A Service Needed “NOW” – Why Development was Accelerated During the COVID-19 Crisis
PayPay launched “PayPay Pickup” in June this year, enabling users to pre-order takeout food from within the app. This interview with two members responsible for the project, reveals what went on during the month from the initiation of the project to its release; an exceptionally quick turnaround even for PayPay.
Let me first ask, what exactly is PayPay Pickup?
Chizuko: It’s a service that enables users to pre-order a takeout meal from within the PayPay app, and then go to the store and pick it up without having to wait in line. Since the payment is completed within the app, there’s no need to pay at the store. Users can place an order via PayPay wherever they are, whether it be from home, school, or the office, to save time as well as to cut down on physical contact at the location. The service was released in June this year, and is now available at over 10,000 stores as of September. There’s a campaign on at the moment too (until November 15), which provides a 20% return on the amount of the payment.
What were your roles in the project?
Chizuko: There were so many things that had to be decided to release the service, including its concept and the terms & conditions. I was involved across all those different aspects. I was the go-between for the development team, naturally, but also for other internal teams including PR, Sales, and Legal as well as external parties. In my opinion, the role of the team I’m in, the “Business Development Department” is, as the name suggests, to have a crack at everything necessary to drive the business forward. Along those lines, my stance was to get my hands dirty with whatever was necessary to create the business and involve the relevant people.
Bin:My role is to design and create the product for users. I gathered the requirements from the Legal, Marketing, and other teams and figured out how to incorporate them into the product. I was in constant communication with the Design and Development teams and followed up to make sure that the product was built as designed and that development was proceeding as planned. What I always had in mind was to make the product as easy as possible for users.
Launching a service in a little over a month is exceptional even at PayPay, isn’t it?
Chizuko: We had already been tossing around the idea of the service, so it had already taken shape at a high level. And then COVID-19 came along, and the decision was made to release the service a few months early, since it would help reduce physical contact at store plus it’s in line with the ‘new lifestyle’.
We wanted to release it quickly not just to respond to user demand, but also to provide a business solution for merchants suffering a drop in revenue because of COVID-19. PayPay was, the way I saw it, a new sales channel for businesses to overcome the grave situation that had come about, by leveraging the 30-million-plus PayPay user base.
It was, however, a project that would normally take a good few months, so when the decision was made to release it in a little more than a months’ time, I told myself, “right, I have to buckle down to get this done” (laughs). The thing is though, even when the lead time is short, if any of the critical requirements are neglected, it just creates problems further down the track. So, I prioritized all the tasks leading up to the release, closely communicating it with the different teams, and in that way handled each task at full speed.
Most employees had shifted to ‘work from home’ by then. Wasn’t it difficult to create a product at ultra-speed and from home?
Bin: It was a bit of a challenge to get used to, but wasn’t a blocker. To begin with, the product team is used to interacting remotely because we have a development team in India and have daily meetings online. We exchanged a lot of messages via chat every day and were able to involve a lot of people in the project remotely.
Chizuko : I made a conscious effort to create an open environment allowing project members to communicate and be at ease, since we were not able to work together in person. Most of the conversations are done via chat in a remote environment, so I deliberately used a lot of stamps, that is to say, casual responses, to set the tone so that team members could post their comments without hesitation.
What do you keep in mind when creating a service?
Bin: It’s about involving as many people as possible. I believe that the more people involved, the more impact the service we develop can have on society.
With PayPay pickup, the number of available stores increased to 10,000 within about three months of its release; we were very surprised at the speed of this accomplishment. I think it’s a testament to the hard work of the professionals in every department within the company, including Sales and Marketing. To bring a great service to the world, you can’t just do it within the Development team, you need to collaborate with many people. I think one of PayPay’s biggest strengths is that we have a lot of experts in each field, besides Sales and Marketing, and to take advantage of our strength, it’s important to get all of those professionals involved in the project.
Last of all, how do you envision PayPay Pickup as a service going forward?
Bin: Making an app is a never-ending process of continuous improvement. During these four months since the service was launched, we have been releasing improvements to the app every two weeks, but there are still many items left that need to be tackled. We want to continue to improve and make our service even better. And that’s something I’m thinking about for all of our apps, not just PayPay Pickup.
Chizuko: PayPay Pickup is still a service in its infancy. It can still be made much easier to use. “Making improvements at overwhelming speed” is something that everyone at PayPay has in mind. Even after the service is launched, the PDCA cycle is applied at a high pace to grow the service. We identify issues that need solving ourselves, but we also pick up on tweets and gather feedback from stores who use the service. The traditional takeout service happened over the phone, but now, users have been provided with a new choice in the form of “PayPay Pickup”, which at the same time, is a new sales channel for stores. I want to continue to make improvements to it, all the while working on the development of other apps as well, so that PayPay can continue to provide new solutions to both users and stores.
Thank you Chizuko and Bin!
Special thanks : Chizuko & Bin / Author & Editor : Daiki
* Employees’ affiliations are those of the time of the interview.