Overview

As the novel coronavirus has spread across the world, collateral damage has been far and wide. The outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic has left businesses hurting and are at risk of closure due to revenue loss. Millions of small businesses will be at high risk of closing permanently as the crisis continues. Of the nation's approximately 30 million small businesses, nearly 7.5 million small businesses are at risk of closing permanently over the coming five months, and 3.5 million are at risk of closure in the next two months (The Impact of COVID-19 on Small Businesses, 2020). COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on small businesses' revenue, and millions of Americans employed by our nation's smallest businesses are at risk of unemployment as a result. Approximately 35.7 million Americans employed by small businesses are at risk of unemployment due to the COVID-19 crisis (The Impact of COVID-19 on Small Businesses, 2020). Based on our market research, we are proposing a solution that will enable small business owners to set prices of their products and services and avoid losses.

INSIGHT® is a solution to help small businesses survive and adapt during these unprecedented times by providing resources to help price products and services to mitigate losses. INSIGHT offers restaurants and small businesses a web-based calculator platform to input data on their expenses and revenue to adequately suggest a new price for products and services. It is a user-friendly platform that calculates estimates based on the current changes to the market and allows the user to interact with the data through the visualization. These prices will ensure in accomplishing their target per-unit profit margins to help the businesses thrive.

Team Members

Kayla Smith – Senior at Ball State University majoring in Telecommunications with a concentration in Emerging Media and minors in Marketing and African American Studies; Software Developer for the ProSquad (HTML, CSS)

Lucas Maggos – Senior at Indiana University Bloomington pursuing a degree in Finance from the Kelley School of Business; Product manager and collaborated with Shivam on designing the business model.

Nolan Cauley – Senior at IU Bloomington with a major in Computer Science and minors in Media Persuasion, Spanish, and Music; Software developer for the ProSquad (HTML, CSS, JavaScript)

Shivam Gupta – Master's student pursuing Human-Computer Interaction at IUPUI; User Experience Designer focusing on crafting meaningful experiences by solving problems to make human life simpler; Collaborated with ProSquad to design the product and with GoSquad to come up with a business model.

How did you decide on this customer segment, problem, and solution?

We conducted primary research on our segment to get a better understanding and later conducted conversational interviews with three participants asking about their business model. We learned the different approaches owners handle their products and services, methods to operate the revenue and expenses, and the extent of technology integrated into their business. Meanwhile, we conducted the environmental analysis to understand the key trends and the macroeconomics of the segment, and it helped us in identifying all the external and internal elements, which can affect the performance. The major pain point that stood out for us was the difficulties the owners faced while setting prices by considering factors like additional expenses due to the pandemic.

Based on our findings that were insightful and interesting, we decided to develop and design a web-based application that would be easy to access from anywhere and from any system. We wanted to create a product that is easy to use, secure and accessible, and help alleviate their losses and adapt and survive through the pandemic and even after. The goals of our product were to:

  • Cover the costs and make a profit for the business
  • Compare favorably among their competitors
  • Fair price to the customers (they are willing to pay) and to the business

We discussed our ideas with our coaches and decided on implementing a calculator that allows the user to input their expenses to get a break-even price for their product. How did your team build and iterate on the solution? While researching existing solutions, we found out that there is no exact application that helps set prices. We did come across a few freely available Excel sheets, but they were poorly designed and not intuitive for the users. As a team, we came up with the following goals to achieve in our proposed design:

  • Intuitive
  • Accessible
  • Cost-efficient
  • Secure

We started with a low fidelity prototype by sketching out the application's potential screens to understand the flow and chalk out the required elements. We also focused on building the algorithm that would run behind the screens to set the price. After making iterations on the design by discussing it with our coaches, we created a high fidelity prototype using Adobe XD that showcased the user journey. Using the prototype, we conducted usability testing with few participants. Based on the feedback we received, we made a few changes and finally went on to design the web application using CSS, HTML, and JavaScript to see our tool come to life successfully.

Key Metrics

We were able to conduct conversational interviews with three small business owners to ask about their business model during our primary research. We referred to 15-20 resources available on the internet during our primary research as well. We conducted usability tests to understand the user journey and get feedback about our product concept and design. Using this feedback, we were able to make appropriate changes to our design to cater to the needs of our customers.

Technical Architecture

Adobe XD Prototype - Click Here

GitHub Repo - Click Here

Key Tools, Libraries, and Frameworks

Microsoft Excel was used to log our data and explain our calculations because it was accessible and our team had experience with it.

Adobe XD was used to create the high fidelity prototype to get the look and feel of the product. Usability testing was conducted using these prototypes and the feedback helped us in making design decisions.

CSS, HTML, and JavaScript were written using Visual Studio Code due to the accessible nature of the system and live collaboration features.

Any iterations to the software were uploaded to GitHub for our team members to see and to have a central place to keep our work. GitHub also provides a Web-based graphical interface and provided access control and several collaboration features, such as basic task management tools for our project.

ApexCharts.js is an open-source charting library that was used to help develop a visualization from the data inputted by the user. They help in creating a responsive visualization that enables users to understand their data better.

If you had another 5 weeks to work on this, what would you do next?

Our design goal from the beginning was to keep the solution simple so that even a novice user could easily navigate through the application and get the desired results. If we had another 5 weeks, we would like to include the following points:

  • Research more in-depth into market entry barriers and look for potential partnering opportunities
  • Using Machine Learning to train the system with data of a particular city to have a better understanding of pricing and provide a competitive advantage
  • Present a more personalized overview of the user
  • Conducting more user testing to have additional features

Checklist of Completed Items

  • Environmental Analysis - Completed
  • Business Model Canvas - Completed
  • Value Proposition Canvas - Completed
  • Customer Persona(s) - Completed

References

Dixon, V. (2020, March 24). By the Numbers: COVID-19's Devastating Effect on the Restaurant Industry. Retrieved July 24, 2020, from https://www.eater.com/2020/3/24/21184301/restaurant-industry-data-impact-covid-19-coronavirus

Goger, A., & Loh, T. (2020, June 17). 'A Band-Aid on a gunshot wound': How the restaurant industry is responding to COVID-19 relief. Retrieved July 24, 2020, from https://www.brookings.edu/research/a-band-aid-on-a-gunshot-wound-how-the-restaurant-industry-is-responding-to-covid-19-relief/

The Impact of COVID-19 on Small Businesses. (2020, April 9). Retrieved July 24, 2020, from https://www.mainstreet.org/blogs/national-main-street-center/2020/04/09/new-report-the-impact-of-covid-19-on-small-busines

Klein, B. (2020, May 28). Some Indianapolis restaurants not reopening indoor dining areas Monday - WISH-TV: Indianapolis News: Indiana Weather: Indiana Traffic. Retrieved July 24, 2020, from https://www.wishtv.com/news/local-news/some-indianapolis-restaurants-not-reopening-indoor-dining-areas-monday/

Ruggless, R. (2019, April 08). U.S. restaurant sales to reach record $863B in 2019, NRA says. Retrieved July 24, 2020, from https://www.nrn.com/sales-trends/us-restaurant-sales-reach-record-863b-2019-nra-says

Small Business Data Dashboard: JPMorgan Chase Institute. (n.d.). Retrieved July 24, 2020, from https://institute.jpmorganchase.com/institute/research/small-business/small-business-dashboard

Small Business External Macro Environment. (2018, April 09). Retrieved July 24, 2020, from https://small-business-success-wnc.com/small-business-external-environment

(Fundera, 2019)

(SBA, 2019)

(Guidantfinancial, 2019)

(Facebook, 2020)

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