Darwoft and SnowShoe Help Retail Revival with Gamified Loyalty App
Downtown Olympia, WA, is a historic shopping district, with local shops, delicious cuisine, and state-of-the-art event spaces. After Covid shut down, many of the local businesses, the once-vibrant downtown area remained empty for months. SnowShoe, a Pacific Northwest customer loyalty company, was tasked with getting shoppers to come back downtown and help revive the retail district. SnowShoe turned to Darwoft for help in creating the “Go Downtown” app, a gamified mobile and web application that couples with existing hardware to incentivize consumers to “check-in” at stores using their phones.
Gamification As An Engagement Tool
SnowShoe wanted to use gamification as a way to incentivize and reward consumers for visiting businesses in downtown Olympia. Users would earn points for “checking in” at stores through the mobile or web app, as well as for visiting multiple stores on one of the app’s shopping “Loops.” Once enough points were accumulated, the shopper won a prize in the form of a store discount.
Darwoft was to deliver a complete end-to-end online and mobile app system which included a mobile web app, iOS app, and Android app. The system was also to include a fully cloud-based SaaS (Software as a Service) that would power this multi-tenant and multi-site consumer-facing application. The goal was to deliver this application to thousands of eager consumers and hundreds of businesses in Olympia’s historic shopping district for a Summer 2021 pilot program. The end objective was to learn from this pilot market, make improvements as necessary, and then bring the app to the national market.
Both Performance and Technical Challenges Had to be Addressed
The first project kick-off discussion was held in early March 2021. With the app set to launch in early July, this gave the Darwoft team only four months to develop and deliver an MVP and bring it to market. The project presented several performances and technical problems to be solved.
- The full project concept was not final at kick-off and continued to evolve throughout development.
- There were no customers yet, and therefore no historic customer data.
- There were many changes in requirements along the way.
- The rules engine had to be flexible to allow the program to be introduced in new markets.
- The application needed to have built-in flexibility in order to respond to real-world functions.
- The new software had to be built around SnowShoe’s existing hardware, and this package then had to integrate smoothly into IoT and API.
- SnowShoe’s hardware uses APIs and libraries, which call for different SDKs for iOS and Android.
- To make the game fun and engaging, the project concept called for animation, which uses a lot of memory and can create performance issues.
Darwoft’s Full-Scale Approach
- A kickoff was held in early March to discuss the main project concept and objective: Help retail recover after the pandemic by encouraging the revival of commerce in downtown Olympia. The focus was on small businesses and neighborhoods. SnowShoe wanted to use gamification to incentivize consumers and to speed up the time to market in order to run the pilot over the summer. Darwoft used this meeting to gain a thorough understanding of the project, define the KPIs, and prioritize the requested software features.
- Over the next month, Darwoft led an initial round of discovery meetings, UX design meetings, and user-focused use case writing sessions with the client. Darwoft presented research on similar apps to encourage discussion and clarify the concept. Darwoft’s senior architects used these meetings to create an Infrastructure Pipeline, a Technical Roadmap, and a Functionalities Map to prioritize customer- and client-facing functions based on end-customer usages.
- After the flow of the application experience was fully defined, Darwoft assigned a team that included the original UX designer, as well as a project manager and senior technical lead, to finalize the architecture design and underpinning platform. The team spent three months working on development, which ended up in the first version of the product delivered to end customers.
- Darwoft and SnowShoe worked closely together, using daily standups, regular project check-ins and status reports to track the work throughout the course of the project as the app went through initial builds, alpha release, beta release, and production release. After each sprint, the Darwoft team checked the roadmap to make sure all team members were on the same page.
- During testing with the client, Darwoft’s team was able to respond quickly and thoroughly to project updates, bug findings, and user-driven changes to requirements.
- The project was delivered on time and on the budget for use by thousands of users and hundreds of retail locations.
Flexible Rules Engine
One of the main technical problems to be solved was the need for a flexible app that could be customized for new retail districts around the country. The Darwoft team created a flexible rules engine to accommodate this need.
A rules engine combines a set of facts and rules to elaborate a conclusion. In general, the rules describe the business logic, and the facts describe the conditions (which continually change with each new level of the game).
The Go Downtown app uses a rules engine to determine when a user can level up. The app offers a list of rewards along with a list of challenges that users need to complete in order to earn these rewards and move up a level in the game.
Each list of challenges includes the actions that a user must take. For example: “Complete (x number of) Loops.” These actions are the “rules.” Each level also has its own particular requirements for these actions. For example: “Complete 5 Loops.” These quantity requirements are the “facts.”
The shopping “Loop” is a key concept in the Go Downtown app design. A Loop is defined as a list of stores that a user can visit to obtain a certain amount of points. The number of points varies depending on the number of stores visited and the type of Loop completed.
For the launch of the Go Downtown app, Darwoft defined a specific quantity requirement for all challenges (for example, complete 1 Loop). And because the rules engine evaluates a condition based on user information and challenge data, these requirements could be modified easily without having to alter the operation of the rule.
The rules engine is executed when users take the main action, which is tapping their phones to the check-in hardware device. When a user visits a store, all the necessary calculations are carried out, both to record the visit and to give the corresponding points to the user. Because the rules engine is executed every time a user checks in at a store, it ensures that this action will accurately record when a challenge is completed and it is time for the user to level up.
Solutions Presented by Darwoft Team
App must be flexible and customizable to new markets.
First, focus on infrastructure. With the click of just three buttons, customers can have a new version of the app.
The animation uses up lots of memory, which can affect app performance.
The team used Lottie for the animations. This allowed Darwoft to create lightweight and scalable animations that could be used on every device. Animation running time can easily be manipulated, without cost in performance.
Darwoft Delivered An App with Rock-Solid Code On Time and On Budget
“Our initial release of the mobile app was launched to much acclaim and immediate downloads by many users. The app was the centerpiece of a summer-long festival and ongoing loyalty program in the downtown retail district. We've achieved all our KPIs and program goals from this application, and I can't thank the Darwoft team enough.”
-- Ned Hayes, CEO, SnowShoe
The pilot program launched in July and immediately drew sign-ups from businesses and consumers alike. SnowShoe’s technical team was pleasantly surprised by the high quality of the code.
- High fidelity prototypes
- Code with zero defects
- An engaging UX with a simple onboarding process for new users
- A rules engine with built-in flexibility and customization, with changeable events for expansion into other markets
- Smooth IoT and API integration.
- On-time and on budget--even with changing requirements along the way
“We are getting increasingly busier in the shop. SnowShoe’s Go Downtown loyalty program definitely makes people more excited about their shopping and dining experiences.”
-- Kae Stair, Manager, Compass Rose Gift Shop in Olympia, WA
We are a passionate team of people who love a challenge. We are always asking ourselves, “How can we build something that has the most value in the shortest amount of time?”
- We solve challenging problems and release high-quality products in a short amount of time.
- We are skilled at supporting small tech teams--many of our clients only have one or two developers.
- We develop products that customers like to use.
- We work collaboratively with our clients.
- We are experts in custom mobile app development, gamification, security, and customer service.
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