WOW-jars – good things come in a jar

We provide a marketplace for vouchers from local businesses

The problem

Due to the corona crisis, we are unable to visit our favourite little stores, cafés and restaurants nearby. Moreover, other small local businesses like our favourite hairdresser, the perfect little yoga studio or that great massage salon cannot open right now or only with major restrictions.

These hairdressers, little pubs, pet shops, boutique studios or beauty salons – they all have in common that, with just a few exceptions, their formerly good sales figures went plummeted right down to zero and now they might be even threatened by bankruptcy.

We sat down and thought hard to come up with a good idea on how to support these businesses fast, sustainably and easily. Moreover, we took into consideration that any person who wanted to help also could do so effortlessly and gaining something in return on an individual level.

Whom do we want to help? As we already said – we want to help such small businesses and individual companies, which are currently struggling to get by. Some of these do not even have a website or an official e-mail account. Many of them are only available via phone.

Not only do these little shops liven up city centres, in more rural areas they are often crucial to the communities as they are the main local suppliers. If they vanish a lot of people would face problems as they might not have the possibility to travel far. Moreover, the little shops and business are important employers.

These companies especially need our combined help and support in order to reopen after this crisis and providing us with all the joy and indulgence in the future as they did before this mean little virus came along.

The solution

But how can we achieve this goal? By buying vouchers!

With buying vouchers now and cashing them in later, each and every one of us can help as it immediately puts money in the cash register of the business for which it was purchased.

You may say: Well, yes. This sounds fine, but how exactly can this be achieved on a larger scale?

We have tackled the issue from two sides. On the one side, the person who wants to help (the customer) and secondly, the business which needs help (the provider). They are brought together via WOW-jars.

WOW-jars is a platform where vouchers of little local business are made available online – even if the business itself might not have a website or lacks digital affinity altogether. These vouchers can be bought in a fast and easy way to support the companies; consequently, the businesses earn the money NOW (the moment the payment is completed) and the voucher can be cashed in at a later date. That is how costumers help the providers to survive this crisis.

To add special value for individual customers WOW-jars provides beautiful gift vouchers with the possibility to personalise and even including gift wrapping inspirations. That the vouchers are being made instantly available to print them at home or directly mail them someone on his/her birthday makes www.WOW-jars.shop also the perfect address for last-minute presents.

So, on the one hand, WOW-jars makes it possible to instantly select a perfect gift for loved ones, and on the other hand, you can support your favourite local businesses simultaneously.

The Hackathon Weekend

After the initial ideation phase in which we decided what to ‘hack’ in these few days, we started writing this concept, designing a logo, searching for slogans, creating a storyboard for the pitch video and – most importantly – we developed a prototype of WOW-jars.shop and filled it with sample content.

WOW-jars.shop is created with Asp.NET Core MVC, nopCommerce (eCommerce platform) and OpenLayers. The platform is hosted in the Azure Cloud and the code versioning is in Git. We were always communicating via MSTeams, Slack, eMail and WhatsApp.

Based on the NopCommerce Framework the voucher online shop was set up and configured for our needs. Various extensions via ASP.Net Core were necessary to achieve what we wanted. In addition, we included a map on the start page, where the individual providers can be seen as little markers. This map was integrated via OpenLayers.

We configured the PayPal plugin and the vouchers can already be customized.

Additionally, we drew up a security concept, to forfeit forging and misuse. Each provider can only redeem their own vouchers. The QR code printed on the vouchers can only be redeemed with a ‘Secret’ that is stored at the respective provider.

But a weekend is hardly enough time, therefore here the list of what was *not implemented * in the prototype.

°creation of vouchers in PDF form

°E-mail delivery not set up: Mail delivery of the PDF vouchers is missing and all notifications are not configured (e.g. confirmation of registration, activation of the vendor site, ...)

°PayPal Payment Plugin is installed but not yet activated and has not been fully tested

°SSL certificate has not yet been set up

Moreover, some things were only implemented in a simplified version: °No individual motif selection for the vouchers

°only 1 voucher per vendor(provider) allowed

°single language execution (English), but multilingualism can be easily realized later

Our solution’s impact on the crisis

Our approach: providing an easy and quick solution for providers AND customers.

