Aggregated Merchant Portal  (AMP) Development for a Global Gift Cards Distribution Company 

# API development # AWS infrastructure # Data migration # Payment integration # Web development
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Highlights

  • Merchant Portal That Aggregates 8000 Businesses in the US: the successful development and deployment of the Merchant Portal facilitated the aggregation of over 8000 businesses within the United States in just two years.
  • 7x Merchant Onboarding Time Reduction: resulted in an impressive efficiency gain and decreased operational costs for the business as manual onboarding efforts are significantly reduced.
  • Distributed Teams Collaboration and Communication: since the teams working on the project were located in different time zones, it required following an adaptive development approach inspired by the best practices of SCRUM and XP.
  • Ongoing Collaboration with the Global Company: after successfully creating an Aggregated Merchant Portal, our team was involved into creating other systems crucial for customer’s business operations. 

Client

Founded in 2001, Blackhawk Network (BHN) is a financial technology company that specializes in providing prepaid gift cards, payment solutions, and reward and incentive programs. The business is represented in 28 countries worldwide, has 3000 employees,  and established itself as one of the leading providers of prepaid and payment solutions globally. Our collaboration with BHN began in 2016, after the company acquired Nimble Commerce – the digital commerce platform and promotions network. SPD Tech has been partnered with Nimble since 2008, and after BHN acquired it, 60 of our team members became a part of the huge BHN ecosystem. The team of 10 engineers was involved in the development of this specific project.

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Product

The main idea of the company’s product is the Original Content Program. The Original Content Program is the simple idea of having one gift card that the end client can use in multiple facilities across one city or country. For example, the Spafinder program allows customers to use the card in more than 7000 spa saloons and hotels in the US.

Since BHN has multiple businesses in their portfolio, and new ones frequently joined the network, the company faced a challenge of laborious and time-consuming process of new companies onboarding. To make the process more efficient, the company decided to create the Aggregated Merchant Portal (AMP) – a white-label and geography-extensible self-service platform for merchant registration and onboarding. Before it was developed, the sales representative had to manually collect information of the businesses that would like to join the network and then, manually create a Lead entity in Salesforce. 

The vision of the future solution was to create a platform that allows businesses to join the Original Content Program without minimal manual assistance. The automatic process should provide a simple registration flow to collect the necessary information for creating an account and doing OFAC (Office of Foreign Assets Control), EIN/SSN (Employer Identification Number / Social Security Number) and other legal entity ID checks, pass the auto approve mechanism and in addition, create and process data on Salesforce. The second step for the business requires adding the POS terminal to the card program network, setting up the listing (add a photo, available services, price range, schedule, etc.) and selecting a subscription plan to be shown on the Spafinder website. 

Goals and objectives

  • Creating an Aggregated Merchant Portal: Develop a user-friendly and efficient Aggregated Merchant Portal (AMP), providing for the platform’s scalability and flexibility to accommodate future growth.
  • Creating an Admin Portal: Design and develop a comprehensive Admin Portal with robust management capabilities. 
  • Enabling Self-Registration for New Businesses: Develop a user-friendly interface that guides merchants through the registration steps; integrate necessary checks and verifications, such as OFAC and SSN/EIN checks, within the self-registration workflow; automate the approval process for new merchant registrations, reducing manual intervention.
  • Enabling Automatic SalesForce Integration: Establish seamless integration with Salesforce to automate a new lead entity creation, ensuring data accuracy and consistency. 

Project challenge

  1. Communication and Collaboration:
    The specifics of the project required collaboration with various teams distributed across different locations. Daily, the SPD team located in Kyiv and Cherkasy had to coordinate the work with the product and development teams in Pleasanton, CA and the Spafinder team in Miami, CA since Spafinder was the 1st card program that should be migrated to the new platform. On-demand, we also had to collaborate with other BHN teams, for example, for integration with the internal Payment+ system that was developed simultaneously.
  2. Data Migration:
    We also had to create a dedicated tool to migrate the data of existing businesses on Nimble Commerce to the new platform. 
  3. Multiple and Complex Dependencies:
    The complexity of the platform was high due to multiple scenarios of initial setup, different legislation in various regions, localization, and numerous integrations with old and new internal and external systems.
  4. The Necessity for Specific SalesForce Expertise:
    The Salesforce processing required special knowledge of Salesforce syntax and streaming APIs to automatically create leads and convert them into accounts.
  5. NimbleCommerce Legacy Platform: 
    Initially, the customer insisted on creating a new Admin and Merchant Portal atop of the existing Nimble Commerce platform which already had some features for merchants. After a careful review and analysis, it became clear that creating a new platform from scratch would be more reasonable to align it with the company’s business goals and avoid the dependency on the legacy system. The main challenge at this point was to persuade the customer’s company management on the necessity of an entirely new solution development.

