The inspiration came few years back when a friend, having a bookstore, was struggling a lot due the competition raised in the online market by the big players. We just thought what can we do to support small local shops to get digital with very small or zero efforts. With the COVID-19 pandemic the problem for small shops has tremendously increased and many small shops will probably suffer to survive. With Robin many of them would have been able to keep selling their products and delivery them to their customers.

The problem your project solves

The project has the scope to address 1 main pain point of the SMEs nowadays which is the competition with the big players. It also support the current Covid crisis by allowing the SMEs to not stop their business with the home delivery of their goods/services. Typically SMEs like small shops and local businesses (i.e. artisan) do not have neither the economic power nor the IT knowledge to build digital solution and increase their business and visibility. The project solves exactly this problem by providing to the SMEs a very easy to use platform (through the browser, tablet or mobile phones) to create offers/promotions that will reach a wider range of customers (compared to the people passing by the local shops). The project manages the full lifecycle of the promotion, from the creation to the conversion into an actual purchase. Purchased promotion can be delivered at home or picked-up directly at the SMEs shop. The project may also support the SMEs in the risk management area by reacting rapidly to situations that will generate a loss of revenues. For example an hairdresser shop that has a last minute appointment cancellation from a customer may create a real time half price campaign to avoid the complete loss of revenues.

The solution you bring to the table

The Robin project is a “Real-time Mobile Marketing Services” solution.

Robin in short is:

  • A ready to use (SaaS + Mobile App) Business Solution, able to generate Sales and promotions to individuals, based on personal favourites/interests & geo location, by SMEs in real-time. Promotions may also be actively searched and purchased directly from the individuals without the need to use the geo location.
  • A solution able to generate completely new revenue streams for the SMEs.
  • A solution able to digitalize the SMEs business at virtually no costs or very affordable one.
  • A solution being operable in a cloud model.

Once the purchase has been completed the SMEs customers may decide to have the goods/services delivered at home, very important during the crisis, or to pick it up at the local store.

The solution is using quite a complex engine for the proximity generated promotions.

Promotions will be sent based on a set of likings specified by the customers plus, through the ML algos, the probability that the customers will be interested in that specific promotion category.

A Smart Sending Strategy (3xS) has been implemented, taking into consideration all predictive and known elements in order to avoid spam.

Based on the possibility that the customer can set up a limited number of promotions per day, again to avoid spam, a decision tree that will evaluate the following condition has been implemented:

  • Binary Logic (BL) – is the indicator that tell that there is a match between the customer likings and the promotion category.

  • Time of the day (ToD) – Time when the BL is fired. It is divided in a configurable number of slots for example:

    24:00 – 06:00 | 06:00 – 12:00 |12:00 – 18:00|18:00 – 24:00.

  • Promotions Sent (PS) – % of promotions sent against the total per day. It is divided in a configurable number of categories, for example:

    0% – 33%|33% – 66%|66% – 99%.

  • Machine Learning (ML) – Probability that the Customer will purchase the promotion based on the customer previous purchases. It is a number between 0 and 1. The ML algo will increase its efficiency over the time. Usually a ML algo needs quite an amount of data to produce relevant outputs. This will not be the case at the beginning.

  • Merchant Promotion Generated (MPG) – Number of promotions sent during the day for a given merchant. It is very important to be taken into account to ensure that there will be no discrimination against the merchants.

The decision tree looks like the following:

Decision tree

The solution support the SMEs with their booking calendars, very useful for restaurant and hairdressers for example, by providing the functionality to book a promotion. SME customers will get a visual confirmation into the app that shows the status of the booking (confirmed, rejected, changed)

Regarding the “Internationalization”, the solution is already built to speak different languages. Language configuration files still need to be finalized. English and Italian (partially) are the current configured languages.

Functions and Features of the existing version includes:

Robin SME Portal allows:

  • Self-registration
  • Accessible via tablet or web browser
  • Campaign Management (add, modify, delete, stop, preview), the complete lifecycle
  • Roundtrip Management (generated code couple the promotion and the Robin app customer to confirm that the purchase was done)
  • Real-time monitoring analytics on campaign level and aggregated on customer / campaign
  • Secure portal (login/password)

Robin App

  • Catalogue to select preferences and interests (i.e. type of restaurants/meals, fashion, cultural etc.)
  • Promotion on Request, the search mechanism that will help a lot during the crisis
  • Promotion’s booking
  • Rules Optimizer to improve hit ratio / quality
  • Intelligent power consumption optimizer

Robin proximity Engine and promotion manager

  • Promotions lifecycle management
  • Smart sending strategy implementation. The Machine Learning algo is fully implemented and tested, currently not included in the version on work. Given the importance of the data set that the algo needs to be accurate, it will definitely not be a problem at the beginning cause the dataset will be empty.

ROADMAP (future functionality already addressed)

