We are very enthusiastic travelers. Between the two of us at this Hackathon, we have visited over 60 countries around the world. During this time, we observed many problems with the travel industry and came up with the following solution that we believe could greatly help the local businesses in Wyoming and the greater Wyoming community as a whole.
What it does
The flagship product of our team is the review platform that ensures all reviews posted to it are from authentic users who have actually used the business they are reviewing. Furthermore, through our incentive programs, we will help support Wyoming small businesses by providing them an easy means in which to get honest exposure on the web.
Travelers (both locals and from abroad) will be incentivized to review local businesses with each review paying them a set number of our Explore coins. In turn, these coins can be spent and used at any business that has partnered with us. This function serves a dual purpose: First, it provides an appropriate incentive for customers to take a few minutes to provide feedback on local businesses on our platform. And secondly, by paying the individual in the Explore coin, we ensure the value is spent back into the Wyoming economy as coin will only be accepted by participating Wyoming businesses. Additionally, any partnering company can elect to offer a payment of bonus Explore tokens to further incentivize customers to use their service and leave a review. This will be especially helpful for new businesses that have no reviews, or simply a technique to pull in extra travelers from our platform. An extra step toward building community strength in local small business, our team will work to partner local small businesses to offer local coupons of other businesses upon completion of a review. An example of this would be once a traveler has completed their stay in a hotel and completed a review of the location, they are instantly rewarded (through the platform) of 10% off coupons to several local restaurants. This type of incentivization helps both companies increase their customer base while simultaneously improving community business cohesion. Additionally it will be an effective tool to draw in individuals to our platform and to performing reviews who are not interested in cryptocurrency.
For all users not interested in taking time out of their day to write a unique review for their customer experiences, there is an option for these individuals as well. A user may chose to up or down vote an existing review for that business and still receive a token reward that will be evenly split between that individual and the person who posted the original review. This option allows users with very little time still contribute to the platform as well as be a form of “checks and balances” for our platform. Should a vindictive individual take part in reviewing a business and provide an inaccurate or overly derogatory review, the community will begin to downvote that review, while conversely, accurate reviews of a business will receive far more upvotes.
Reviews of a business will be based on the following criteria: Recency: The more recent a review, the higher its worth, as businesses may improve their service over time, and thus old reviews are not as relevant. Reviewer: The more active the account, (more reviews posted) the higher the value of the review. Quantity: The more upvotes the review receives, the higher it will be listed in order of importance. Additionally, should a review reach a threshold of 75% of its votes being negative (3 downvotes for every 1 upvotes), the review will be flagged on the platform warning other customers that it may be inaccurate. Due to the immutable nature of the blockchain, reviews cannot be deleted once published to the blockchain but a warning flag will appear next to them on our platform. Should any individual account be responsible for too many reviews that result in being flagged as inaccurate, their account will be suspended for a period of time as punishment for providing poor quality reviews.
As standard precautions on our platforms, all users will enter a “cool down” period after reviews a location. This will prevent them from submitting another review of that same location for at least 60 days. This will prevent locals from misusing the review incentive program. It will still be possible to reviews of other businesses or of multiple businesses in the same day, but they must all be different businesses, and each business will enter a “cool down” period for that user after their stop. As a final safety measure, travelers will have 7 days from date of purchase/check-in to post their review of the location or they will no longer be able to post a review of that business without making a new purchase or booking. This will prevent users from posting reviews weeks or months after their visit. Once a user has submitted their review, they will have 7 days from the date of submission to go back and alter their own review before it is sent to the blockchain and forever immutable. This helps prevent inaccurate reviews from accidentally being posted. Only the original review writer will be able to go back and make alterations during this 7 day grace period. Not even the Explore team will be able to make alterations to reviews in the grace period.
A unique feature that our platform will contain is the “Local Sherpa” program. This is a special program completely exclusive to our platform that will allow Wyoming residents to submit a picture of their Wyoming ID to the platform for verification if they choose to. Once they have been verified, they become a “Local Sherpa” and will receive additional bonus tokens from Explore for going to businesses with very little or zero exposure online and submitting a review for that business. This will allow locals with good knowledge of the best hotels, areas, and restaurants to provide that “local advice” that travelers look for on our platform and make it much more useful.
All of the above programs and incentives we have listed above that promote travelers to provide honest and reliable reviews will help local small businesses in many ways: It provides businesses with great exposure to individuals online without the high costs many can’t afford through Google and other promotion platforms Builds community involvement and support as all members of the local community benefit when they use our platform Since all benefits are paid in Explore coin, the rewards will be spent in Wyoming and keeping value circulating within the community By using a Wyoming exclusive token, it encourages travelers to return to Wyoming if they didn’t spend all their Explore while on their trip
The State of Wyoming also benefits from the increased tax revenue from the increases in tourism and the greater success of many small businesses across the state.
How we built it
How the Reviews Enter the System
Reviews can only be submitted by users who have confirmed their use of the service. This will be guaranteed through the use of a Conversion Tracking Tool. The users booking on our website or purchasing a product will be confirmed with the conversion tracking tool before they are able to submit a review.
Once the user posts their review to our platform, any bonus tokens or coupons associated with reviewing that location will immediately be unlocked for that individual and the 7 day “Grace period” will begin. During this time, only the original creator of the review can alter it in the event they find an error or change their opinion of their experience. Additionally, once the user submits their review, the 60 day “Cool Down” period beings for that user at that particular business
No manual filtration will take place. This means no individual, company, or group can delete, interfere, or alter reviews. After the review “grace period” in rule 2 has expired, nothing can be done to stop the review from posting permanently to the blockchain.
Reviews will then be listed based on the following criteria (top listed being most important) Recency: The more recent a review, the higher its worth, as businesses may improve their service over time, and thus old reviews are not as relevant. Reviewer: The more active the account, (more reviews posted) the higher the value of the review. Quantity: The more upvotes the review receives, the higher it will be listed in order of importance.
This review can now be viewed by anyone on the platform and will be able to be up or down voted on by other certified customers from that business. (Note: Up and down votes also trigger the “cool down” period for users of our platform)
In order to ensure users do not abuse the system, reviews and accounts that receive too many down-votes could be temporarily prevented from posting reviews in order to discourage poor quality reviews.
Challenges we ran into
Although our team came into the competition with a good idea of the idea we wanted to develop, only several hours into the competition, a very productive conversation with some of the mentors pointed out some large problems with our baseline concept. We went back to the drawing board and after several hours of discussion, solved the issues. However, did we really think anyone would use this platform? Would there be sufficient interest from the common, everyday customer to post reviews? Would local businesses be willing to partner to support such a product?
Accomplishments that we're proud of
In order to answer the questions of business and consumer interest, we performed a market validation study of consumers as well as businesses. The consumers consisted of nearly 60 WyoHackathon participants, mentors, and volunteers. The businesses consisted of 15 local, non-franchise Laramie businesses. We have attached the results of these studies in this report which will be discussed in the presentation. We have successfully market validated our idea within 48 hours during this Hackathon.
What we learned
There are many interesting things we learned during this competition. The most substantial thing we learned however, after talking to dozens of small businesses in Laramie, is how much small businesses in Wyoming are in need of exposure to the online community where many travelers find restaurants and stores. This made us even more passionate about our idea.
What's next for Explore
We will return with this more completed idea and continue to develop it with our other team members and developers who unfortunately couldn't be here this weekend.