Solution

Given the specifics of the solution, our team used an adaptive approach for the project. SCRUM methodology was blended with the best practices of Extreme Programming (XP.) We used rolling wave planning for deliverables with a high-level roadmap for the platform. As we collaborated with various distributed teams between Pleasanton, CA, Miami, CA,  Kyiv and Cherkasy, it was important to use a multiple team planning approach to mitigate schedule risks and manage all dependencies.

We started creating a Merchant Portal with designing and setting up the registration form for merchants with OFAC and SSN/EIN check. Then, we created a listing management interface and embedded a POS terminal registration with the generation of a virtual VISA card in the Merchant Portal. As the next step, we developed the subscription page and connected Payment + system created by another team working on the project. As for the Admin Portal, we integrated it with Sales Force and set up automatic leads processing, and then, added a listing management interface and subscription page as well. 

At the next stage, we created a dedicated data migration tool that allowed the businesses that already participated in the Original Content Program to move their data to the new system and migrated data for Spafinder, Wayspa and EntreeCard programs. For each of these programs, we also created a white-labeled website. 

  • https://www.wayspa.com/ 
  • https://www.entreecard.ca/ 
  • https://www.spafinder.com/

Tech Stack

Web
  • Angular.js WebAngular.js
  • Node.js WebNode.js
Infrastructure
  • AWS EC2 InfrastructureAWS EC2
  • AWS Service Catalog InfrastructureAWS Service Catalog
  • AWS CloudFormation InfrastructureAWS CloudFormation
  • AWS Lambda InfrastructureAWS Lambda
  • AWS RDS InfrastructureAWS RDS
  • AWS S3 InfrastructureAWS S3
  • AWS CloudFront InfrastructureAWS CloudFront
  • AWS Redshift InfrastructureAWS Redshift
API
  • Java API Java
  • Node.js API Node.js
Third Parties
  • Google Analytics Third PartiesGoogle Analytics

Process

Stage 1 – Admin and Merchant Portal Development

  • Created Admin Portal and Merchant Portal.
  • Designed the registration flow for businesses including integration OFAC check, SSN/EIN check.
  • Integrated and set up Salesforce leads auto processing. 

Stage 2 – Listing Management Interface Development

  • Created a listing management interface for Merchant Portal and Admin Portal. 
  • Embedded POS terminal registration with generation of virtual VISA card in the Merchant Portal. 

Stage 3 – Subscription and Payment Management Functionality Development

  • Developed the subscription management page is in the Admin portal to create different subscription tiers. 
  • Developed the subscription page is in the Merchant Portal to choose the subscription plan.
  • Integrated the solution with Payment + payment system created by another BHN team.

Stage 4 – Migration Tool Development

  • Developed the migration tool allowing for moving of all data of existing businesses participating in the Original Content program.

Stage 5  – API Development

  • Created an API for transferring data for card program search on the white label site.

Stage 6 – Data Migration and Release

  • Migrated data for Spafinder, Wayspa and EntreeCard programs.

Our results

The successful implementation of the solution strengthened the partnership between SPD Technology and BlackHawk Networks. Our team was also involved in developing other software systems essential to the successful business operation of our customer. In the framework of this project, we delivered the next results: 

  1. 7 Days to 24 Hours Onboarding Time Reduction for New Merchants: as planned, we reduced the end-to-end onboarding of a business from 7 days to less than 24 hours. 
  2. Onboarding Cost Reduction: since the customer’s sales representatives no longer deal with new business onboarding manually, the related costs were significantly reduced. 
  3. Platform That Attracted More Than 8000 Businesses in 2 Years: our team created a universal platform from scratch and successfully migrated more than 8000 existing businesses (Spafinder, Wayspa) and started a new card program (Entrée Card) in less than 2 years. 
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