The Strange Kickstarter
Coding Support & eCommerce Integration
One of the first projects I undertook when I began working for Monte Cook Games was the integration of a custom pledge manager for their The Strange kickstarter into MCG’s already existing eCommerce store and framework. It took a few months and some upgrades to their infrastructure to handle the sheer volume of orders we needed to fulfill on a daily basis, but the end result is a fully featured pledge manager integrated into their already existing store and fulfillment process.
- A fully integrated custom program to join backerkit data and the existing eCommerce platform
- Manual conforming of data which had consistency isseus
- Creation of coupons within the eCommerce platform for each individual fulfilled product
- The ability to update and manage data
- The ability to mass create unique coupon codes
- The ability to mail information about rewards to each backer
- A landing page for each backer showing their coupons, rewards, and number of shipping credits used.
By the end of the call where Charles outlined their needs, I had taken down 4 pages of shorthand notes. Monte Cook Games had a specific vision for the program and needed help to make sure it happened. Taking into account the issues faced by international backers, the desire to have the fulfillment go through their already existing channels, and the ability for MCG staff to roll out the products when they were ready, there were a lot of requirements. Over the next few months of development, I created a custom suite of tools that fit all of these requirements and provided support to MCG throughout the entire process.
The Backer Page
MCG wanted a place where their backers could look at their rewards and verify them. This required reworking the data that was in backerkit and kickstarter into a form that could easily be read. I worked up a few structures and reformatted the data through scripts and manual verification to get it in a format that would work. By the end of the process, every backer had a page which dynamically showed their coupons, rewards, and information – all integrated into their already existing Monte Cook Games account if they had one. If they didn’t, we created one linked to their kickstarter account and provided them the credentials. To wrap it all together, I made a brief tutorial video to help walk them through the process.
Click on the video above to see the navigation and site in action.
Fulfillment At The Backer's Pace
One of the primary reasons for creating a fulfillment system instead of sending out each product when it was down was enabling the backers to fulfill themselves. Many international backers face high taxes and shipping costs when backing American or Canadian kickstarters. MCG wanted backers to be able to get multiple items at once or spread them out. The backer page linked into the account allowed the backers access to private items in the store that linked to the items they backed. It also gave them coupons linked to their accounts that let them fulfill the products through the store without issue. This let backers arrange multiple available products into one shipment or get each one fulfilled the moment it was available.
With over 2,000 backers and multiple different products to track, data management was a key part of this program. I created multiple backup data sets and conformed the data into a format that could be read by the eCommerce platform and provide backer information. That wasn’t the end of it though, as Monte Cook Games wouldn’t have all the product information until the products were close to completion. That required creating a suite of tools which would allow MCG or myself to add the necessary product information in after the fact and create coupons and make products available to backers only when the products were ready.
This suite of tools was full featured and had multiple sub-programs allowing each bit of data to be created in bulk as needed. As new challenges came up throughout the year fulfillment occurred, I made changes to better suit MCG’s developing needs. When problems arose on the databases due to the amount of rewards being fulfilled during product release days, we worked out new systems to enable smoother operations and invisible to the end user solutions that prevented every order being processed at once.
Big Challenges Mean Big Learning
There are many sub-elements to the Strange Kickstarter pledge management system, and to talk about each one would fill up an entire site in and of itself. MCG had very specific needs and I’m happy to say I was able to provide technical solutions for all of them. Many of the solutions I had to create on the fly or develop from scratch. Those kinds of challenges are often the most fun and provide the most benefit. They require learning new ways to do things and stretching your perspectives to come up with new ways of doing things.