March 2020, the BadJupiter team were all finalising their travel plans to head to the HQ in Austin, TX, for the famed SXSW Interactive conference and a week of helping thousands of eager conference delegates discover some of the awesome local Austin bars, restaurants, coffee shops and experiences. But then the news broke that SXSW was cancelled due to growing concern about a virus. Now, like many early stage Tech companies, we are used to a hustle and not unfamiliar with a slap in the face either, so we regrouped and looked at what was happening.
Yes, the conference was cancelled and this was a blow to us, it was also a huge blow to the city of Austin and all the businesses that look to the SXSW conference as a significant source of revenue each year. The city put a brave face on and the hash tag #standwithaustin was born in an attempt to make the most out of a bad situation and to encourage those still heading to town or already there to get out and support the local businesses.
The BadJupiter team rallied and we quickly spun up collections featuring those businesses eager to make the best of it.
We toned down our own attendee list for the week, but with pockets full of poker chips (complete with QR codes that when scanned would show cool Austin-based collections of the best spots in town) the team headed out on what should have been the first weekend of the conference.
Austin still had a buzz, no 6th street wasn’t its usual SXSW zoo, but there was still plenty going on and lots of people eager to hear what we had to say. By Sunday lunchtime that had changed.
The feeling internally was that it was no longer responsible for us to be going out or to be encouraging others to do so. That was the end of our big launch, another slap across the face.
There was nothing else we could do right now. We had planned to launch a brand-new consumer experience that was all about discovering, collating and sharing new places and experiences within your network, only to have the world told to stay at home.
With the team now safely back to being spread across the Northern hemisphere from Portland and San Francisco, through Mexico City, Austin and Chicago and onto London, our attention turned as did many others, to what we could do with our business amidst a global pandemic. We had insight into how different countries, states, cities and towns were adopting the rules and adapting to fit them. We watched restaurants that had been dine-in only become take-aways, we saw cash-only businesses become cashless and we saw independent businesses with limited online presence spin up Instagram and Facebook pages in an effort to connect with their customers. We also saw an opportunity to leverage the heart of BadJupiter, which was all about connections, to help.
We built localised collections that highlighted the businesses that were being flexible and supporting their communities, we gave the businesses in BadJupiter the ability to offer deals and take payments, and we created our check-in capability to allow customers to tell a business that they had arrived. BadJupiter had adapted, pivoted, zigged and zagged, call it what you will, but our platform now allowed businesses to create deals, sell their products, take payment, run loyalty schemes and reward customers.
In the last year those businesses have used BadJupiter to run Track and Trace programs at sporting events so that hundreds of participants can take part safely whilst fulfilling national requirements (ATW). We’ve had restaurants and shops offer curb-side pickup for their customers where they previously didn’t even know who they were. We gave independent retailers an ability to take payments in a covid safe way by simply scanning a QR code. We’ve had a group of salons in the Chicago area (Art+Science) manage their customer journey safely through the salon and to now offer loyalty rewards, and we have a group of businesses in Tulsa getting together collaboratively to offer deals across the group of shops in an effort to grow their businesses together and support each other.
We have watched the world slow down, stay at home and wash its hands, we’ve seen huge personal loss across the world, and economies being hit really hard, but we’ve also seen creativity and communities coming together, we’ve seen businesses strive to support their customers and in turn we’ve seen those communities supporting their local businesses. We’ve watched habits change and some businesses adapting quickly to those changes, I’d like to think we’ve been one of them. Nobody really knows how 2021 will pan out, but BadJupiter is a different business a year on. We’ve had long days, late nights and a lot of zoom calls to build out our platform into something to support collaborative commerce and to give brick and mortar businesses a connection with their customers, albeit in a different way. We are optimistic about this year and look forward to being able to get together in real life and enjoy a beer together again.
Drop us a line here to discuss how we might be able to help you connect and engage with your customers.