The Challenge: Deploy partners more quickly to support explosive growth
MashON provides an end-to-end e-commerce, product customization and fulfillment platform which allows consumers to create their very own custom products such as t-shirts, mugs, iPhone skins, posters, baseballs, and much more utilizing branded assets provided by MashON’s clients.
MashON resolves the conundrum that exists between fans of branded IP, who love nothing more than to immerse themselves with their favorite brands, and brand owners who are extremely protective over their brand assets and concerned as to what consumers could do if allowed access to them. The MashON platform offers control mechanisms to ensure that the customization guidelines of each brand owner are respected. For instance, brand owners can disable features like user uploads or text editing tools in order to limit users to only approved artwork and predetermined text to keep designs in line with the integrity of the brand. It also includes a moderation feature that allows brand owners the final approval in all user generated product designs.
Once a consumer customizes a product and completes their purchase, MashON will manufacture the product, based on the design of the buyer or transmit the order to a fulfillment partner who may drop ship the product on MashON’s behalf. Unlike other providers of similar services, MashON completes this whole process without making itself known to the end user. This allows MashON’s partners to maintain their brand identity and optimize the value of their eCommerce business while extending their product assortment and reducing their inventory risk.
MashON serves different sized partners with different offerings but initially targeted entertainment brands with their professional solution. Many businesses have neither the resources nor the appetite to build and maintain their own stores, so MashON was able to provide a turn-key solution which comprised the design, implementation and operation of the online stores, fulfillment, customer service, digital marketing and merchandising. MashON’s professional services client roster includes MGM Studios, The Jim Henson Company, TNA Wrestling and Penguin Publishing.
As the demand for product customization and personalization grew exponentially, it became apparent that many existing shop owners and operators wished to offer the opportunity to customize and manufacture products on-demand to their clients. However, many of these very successful and sizeable eCommerce operations did not need or want to replace their existing platforms but rather to extend it.
To address the needs of these more complex and higher volume clients, MashON created its enterprise solution, which targets large media companies, eCommerce platform operators and agencies. While these implementations typically required custom integrations, which were sometime difficult and time consuming to build, they were justified by the size of the business they enabled.
MashON third and final solution targets smaller shop owners and is called “shop in a box”. This makes the MashON toolset available as an easily installable plugin to popular eCommerce platforms such as Magento, Shopify, Yahoo and 3Dcart. To make this a reality, MashON needed to rapidly build very robust and simple integrations to these systems.
MashON’s major challenge in achieving this goal was the brittle nature of their existing platform. MashON had built their infrastructure around technologies such as PHP, MySQL and Flash. Integrating a new business partner into this platform took, on average, 3-6 months. It involved doing a custom integration and modifying core elements of the platform. While this was sufficient for a business serving a few large corporations, in order to address smaller business and scale to a greater number of business partner, MashON needed to greatly reduce the costs and burdens of partner onboarding.
The solution: Mule as a scalable partner integration platform
To achieve their goal of scaling well beyond their current implementation, MashON chose to replace many of the technologies they had long used in their business. “We wanted more flexibility and scalability for our platform,” said Aaron Judd, Director of Development of MashON “but we also had a tremendous opportunity to build a really cutting-edge relevant platform to replace it.”
MashON selected the Enterprise Edition of Mule ESB as the centerpiece of this new platform. “I had worked with Mule at a previous company. All of our Mule projects were successful there so I began considering it for MashON as well” said Judd. “While we looked at some other options including IBM, Oracle and Red Hat’s JBoss ESB, I felt that we needed an integration platform that came with a business partner truly invested in our success. The MashON platform is fairly complex and I wanted a greater level of partnership than other vendors were willing to offer. The relationship with MuleSoft was great. They were with us every step of the way and when we had questions or feedback they were extremely responsive.”
The team endeavored to replace the entire PHP and Adobe infrastructure, to support a more scalable architecture. They selected a modern open infrastructure, with Mule at its core. MashON replaced their MySQL database with MongoDB. As order data was being transmitted in JSON, they decided simply to store information directly in JSON format within MongoDB. They selected Groovy and Grails for development of administrative tools and services. Together with some CSS and HTML5 that formed the bulk of the new more scalable infrastructure. Mule provided the integration throughout the platform.
Upon becoming familiar with Mule 3, MashON quickly decided it would be the best choice. “Mule 3 represented a huge improvement for us. We engaged Mulesoft for 3 days of training plus an additional 3-day project kickoff. By the end of the week, we had a rough sketch of what the project was going to look like” said Judd “We appreciated many of the enhancements Mule 3 provided, particularly around support for REST. A month and a half after starting the project everything was built and we were ready to launch.”
The first component of MashON’s infrastructure is the integration with MashON’s business partners. Mule accepts orders from MashON’s e-commerce ecosystem including both enterprise partners and smaller partners. The first integration was with a large enterprise customer who managed over 500 network and branded sites. As with many enterprise customers using a secure transport was critical, so Mule’s out of the box SFTP connector was used.
After accepting orders from MashON’s partners, Mule transforms the orders into a generic format, populates customer service and order dashboards and routes the orders to the appropriate fulfillment partners for the products ordered. Mule later receives confirmation from the fulfillment partners and updates status notifications. Each of MashON’s current fulfillment partners uses a REST service. “Mule’s strong support for REST and ease of making changes simplified our integration with our fulfillment partners” said Judd.
One of the major requirements of MashON’s platform was integration with e-commerce ecosystems such as Magento. Mule’s Magento Cloud Connector made Magento integration very straightforward. Initially MashON’s most pressing need was supporting professional services customers on MashON. Once this was achieved, MashON next developed a module for the Magento community to embed their MashON creator into any Magento store. The Mule Magento connector is used to interface with the Magento API to receive orders from Magento stores and provide updates with status when fulfillment progresses. “Cloud Connectors make integration with cloud service extremely straightforward. We rely heavily on the Magento connector for multiple use cases” said Judd.
Mule enabled MashON to meet their scalability requirements. Mule reduced the time to build a new MashON product from 6 weeks to a matter of hours. Onboarding of new partners, which previously took 3-6 months, can now be completed in less than 72 hours. “We’ve achieved every goal we had at the start of the project. It would have been almost impossible to deploy partners this quickly in our old infrastructure. This just opens up our world so much wider” said Judd. With Mule at its core, MashON can now provide the bridge between their large fulfillment partners and many small businesses.
“The bones of the new MashON are done” said Judd “Now we will be quickly onboarding new partners and integrating into new shops in the coming months. Our goal is to rapidly add 10-15 e-commerce ecosystem integrations in order to significantly grow the number of partners we do business with. Beyond that we want to provide a set of open APIs to allow 3rd party developers to build against MashON. We are building a set of open APIs and Mule integrated these into the rest of our infrastructure.”
With Mule ESB, MashON transformed its business and achieved a scalable platform that supports its future growth objectives.