Digital Product Design:

Mobile App with Minigames

This is an example of a project where I worked on Designing a Digital Product, as well as a full Business Plan for its development and market implementation. In this case the product is a hybrid product-service, where the product is a mobile application, and the service is an SaaS business model. My client was Praeter Labs Mexico S.A.P.I. de C.V.  —PLMx, a company that designs and develops emerging and innovative technology and applications for diverse industries such as Civil Engineering, Marketing, Education, and Medicine. In this case, the App and SaaS business model I designed were primarily for the Marketing, Retail, and Mobile Games Industries.

Note: Due to the commercial and private nature of this project, certain information and material is protected under NDA and Patent, and therefore has been censored or omitted from this post.


The Goal:

Marketing for Brands, User Retention for Mobile Apps

The objective for this project was to design a mobile application that rewards users for using a mobile application or playing a mobile game on their mobile devices, in order to increase the user acquisition and retention rate of those applications and games. In the process, users are rewarded with tangible products and services from brands in retail, tourism, and other industries, which serve as call-to-actions' toward consumers and consequently offer publicity exposure and marketing to those brands and industries. 

The Challenge:

Market Penetration, User Acquisition & Retention

We performed an extensive market study where we surveyed and interviewed 200 consumers, 100 in the U.S.A. and 100 in Mexico. The goal of the study was to collect and analyze statistical data on the attitudes, interests, and opinions of consumers toward mobile apps, mobile games, digital advertisements, and discount-based offers and promotions from brands. 


We discovered a strong difference in the couponing and discount industries between Mexico and U.S.A. As shown in the images below, —which are screenshots from the official 300-page business plan for the project that we put together, two-thirds of which contain data from extensive market studies and industry research—. It appears that, Mexico's business culture has not adopted and developed the couponing and discount marketing practice to the degree that businesses in U.S.A. and Canada have.

There are a dozen companies in Mexico that advertise themselves as couponing and discount businesses, however, only two of them offer actual coupons and discounts. The other marketing agencies simply advertise seasonal promotions through traditional means —traditional ads—. In addition to the scarcity of real coupons and discounts, the vast majority of coupons and discounts that exist in Mexico are not attractive to consumers, usually because they offer little value. In other words, the value of the reward is not balanced well with the time and effort that it takes to acquire and use the coupon or discount, and therefore consumers do not bother.

In the U.S.A. and Canada however, a whopping 98% of consumers said they use coupons and discounts all the time, compared to only 37% in Mexico. This does not mean that Mexico is not a good market for coupons and discounts, it only means that the market has been neglected. People in Mexico consume products and services just as much —or even more— than people in U.S.A. and Canada. If the practice of couponing and discounts in Mexico were implemented properly and a cultural paradigm shift happened with business practice, Mexico's economy could benefit tremendously.

In Mexico, only 5% of consumers are aware that they could acquire and use coupons and discounts via mobile applications on their phones, and only 2% of consumers have used at least one mobile app for couponing and discounts.

In the U.S.A. in general, those numbers didn't increase much, surprisingly. Less than 15% of consumers were aware that they could use mobile apps for acquiring and using coupons and discounts, and less than 10% had tried at least one app. Most consumers are still living in the old paradigm of printed coupons from magazines and purchase receipts. Website coupons being the only exception, where roughly 40% of consumers mentioned acquiring coupons and discounts from websites. However, with the world becoming increasingly mobile and websites becoming increasingly responsive and localized, it is surprising to see that mobile couponing and discount has yet to take off.

When it comes to the mobile games industry, there was also a discrepancy in market behaviour between consumers in Mexico and the U.S.A. In Mexico 14% of consumers said they play games on their mobile devices on an almost daily basis, compared to 32% in the U.S.A. 

When asked why they don't play more often;

  • 7 out of every 10 persons interviewed in Mexico said that most games and apps exist only in English and not in Spanish, and their English is not that good.

  • 5 out of every 10 persons interviewed in Mexico said that family and work/school keeps them busy.

  • 8 out of every 10 persons interviewed in Mexico said that they consider playing games as a waste of time —compared to 4 out of every 10 persons in the U.S.A.—.