Buying vouchers directly from businesses can be lengthy and laborious for customers and providers if they are lacking the digital infrastructure. So, we aimed at making the platform as easy, intuitive and accessible as possible for both sides.

Thanks to the service WOW-Jars customers do not have to wait for vouchers to being sent via (offline) mail, mess around with annoying and lengthy telephone or e-mail-conversations or wait until the bank transaction has finally gone through.

In search of a voucher, with just a few clicks on WOW-jars.shop, customers can find their favourite provider, select a voucher (any amount of money is possible), quickly add a personal touch with some short text and buy it. Thanks to the filter function by sector and distance you can easily discover companies in a certain area.

Customers will receive the voucher immediately after the payment process is completed and it is valid as soon as it is in their inbox. Thanks to the print at home function they can have a tangible voucher in their hands right away (at least if the printer agrees to print). With a little help from our instructions, customers can wrap the voucher as a gift in a jar (for the perfect WOW-jar) or just send it on via e-mail.

For the providers, it is even almost easier. After signing up via a simple form on the platform and their validation, providers will have nothing to do at all other than being happy about the incoming money transferred to their bank account. The company will be informed as soon as a voucher has been purchased and the money is transferred immediately. As a result, with the help of the bought vouchers, they can pay their bills and are relieved from their economical tight spot.

In short, WOW-jars will manage everything concerning the purchase of vouchers for customers and business owners. It offers a huge selection of providers from many different sectors from which the customers can simply pick and choose their favourite. Additionally, the vouchers can be personalised with a few clicks, paid online with PayPal and collected immediately via e-Mail.

As long as this crisis last, the listing as a provider on WOW-jars will be free of charge*. We would not want to profit from the difficulties of others. When the virus is finally beaten back, WOW-jars will charge the providers with a small amount. We have come up with three possibilities of how the business model could look like: 1) revenue share: for example 6% commission per sale 2) premium subscription: more features, less commission but a monthly fee (e.g. 59€ per month and only 5% commission) 3) white label solution: we provide the scaffold and other organisations (e.g. tourism association) buy this solution from us.

*exempted are the payment handling fees for credit cards and PayPal (3,4% +0,35€ per transaction). This has to be covered by the providers themselves.

What we need to carry on and to have a valuable solution in a post-corona world

We dream BIG. We want WOW-jars.shop to become the No1 marketplace for print at home vouchers. Currently, no solution on the market offers what we can provide.

While doing our research, we looked at approximately 30 different voucher platforms and concluded that there are solutions specialised EITHER for the needs of customers OR on the needs of providers, but we combine both worlds!

So what‘s next? Baby steps! We need to upgrade the prototype to a minimum viable product. Moreover, we need to resolve legal issues concerning the payment processes and other things that might come up – this will initially be only for the use case in Austria. After achieving these small but important goals, we will start a test phase including approximately 10 real providers.

When it works (which it will), we will contact the 2200 providers listed in our existing platform [www.wer-bringts.at] and kindly ask them if they want to join this new service. Building on this data, we aim for natural growth focussing first on our local network and area.

Over the long run, we want WOW-jars.shop to become the No1 marketplace for print at home vouchers – as we already mentioned. To achieve this ambitious goal, we need to tackle these next points:

°Resolve the legal issues and payment possibilities for more countries (whole EU and the world!)

°Find a Partner to increase our budget for development and online marketing

°Find a Marketing-Partner to promote our service beyond our local network and state borders

By this means, we aim to gain fast growth after the crisis and to become a big player in the business of print at home vouchers. We especially see a lot of potential for that in the tourism sector.

Last but not least – who are we?

We are part of MBIT DIGITAL SOLUTIONS. A team of 7 dedicated experts, consisting of software gurus, creative geniuses and hacker heroes, came together to take part in the #EUvsVirus challenge. We want to support our local shops and help them to survive the crisis and therefore enable them to open as usual when all the services are allowed in their full form again. This project is very important to all of us and everyone has done his/her best to implement it.

Our first (and biggest) fan says WOW! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KlLMlJ2tDkg

Reach out to us via WOW-jars@mbit.at or visit us digitally [www.mbit.at].

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