Some of my favorite design projects I’ve worked on through the years :
WHAT A GAS
Engie MaxiGas is a French energy company, and is the number one provider of Natural Gas to the State of Mexico. Their main competition isn’t other natural gas companies, but large, disposable gas tanks, known as Gas LP. Natural Gas is a safer, cheaper, and more eco-friendly option for residential consumers than the heavy, leaky tanks, but culturally is viewed with skepticism. In 2018, Engie MaxiGas was presented with a challenging goal: double the number of clients by 2019. They hired NUMA to help their internal innovation team to identify opportunities, and opportunities did we find.
Together with my colleague as my research buddy, we immersed ourselves in the sales and on-boarding processes in the field. First, it was crucial to understand the technical back-end functions of getting customers signed onto contracts, connected to gas pipes, and operating normally. We interviewed Engie employees, reviewed contracts and checklists, and sat in on meetings with clients at the Customer Service Center. Afterwards we hit the streets and shadowed the sales team, actual door to door salesmen and women, who knock on doors for days and leave pamphlets tucked all over neighborhoods.
We found key patterns, and turned these customer stories into generalized Customer Journeys, which we presented to the Engie Innovation team at an ideation workshop. This helped the team more clearly understand the high and low points of the sales to activation process, and revealed potential causes of the high customer turnover they were experiencing. For example, several users had misunderstanding about Natural Gas pipelines and gasoline pipelines, and thought that Natural Gas caused a recent explosion in Guadalajara. Another insight was that mostly stay-at-home moms were in their houses during the first contact with sales people, and many were unable or unwilling to make a decision about next steps before consulting with their working husbands.
Ultimately, with the help of NUMA, Engie MaxiGas focused on digitizing their slow sales process, and expanding their digital marketing presence.
ROOMIE, THE FRIENDLY ROBOT
I met Roomie_Bot, a Mexican startup, when they had a cool technology but no business model. They were a smart technical team with a functional product, but were not making sales of their proprietary “roommate” robot direct to consumers. After some initial market research, my team and I proposed a B2B model as a customer service aid, allowing humans to focus on empathy-heavy interactions and the robot to perform repetitive tasks, could be an interesting alternative application.
We set about understanding users’ trust levels with technology first, and then robots in general, interviewing one-on-one using images from Hollywood, comics, and Japan to facilitate discussions about levels of attraction, fear, likability, and perceived skill. After over 20 in-depth user interviews, we ultimately found that users’ familiarity with robots was primarily based on what they’d seen on TV, none of which were from local contexts, and most people didn’t think they’d ever interacted with a robot (even though many unknowingly had). This key insight informed us of the importance of a culturally relevant robot, a robot that would be, in a sense, latino.
The Roomie_Bot team did an incredible job of making the robot latino: Roomie_Bot understands a wide range of Spanish accents from across Latin America and responds to Mexican slang, is familiar with typical Mexican cultural norms like the abuelas’ punishing chancla, and Mexico’s love of tacos. This helps users quickly form an empathetic relationship to Roomie_Bot and increases overall accessibility in the Mexican market.
Today, Roomie_Bot gives tours in Steelcase Mexico, helps guests check-in in Hilton, and assists executives at Bayer’s Mexico City office. It is the first commercial robot in Mexico, and the first robot of its kind with Spanish as its first language.
I met the team at Edenred, a global leader in corporate prepaid services, while they were looking to adapt a US product to the Mexican market. The product in question was NutriSavings, a rewards system for healthy purchasing behavior at supermarkets. Users accumulate points based on the food they buy, scan a card at checkout, and receive discounts based on the level of healthiness of the purchases. Companies can purchase this card and program as a health and wellness benefit for their employees. In the United States, grocers as large as Walmart accepted NutriSavings, and Edenred invested heavily in developing the product catalog, developing a complex algorithm to rate and review each item. Obviously, Mexican product lists would be a bit different than those in the US, but more importantly, Mexican consumers shop, eat and cook differently than Americans.
To begin understanding future Mexican users, we started with a qualitative survey of 2,000 users, exploring the how professionals in Mexico City eat. We looked at where they bought food, how they chose food products, and their spending habits. This revealed purchasing patterns to dig into in interviews, and revealed the multidimensional landscape that is grocery shopping in Mexico. There are many more options of buying raw ingredients in Mexico than the United States, from informal pop-up weekend markets to hole-in-the-wall storefronts to street fruit carts. Our initial surveys revealed that the majority of consumers purchase fresh produce at markets, seemingly in part to the lower cost, but also the perception of the superior quality of the fruit and vegetables. Mexicans also tended to eat out more than their American counterparts, and were very consistent with their purchases. We detected very few users who had their groceries delivered, or purchased through an app.
Full of questions, we began interviewing users individually, and shadowed a few on their own shopping trips. Ultimately, we were able to understand the social value or meal time, and how this impacted the entire process of obtaining food. Most people we spoke with really didn’t understand what was considered healthy food, and in fact, we encountered interesting conversations about supplements and their prevalence in Mexicans’ perception of health.
Overall, we were able to propose new iterations for NutriSavings in Mexico, including a Blue Apron-style product and a mobile Nutritionist Bot.