projects in the works, including implementing PayPath and Marketplace Point of Sale (POS). PayPath enables the university to receive 100 percent of tuition dollars when students and parents pay tuition by credit card by passing the card merchant fees to the payor. Marketplace POS enables the university to accept secure in-person payments anywhere on or off campus using the latest mobile payment technology.

Fetrow adds, “One of the things I love about this role is when I can tell everyone on campus that, as a shared service, they don’t need to create more codes and there’s no additional cost to join. We are able to partner with programs and departments across our campuses to help them solve real challenging e-commerce issues, keep good programs running at an affordable cost, and process the payments they need.”