MusicBox is a music streaming service with a specific focus: cafes, restaurants, stores and similar venues (hospitality and retail sectors). Music is extremely important to business in this market: it enriches the venue atmosphere and feeling, causes or intensifies good emotions in patrons and customers.
This importance on customer satisfaction, stay and spend is well established through extensive research, and easily confirmed by personal experience. However, most popular music services are focused on the consumer, not on these businesses, and that’s where MusicBox comes in.
Identifying the customer’s pain points
We first started by identifying the pain points the venues have. All the other solutions forced the venue managers or barmen to spend their time setting up and managing music playback. Other services interrupt the playback with jingles, shows, speakers, commercials, disrupting the patron’s experience in the venue. And lastly, they give the users very limited control over when and how something will be played.
Based on the initial research, there was a clear need for a solution that would address these problems.
We didn’t want to jump to conclusions and immediately start designing and building a complete solution. Our experience showed us many times this approach is likely to lead to problems - cost and time overruns, lousy results, and ultimately business failure.
Instead, we used an incremental approach, building out the solution in small steps, and talking to customers (venue managers and owners) at each step of the way, following the best practices of Lean Startup and Agile Development approaches. The feedback received was incorporated into the rest of development, tweaking and guiding our vision. Ultimately the solution ended up being exactly what the customers asked for, ensuring uptake and business success.
The user experience
To set the expectation of user experience and friendliness, one of major competitors to MusicBox is a local radio - you turn it on, tune in, and that’s it. Moreover, the typical users of the service (managers or barmen) come from wide variety of backgrounds, are of different ages and have different computer skill levels, and are always busy. If they have to think hard about how to use the service, it’s dead.
This is where our small steps approach paid off as well. Starting from a simpler, limited interface, we were able to identify idiosyncracies, incorrect assumptions about user behaviour, and use that knowledge to design an experience that is as simple and intuitive as possible. This is not limited to what’s on the computer screen. As MusicBox has an (optional) hardware component, installing and setting up that had to be a no-brainer.
Key feature of MusicBox is the ability to stream a personalized selection of music and control the playback directly (stop, skip, queue song manually, and the like). This is a key differentiator from other hospitality and in-store music services which provide a number of curated "radio stations" with limited or no control over the content.
However, this feature requires the server to provide a separate music stream for each customer — a much harder problem, both on the CPU and the network bandwidth, than providing a few music streams. This proved to be an interesting challenge: while we first started with off-the-shelf available software, we ultimately wrote a custom in-house solution using Go programming language.
Our bespoke solution allowed us to scale the service to ever-larger number of customers without requiring massive resource investments or hefty cloud service bill.
API and integrations
Another important technical aspect of the service is that it exposes a single API that's used by the MusicBox user interfaces (desktop and mobile) but is also available to 3rd-party integrations. This allows MusicBox partner companies to integrate the service control directly into their software.
One example of this integration is integrating MusicBox jukebox feature with venue POS software and including in the receipt a code patrons can use to play their favorite song. This feature alone noticably increased patrons' likelihood of visiting again and spending more (as a way to be able to play more songs), thereby directly impacting venue revenue.
The unique challenges presented by the project are what made it so interesting to work with. We've assumed little, tested a lot, came up with creative solutions to tough engineering problems, and, ultimately, delivered a great product.
Visit MusicBox today and see for yourself!