Customer Stories

Project N95’s marketplace architecture got a life-saving upgrade

Sorana Gheorghiade
Sorana Gheorghiade June 23, 2021
Project N95’s marketplace architecture got a life-saving upgrade

Project N95 is the United States’ clearinghouse for sourcing critical PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) and COVID-19 tests. In early 2020, right when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the globe, this non-profit volunteer-based organization created an online marketplace to distribute critical PPE to frontline healthcare workers and vulnerable communities. Ever since they launched in March 2020, on the brink of the pandemic, Project N95’s performance in delivering isolation gowns, masks, respirators, and caps has outgrown everyone’s expectations, having delivered over 8.4 million units since May 2020

This great success called for an improvement on the marketplace architecture, something that VTEX and Loop Integration assembled in no time, providing a broader product base, easier seller onboarding, and a customer segregation system to address buyers’ needs spot-on. This infrastructure is so flexible and scalable because it’s built on a cloud architecture in Amazon Web Services, which is one of VTEX’s most trustworthy partners. 

Through the infrastructure of the seller environment, we’ve been able to really grow and create great relationships with sellers. We can offer better prices, more products and respond better to the high demand.

Amy Petersen, Project Manager for Project N95


Unprecedented growth calls for a robust architecture

In less than 30 days, Project N95 launched a modern online marketplace amidst the COVID-19 pandemic—increased average volume to quickly secure critical PPE to more frontline healthcare providers. Today, Project N95 has provided protective equipment for more than 300,000 healthcare and frontline workers. Although the team conducts sourcing due diligence on all suppliers and products to accelerate informed procurement decisions, quickly and at often reduced pricing, Project N95’s demand grew so sharply that an upgrade to its initial B2B architecture was needed. 

The organization previously relied on a reverse auction process to bring transparency to the PPE market. However, the reverse auction format presented user experience challenges and a less than optimal time between order placement and delivery. But they have expanded significantly since the early days of COVID, bearing over 50 products (initially, they counted on only 15) in their catalog, the majority of which are seller products, including the already famous KN95 masks.  

An important performance indicator for Project N95 is the capability to serve more people in a shorter period, addressing the crucial issue of a delay between bid and purchase. With the new infrastructure of the seller environment that VTEX provides, the organization has strengthened its relationship with both its buyers and sellers, showing competitive prices, delivery times and available quantities. 


A brand new look 

As far as the architecture’s implementation and design are concerned, VTEX created a gated system on the marketplace to enable the separation between healthcare and non-healthcare providers and match the right materials to the right groups. In a nutshell, whether you are a healthcare institution or organization that needs to supply staff with professional equipment or you are the ordinary individual who wants to buy a few boxes of masks, not in bulk, Project N95’s marketplace will serve your PPE needs irrespective of their nature. 

We had 15,000-20,000 registrations over three days, with people getting emails and passwords. All of that went very smoothly within VTEX. Project N95 was able to handle not just brand options, but our gated registration system as well. We were not let down by the tool at all. 

Amy Petersen, Project Manager for Project N95

How does Project N95’s marketplace architecture work, after all? Well, it’s rather simple: frontline and healthcare workers can find and purchase  products they need, similar to most ecommerce shopping experiences. The marketplace of Project N95 segregates its customers into two categories, healthcare and non-healthcare customers, based on a form that they fill in when they navigate on the store’s website – this one separated by a segmentation ID. This is called a ‘Trade Policy’: for every client category, Project N95’s marketplace will have a static policy. 

Depending on the sellers and their available inventory, the marketplace can select which suppliers will be able to sell for that bucket of clients— i.e. healthcare and non-healthcare. The field Segmentation ID will be the indicator of which bucket a certain client is in. Every supplier will have its VTEX environment, which means it will have its own shipping rules, pricing, and OMS. These environments will be limited to the access roles deemed by Project N95.


New look leads to better results

The new, VTEX powered online marketplace provides a clear, buyer-friendly means of selling with a posted price format where customers can easily place orders. With a well-built storefront and proper digital support for group orders, Project N95 can use the system to sell thousands of units every month and host the related transactions smoothly. The Order Management System enables Project N95 to process and support orders on a much larger scale.

This new architecture has enabled Project N95 to broaden out the product base, adding products that are less likely to be ordered in bulk, like hand sanitizers and disinfectants, and higher-quality reusable gowns that are sourced and produced in the United States. Through the multi-tenant seller model, Project N95 has been able to expand its outreach to its customers, offering a broader palette of products. 

We were able to get beyond the primary health care focus that we had in the initial stages. It allowed us to really broaden out our shop to everyone. 

Amy Petersen, Project Manager for Project N95

Among the many benefits of the new architecture provided by VTEX and Loop, there is an improved customer  experience. The move from a reverse auction marketplace to a B2B-B2C commerce site and marketplace improved customer experience and addressed limitations within the previous business model. The orders on MVP site launch day increased in average volume by 100% due to the easier checkout process, and customer inquiries for orders reduced by 20%. 

VTEX helped us deliver 3.5 MM PPEs across the country in 3 months. That’s unbelievable.

Amy Petersen, Project Manager for Project N95

Now, Project N95 is looking to the future, fully equipped to face the high demand for PPE units in the United States and all around the world. While the virus continues to spread at different rates around the world, people are still fighting in every country, on every continent, and the organization is here to support, reply and deliver to its customers, be they big or small. 

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