Helping high street stores in their reopening processes following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic - By Appointment Only Ltd

Our client, By Appointment Only Ltd., was founded by Charles Smith and Adam Batten. Charles is an entrepreneur in the high-end hospitality sector, with most of his experience rooted in events. In 1992, he launched ‘At Your Service’ (AYS), the UK’s leading supplier of professional hospitality services. Adam joined AYS soon after as Innovation Director and Associate Director and together they founded and managed ‘Talistar’; a provider of consultative strategic planning for businesses. Together, they make a highly successful, professional and pioneering team and we were therefore delighted when they approached us to deliver an exciting new project together. 

The challange

At the start of the Covid-19 crisis, Charlie and Adam recognised a need to offer their innovation, skills and experience to support the people and businesses that had been impacted so harshly by the pandemic. More specifically, they wanted to tailor their assistance towards the retail industry. This is an industry that has been deeply and globally affected by the dramatic changes to both demand and supply, resulting from national government restrictions. Indeed, the World Trade Organisation calculated that world exports reduced by 19% in the six months leading up to May 2020. They are expected to continue to fall throughout the year. Some parts of the industry were faced with a decline in supply that struggled to keep up with a spike in demand. Elsewhere however, concerns over health, job security and personal finances led to a decline in consumer confidence, and this led to a drop in demand. The impact on consumer confidence has had several major repercussions for the retail industry;

  1. Generally, people have reduced their non-essential shopping behaviours.
  2. Customers are increasingly making the switch from in store to online purchases. Indeed, more than 4 in 10 customers across Europe said they had purchased something online for the first time, which they had only brought in-store prior to the pandemic.
  3. When people are choosing to go into stores, their first priority is that they are safe. A safe, socially distant and hygienic shopping environment is therefore essential for all stores to ensure if they want their customers to keep coming back.

In light of these recent trends, it appears that businesses will only succeed in this changed retail environment if they can create a hygienic and socially-distanced shopping environment that protects and reassures customers. It also seems that a digital infrastructure is now more important than ever for retail stores to incorporate into the shopping experience they offer to their customers. Adam and Charlie set up a new company, By Appointment Only Ltd., and approached us to create an app to support retailers in doing exactly that.

The solution

Having worked with AYS for over a decade now, their first-hand experience of our service, project management style and development skills reassured them that their project was in safe hands. 

Their idea for a new retail ‘By Appointment’ app was introduced to us in early May 2020. We immediately got to work on preparation of wireframes and design mock-ups and then started coding towards the end of that month. The app went live in the app stores on 8th July – just 2 months from the initial conversation – and had its baptism of fire 2 days later when it was used to manage visitors to the grand opening of a new Prada store in Provence, in the south of France.

Throughout the development phase of the app, we knew that communication was key. It was important for us and our client to keep them informed on timelines, budgets, and resource requirements. We made sure to hold weekly management meetings to discuss risks and how to minimise them, as well as discuss requirement changes.

To develop the app, we worked with top of the range digital platforms and systems such as .NET Core, Xamarin, Angular and more (see Project fact section at the end of the case study). These platforms are widely used among top app developers to develop their products.

In addition to the development of the app there were a number of ways that we were able to offer help and advice:

  1. App store listing

We created a bold, stand-out, logo for the By Appointment app and we made sure to include keywords and essential information in the app description. 

  1. Keyword tracking

We advised on the importance of using, tracking, analysing and updating keywords to build the customer base and remain competitive.

  1. On-boarding

We advised on the different types of frameworks available for the on-boarding process for new customers on the app. This involved optimising registration processes and app settings, to draw in and retain customers.

  1. Notifications

We advised on the importance of notifications. More specifically, we advised on the ideal types of presentation, frequency and language of notifications, to cater to the appropriate target audience.

  1. App review feedback management

We advised on the best way to gather feedback from app users. We showed how to respond appropriately and helpfully to any users who may be having difficulties on the app, whilst making sure that the app reviews are not negatively affected.

  1. Social sharing

We advised on how to understand users better by using information from social media platforms, and how to encourage users to share their experience of the app on social media.

  1. Paid media

We discussed the options of running paid media campaigns on the By Appointment App.

Benefits

Key features of the app:

  • Shoppers can book appointments to shop at participating stores

Using the app, retail managers can advertise store availability for different times of the day on different days. Potential shoppers are able to view this schedule remotely and book into their preferred time slots at a variety of shops throughout the day. This provides retail managers the opportunity to manage and maximise store capacity. This also offers shoppers a hassle-free shopping experience.

  • Shoppers participate in covid-19 screening checks (this feature is optional)

Before entering stores, shoppers complete covid-19 screening checks on the app. This gives retail managers control over who can and can’t enter their stores; protecting their staff and their customers.

  • Shoppers can reschedule or cancel their appointments

This gives shoppers flexibility, and updates retail managers on any changes so that they can adjust store capacity accordingly.

  • Virtual queueing system

If shoppers have not booked an appointment to shop at a specific store, they can virtually queue on the app. This allows them to spend their time more efficiently elsewhere until they reach the front of the virtual queue. This also allows retail managers to reduce the risk of overcrowding in long queues outside of their shops.

Success story

The By Appointment app delivers unique, competitive and important benefits for the shopper and retailer in the transformed retail environment in which we live today. 

For the shopper the main benefits include:

  1. A safer shopping experience

Safety has become the most important factor in consumer shopping habits. Consumers are protected by completing Covid-19 screening checks, contact-free check-in and out, and allowing retailers to manage store capacity and enable social distancing. 

  1. A convenient and efficient shopping experience

By checking store availability remotely instead of going there in person, and queueing virtually instead of waiting in line, a consumer’s shopping experience becomes more efficient and hassle-free. The option to plan their route to each store means shoppers can also plan their day more effectively.

For the retailer, the main benefits include:

  1. A safer working environment

By managing store capacity, retailers can protect staff working in their stores by reducing overcrowding. This is an important right for any employee, and it will boost worker satisfaction. 

  1. Drive sales

By protecting customer safety, customer confidence is boosted. This will drive sales by making customers feel reassured enough to shop in-store and spend longer while they are there. The app also allows retailers to offer customers discounts. 

  1. Stay competitive

The trend towards online shopping and digitisation means that retail stores need to start blending their in-store experience with a digital experience to stay relevant and competitive in this evolving retail landscape. The By Appointment app gives retailers the opportunity to do this.  

A successful partnership

We feel privileged to have partnered with a fantastic client, and we are proud of the work we have achieved together through the By Appointment app. We are pleased to note that they are “extremely satisfied” with our work. We “delivered 100% of the requirements on time and within budget”, delivered an “exceptional” project management style, communicated well and delivered a high-quality product.

Project facts

Team – Developers 4 (Team Leader 1, Xamarin 1, Backend dev 2), DevOps 1, QA 1,BA 1, PM 1

Project management – Scrum for production and Kanban for maintenance.

Technology – Asp.Net Core, EntityFramework Core, MS SQL, Swagger, Quartz, Xamarin.Forms, Angular, Metronic, Bootstrap

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