Lockdowns are common in the Philippines since the pandemic has started in March 2020; this prevented the mobilization of goods and services.
Covid has been a huge impact on everyone all over the world, a lot of businesses closed and a lot has lost their jobs. With the high population rate and slow covid vaccine rollout in the Philippines, we are looking at a longer enhanced quarantine setup. But like what they say, with every disaster, there are always opportunities. A lot of small businesses started opening up, the problem is, they don't have a specific platform that's catered to them. A lot of SMEs don't have marketing budgets so they end up getting undiscovered.
There is strong competition in many Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) when it comes to marketing. They are forced to come up with very creative marketing that will still be impactful to the sentiments of their customers in the "New Normal" setup. However, for some, there are those that are still lacking marketing efforts, branding, tech knowledge, and visibility with their goods /services during the pandemic. On top of it, content marketing is a central part of doing business online. After all, if people don’t know you exist, and you don’t add value to people’s lives, selling online may not be as lucrative as you’d like.
Since Philippine cities have a large population, one city can house more than a million people. An example of this is Quezon City, a part of our Metro Manila, Philippines' capital, which has a population size of 2,761,720 people, and that's just Quezon City! There are 145 Chartered cities in the Philippines, all with struggling SMEs. That is why we created "Near ME"!
What it does
NearMe uses a navigation map to plot the nearest SMEs in the user's area using map/geolocation with E-Commerce and gamification features.
Enlisted SMEs in the app can avail of branding services, coaching, and webinars to boost their online presence.
Our product owner describes it as the following: "Near Me is a cartooy navigation app with e-commerce capabilities which shows all registered SME's all over each city. There will be a buyers' and sellers' portal for easier use. A secure and wide-ranged payment system like credit cards, online banking, G-Cash (may be available in the Philippines only) and the like will be available for a more efficient, safe, and convenient experience. Gamification like Tamagotchi pets will also be added which gives out virtual coins as rewards that you can be used for discounts, skins (like gaming heroes), and free spins for raffle prizes to entice buyers to stay on the app more. SME's will have a special badge to be determined easily. Free and same-day Shipping for nearby customers may also be available for businesses with riders, as well as the normal, 2-7 days for domestic shipping. This will also have a tracking system to be able to see the shipment progress in real-time."
What unique value proposition can NearMe offer
Our focus is that we will provide the tools that SMEs can use to improve or create their branding and online presence. This includes, but is not limited to the following:
- Branding and online marketing webinars to be conducted by experts and professionals
- Livestreaming to give more interaction between the users and the SMEs
- One of our main tasks is to aggregate the products of SMEs and display them in the most appealing and responsive way in the front-end. This could also have multiple background themes that users are free to use.
- Near me Feed posts with "my day" features for more marketing visibility and educational live streams will also be available to help SME's improve and level up their businesses. Sign-ups for both buyers and sellers will be free of course! with a reward system when one successfully invites more people to the app to register. Verifications are a must for the safety of both. Sold counts and reviews will also be shown and the best SMEs will also be awarded which will give them a wider reach.
- The earning potentials for the "Near Me" company will be through donations, sales %, ads, and sponsorships. Smaller Sales % for SMEs while bigger ones for bigger corporations.
Who is this app for
There is a surge in e-commerce transactions in the past year because of covid. We may only reach out the following:
- Business registered SMEs who have not yet fully onboarded their goods and services online.
- Aspiring entrepreneurs 14 and above who might find the app useful by searching the supplies that aren't available yet in most SMEs' shops in his/her bubble
- SMEs without branding and lacking marketing efforts to promote an online business
What we have discussed and considered
Location - the app is expected to have more users in cities where there is a denser population, rather than in suburban or rural areas where houses or towns are further apart. Moreover, not all rural areas have a stable internet connection to support a data-intensive feature such as Livestream.
Free Delivery - needs further assessment because of the small margins most retail businesses are getting. Groceries, for example, have a very small margin of profit of around 5-10%. A grocery shop hiring a full-time delivery guy would even decrease it to as low as 1% - which may not sustainable in the long run. Hiring a part-time delivery guy or availing a courier service might be an option to start with, to try to maintain the profit margin for a small retail business. Also, since there would be an advantage in the proximity of the buyer and the SME shops, the option of picking up the goods could be a great option.
What's next for NearMe
Prioritization of features to develop is still under discussion. Once this project gets enough validation from a market segment, we would be doing the initial MVP. For the backend, we would be leveraging the cloud capabilities of AWS so the system could scale up or down depending on the request traffic; with minimal latency, this would allow a great User Experience. For the mobile and front-end, this app would be available for iOS and Android.
Starting small - if we're going to launch and continue this project outside the Ascend Impact 2021 Hackathon, our team aims to make a lot of efforts in doing initial interviews with closest SMEs like retails or hardware shops. It is also best to find early customers who would vouch for the idea and gain some commitment to using the app (commonly, family and friends who may be registered SMEs or have friends that are) and if possible, get early funding or sponsorships. This also requires creating a close relationship by getting feedback from these clients regularly and listing down and analyzing the critical problems they have in their shops. This app is still in a very early conceptualization stage and may take a few months or a year to have a proven use case. However, we are not shying away from potentially turning it into a promising business.
What's the estimated cost
Three (3) Senior Software Engineers working on a two (2) year contract: 126,808.39 USD
Infrastructure-As-A-Service fee for AWS for two (2) years: 2,000.00 USD -> this can be reduced to zero if the account is approved for their Activate offer (https://aws.amazon.com/activate/)
Team Express - members
Eugene De Los Santos - Java/Angular Developer Rienz Ivan Otiong - Front-end Developer / Designer Jacqueline Monteverde - Entrepreneur, Commercial model, Part-time Filipina Actress Alquinn John Gayatao - Backend / Full-stack Developer
Henry Hu who is VP, Strategy, and Transformation at 1010data
Team Express would like to thank the event sponsors
@AscendLeader @IBM @ToyotaMotorCorp @EAPlay @EY_US @BankofAmerica @ExpeditionHacks @BlueClarityDC @NewDelhiSF @mechanism_w @fancypantspop @yinzcoffee