Over the past few weeks, we've seen how vulnerable yet resilient we are in face of COVID-19 and the ensuing impact on human interactions. Yet, when many of us enjoy the privilege of working from home or - in the founders' case - taking our finals entirely remotely, there are millions of local small businesses around the world facing unprecedented economic challenges, and ten times more people - business owners and service workers, local artists and freelancers - whose lives are upended.
While local business strengthens our economy and enriches our local community, they now have a hard time retaining and paying their employees, staying current on their rent, and most importantly, they might not be able to serve us once again when things return to normal.
This is why we built Buzz with a mission to increase the GDP of local community, in good times and bad times. Especially in time of crisis, we believe by giving local businesses and artists a platform to reach out to patrons closest to them - in their local community - people can support each other through buying gift cards or merchandise, ordering takeout or delivery, or simply donating their love for local through Venmo or GoFundMe.
What it does
Buzz is the platform for local community. On Buzz, local small businesses can connect with neighbors - customers closest to them - and share live updates and deals about their business through short, engaging videos and posts. Whether you're a black coffee addict, an Asian food connoisseur, or just looking to support your local businesses get through this unprecedented time of social distancing and reduced business activities, there's something you can do to help real people stay in business, pay their employees, stay current on their rent, and when things go back to normal, continue to enrich the community that we call, home.
As a consumer, Buzz makes it easy for you to discover local businesses in need and have them post videos to let you know how you can support them to get through this darkest hour. Anyone can post, and so you can amplify their voice by creating and sharing videos that resonate with you. If we come together as a community, we can make it thrive and shine especially in time of crisis.
On Buzz, you can:
Watch heartfelt videos and read genuine messages from local businesses near you.
Browse a location-based feed based on what you like and share. Buzz gives you the platform to hear from your favorite local shops and support them when they are most in need.
Create your own video for a local business you love and tell your neighbors about your story and why they should help out.
Follow your favorite businesses and hashtags so when things return to normal (hopefully very soon), you will get their exclusive deals and they can show you hospitality once again.
Want to support them in any way you can? Leave comments, share their posts and deals to your friends, order takeout, purchase a merchandise online, or simply give what you can to keep the business running.
As a business, you can post updates to your community that are not limited to showing what's out of stock, sharing your GoFundMe link, and telling people about your changed delivery menu.
For example, a coffee shop owner can snap a short video of their products, sale, promo, gift-cards, pop-up shop, food trunk, or even support links and then use specific hashtags related to the shop such as #coffee, #latte, #support etc.
Then when the coffee shop posts, everyone within a 10-mile radius who is following the #coffee, #latte, or #support hashtags will get a push notification to then engage with the post and support the coffee shop.
The business can even use the platform as a public Intercom where they can answer people's questions about their grocery stock or hygiene practices.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
We are proud to say that since our public launch last week on the App store, we've acquired thousands of users and a few hundred small businesses across the world, most of which are in California.
What we learned
- Through our ethnographic interviews and design sprints, we garnered three important insights.
- First, reaching out to local customers is the most difficult part of running a local small business, a problem further magnified by the impact of COVID-19.
- Second, local businesses don't even know how to seek support from their regulars and patrons, people who absolutely love their food or services
- Third, the broken communication is actually two-way: customers don't know how to stay engaged with local businesses digitally, let alone helping them when they need monetary support the most
- We honed our prototyping skills and the ability to make a stable iOS app and web app in a short amount of time
What's next for Buzz
Buzz will be relevant even after we overcome COVID-19. In a few years, Buzz will be Stripe for local businesses and Instagram for locals and visitors. In the future, local businesses can engage with patrons closest to them, gauge customer demand and delight neighbors with authenticity and craftsmanship that eclipses e-commerce. People will marvel at daily specials from favorite dinner spots, crave limited flash sales from local soap makers, or even share their extra hand-made cookies with other neighbors on the platform. A true sense of community will be born.