  • Multi Pictures Promotions (COVID) We need to add the possibility to include more than 1 picture for a campaign. This will allow the Customers to see more of what can be purchased! Very Urgent, will also be part of the launching version.
  • Enhanced UI The possibility to present a more specific Robin SME Portal for a given business type.
  • Direct Payment via solution (interface to Payment Service Provider) The existing release does not include yet the possibility to make any online payments. It is supposed to be given for free to the SMEs, in demo mode for few months. We will use this months to enable the online payment feature that is already been technically defined. Possible future improvements of the payment module solution would be based on a Blockchain technology to ensure transactions and security/privacy.
  • Delivery Optimization The platform will check if a customer has done more than one purchase to be delivered on the same day. In such a case, if the SMEs are allowing to share such information, it will prompt the 2 SMEs about the possibility to share the delivery. This approach will enforce cooperation within the same community as well as optimize the costs.
  • Coupon Integration Market has several Coupon Providers today and Merchants are already cooperating with them (e. g. with TWINT, Groupon, DeinDeal, …). Functionality to integrate coupons deriving from different providers bi-directionally.
  • BIG DATA Given the large amount of data that the platform will generate there is a large number of information that we will be able to analyze especially considering the fact that we will know exactly what the customers are buying and not just the general category of the purchase as in the credit card business.
  • Logistic Module The logistic module will be used from both, customers and SMEs, to keep track of the state of the delivery.
  • Delivery Management the possibility for the shops to use standard delivery companies to deliver the goods.
  • Loyalty Program The existing loyalty program is very basic and is just accumulating all the purchases done by the same customer for the same SMEs. It is already foreseen to extend the loyalty functionality with:
    • proactive offering while meeting certain criterias defined by the SMEs
    • Add on to manage 3rd Party Loyalty Cards

Impact Potential

The impact to society if the project will be implemented at scale will be relatively big. Many SMEs will eventually be able to survive not only during the crisis but especially afterwards with the digital support. Such a generic digital support does not exist yet. There are several vertical offering, especially in food&beverage delivery, however a solution for every commercial category does not exist (or not that we know :-) ). The technical solution is based on containers running in the cloud so that it can be easily scaled.

Technical Complexity

Robin project is a combination of expertise coming form different IT domains: fullstack, frontend, nosql, ML, etc. So it is a technical solution that requires technical know how. The good news is that from an operational perspective it is fairly simple to be operated.

Prototype Completion

Currently, we have 90% of the solution already running. The majority of the remaining changes are due to the crisis impacts. The solution was even tested for a month with some SMEs and some customers. The prototype can be turned into a running product in 3/4 weeks, more likely less than this.

Business Plan

Taking into account all of the solution's relevant factors, including economic, technical, legal, and scheduling considerations, the likelihood of completing the project successfully is very high.

The below BP shows a 5-year-forecast considering the following restrictions/assumptions/facts:

  • 1 European Country only has been used for the Revenues calculation. Germany in this case.
  • The engagement of the potential SMEs (340.000 retailers in Germany) with the solution will go from 1% to 5% in the five years so from (3.400 to 17.000). So definitely not the best case scenario
  • The SMEs that will generate through the solution less than 10.000€ Revenues per year, will have the solution for free.
  • SMEs has been classified in 4 different classes:

    • Bronze - revenues through the solution <10.000€, average costs for the solution for the SMEs is 0€ per year.
    • Silver - revenues through the solution <30.000€, average costs for the solution for the SMEs is 75€ per year.
    • Gold - revenues through the solution <50.000€, average costs for the solution for the SMEs is 150€ per year.
    • Platinum revenues through the solution >50.000€, average costs for the solution for the SMEs is 400€ per year.

    The investment for the SMEs in the solution is really minimal, by far cheaper than a coffee per day.

Business Plan

Recently we run a small survey, in a couple of European capitals, among the shopkeepers to find out if they are interested in the solution. Most were very interested.

The sustainability of the solution will be achieved through:

  • the enforcement of the local communities supported by the local businesses
  • the possible reduction of pollution due to the promotions of local products
  • higher employment rate of the locals due to the increment on business and the need to deliver the goods. Eventually new local companies may be founded to deliver the goods

Marketing support and sponsorship are needed to implement the solution.

What you have done during the weekend

  • we have analyzed the changes that needs to be made for the Corona Virus (basically the possibility to specify the address where the goods need to be delivered)
  • we have estimated the efforts and impacts of the changes
  • we have estimated the development, operational and administrative (i.e. lawyers) efforts needed to make the last mile and bring the solution live.
  • we have discussed the roadmap
  • we have discussed the sales strategy and business plan
  • we have prepared the video pitch

The solution’s impact to the crisis

In Italy we have seen in the last 2 months all the shops, with the exception of food shops, being completely closed. What we have been through so far it is just the phase 1 of the crisis. The government is already planning the next phases 2, 3 and nobody knows how many more.

In other countries in EU the same approach has been taken meaning, for a lot of SMEs, that from one day to the other there was no income at all coming where most likely the expenses flow was still moving, may be not at the same speed, but still there.

The Robin platform would have allowed to support those SMEs to not completely shutdown their activities and possibly, in some cases, even to generate new opportunities due to the higher visibility on a wider market.

With the platform, for example, a shop, whether is a butchery or an hardware store or even an hairdresser, could have created some promotions to be delivered at home. This would have enabled the SMEs to stay closer to their customers and through the loyalty program, included in the platform, even to care more to the customers with offers tailored for them and maybe special discounts for the loyal customers.

What the platform foresee also is the possibility to detect that the same customer has bought from 2 different shops the same day and will therefore offer, if the shops are allowing this, to optimize the delivery having just one person going to the customer. This approach will, form one side, strengthen the sense of community and from the other side will avoid that too many people will be around if not necessary. Furthermore it will eventually also optimize the costs of the delivery.

The necessities in order to continue the project

The main necessities to move forward and bring the solution live are, as already mention, marketing support and sponsorship.

From a technical perspective we are pretty well equipped and also from a legal perspective we should be fine.

The value of your solution(s) after the crisis

The value of the solution for the SMEs after the crisis will be multiplied.

Considering the fact that hopefully very soon we will start again to walk and to go outside, as we have done in all our life, the proximity feature that are natively built inside the platform, together with the Machine Learning algo, will allow the SMEs to send tailored promotions to the customers while they are moving.

This will for sure move the visibility to a wider level than the one on the street and inform people in movement that there is something for them just around the corner. As a result business as well will be increased.

Share this project: