The inspiration for the app goes back over 10 years to a picture that Jack Dorsey pasted to Instagram. [https://www.instagram.com/p/uJ5d/] Pandemic conditions stirred that photo back into memory and I started thinking about how the solution to Jack's original post could be really helpful today in a post-pandemic world.
What it does
Beeper has 4 primary features build around using the business' landline phone number.
1) Act as a paging system for businesses that offer dine-in. For example, often when you order coffee at a coffeeshop you order and then everyone kind of congrats around the pickup area before they go find a seat. With Beeper the barista can send you a text whenever order is ready. No more waiting around.
2) Print text messages from curbside pickups. Curbside pickup is great, when it works. Often times you'll roll and then need to place multiple calls before business answers. With Beeper, the customer can text the business' landline number and that text will print out on the receipt printer. Customers won't need to buy any new equipment. The system works with the Star Printer that they already have.
3) Text with customers. A business' phone number is part of their brand, it's the number that customers often see first when searching for the business. Giving the customers the option to text makes it that much easier to do business. This differs from Square Messages in that it meets customers at the point of discovery. With Messages you need to make a transaction first before you have the channel open to you.
4) Missed Call Marketing - for Square customers who have Square Online, Beeper allows them to leverage their phone line to send a text message back when they can't answer the phone. During busy times businesses will just let their phones go to VM. With Beeper, the business can text the caller a link to place an online order if they would like. Before if you don't pick up the phone you lose 100% of that business. With Missed Call Marketing you at least have a 50/50 chance of the missed call turning into some business.
How we built it
Beeper was built with Ruby on Rails on the backend. Users will primarily interface with the system via an iOS app. The iOS app interfaces with the printer directly. The app updates in real-time via websockets.
Challenges we ran into
Designing the system to be selective about what gets printed what a good challenge. Working wit the printer was a good learning experience.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
I'm very proud that I got the system to do all of the things that it claims to do. I'd like to think that the app is really easy to use.
What we learned
I learned a lot about some of the newer techniques for writing Swift and iOS apps.
What's next for Beeper for Square
The app is very much an MVP right now. There are plenty of bugs to fix. Adding support for push notifications and bluetooth printers will be really important. The paging concept seemed really popular with food trucks and carts.