  • 6 out of every 10 persons interviewed in Mexico said that they would probably play more often if they could gain valuable coupons and discounts by doing so.

From this data, it would appear that consumers in Mexico —in general— have lesser incentives to play games and use apps in their mobile devices than consumers in U.S.A., and their perception of the gains in doing so in Mexico are poorer. However, their general needs and interests as consumers are just the same as consumers in U.S.A. or anywhere else, they all need food, clothing, travel, entertainment, healthcare, etc.

From a mobile games business perspective, it would appear that Mexico is not a good market for mobile apps and games simply by looking at the spending statistics.


  • Only 3% of consumers in Mexico spend money in mobile games on a monthly basis, compared to 61% in the U.S.A.

However, the rest of our data suggests that there are reasons why consumers in Mexico don't spend more in mobile games, such as the fact that most games are in English and have not been localized. Some games, such as PokemonGO, Candy Crush, and Angry Birds acquired significant popularity in Mexico despite not being translated and localized, and consequently received spending from more consumers than usual.

Smartphone and mobile device penetration in Mexico and Latin America —number of consumers who own a device— has skyrocketed in the last decade. By 2020 there will be more people with smartphones and mobile devices in Latin America, than in U.S.A. and Canada combined. Mexico already has almost three times more mobile device users than Canada, and almost twice as many users who play mobile games.

Time spent using mobile devices and playing mobiles games has also been on a steady rise in Mexico and Latin America. Data analysts believe that consumers in Mexico and Latin America will soon spend just as much time in their mobile devices as consumers in U.S.A., if not more.

The Solution:

A Compelling Service that Stimulates Consumption

Once we had hundreds of pages of market and industry research data, the patterns started to become crystal clear to us. There is an overwhelming market potential and business opportunity, waiting to be tapped in both Latin America and North America. However, it requires the right market conditions to be groomed, the right product to be designed, and the right business service to be made available.

After analyzing and studying the data, I started to work on designing the product: a mobile application.

I designed the logo for the mobile app using a combination of Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop. The final version of the logo also has artistic contribution from concept artist Nick Kubash. We chose the image and identity for the app to be a hummingbird, and branded the app with names that are modified versions of Native American words for hummingbirds Huitzilli for Latin America, and Totoli for North America.— Part of the reason for this, is that hummingbirds had a special meaning for Native Americans: in their culture, seeing a hummingbird was not only a sign of good luck, but also that the Gods were willing to fulfill one of your wishes. In the same sense, our App seeks to fulfill the wishes of consumers, in the form of connecting them to discounts and promotions from brands they like.

Once the image and identity of the product were established, I started working more on functionality aspects. As shown in the images above, the functionality of the Application from a User Experience perspective can be summarized to a simple 4 step process:

  1. The user plays a game or uses a mobile app that has our API integrated,

  2. The user earns points or tokens,

  3. The user exchanges those points or tokens in our app for rewards,

  4. The user redeems their rewards in stores and brand service locations.

I started creating wireframes, flow charts and diagrams using a combination of tools including Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, ExcelPower Point, Lucid Charts, and Adobe XD. Which tool I used depended on the kind of information that I was working on, how it needed to be visualized, and whether or not it required any kind of animation, interactivity, or otherwise functional prototyping.

Note: Diagrams and spreadsheets below have censored material to protect sensitive information in accordance with the company's Non-Disclosure Agreement.

With help from an engineer, I also ran mathematical calculations using RAPTOR flow-chart programming environment, and hired a web developer to code a simple web-app as an Alpha Prototype of the app. We ran internal QA and user tests with the web-app prototype which was coded with HTML, CSS, and PHP.

Once the mobile app's functionality had been nailed down, I started to work on the business model for the SaaS part of the project. For this, we created numerous Excel and Spreadsheet documents containing calculations and breakdowns of a number of different things, including but not limited to the list of features of the app and admin dashboards, features of the minimum viable product —MVP—, matrices of reward values, calculation of number of rewards earned per user per game or app per day, month, and year, etc. 

Once the essential calculations were done and multiple functionality simulations had been run, we started to work on the Business Plan. We used a variety of business tools such as Business Model Canvas, Value Proposition Template, Venture Valuation, and Guy Kawasaki's 30-20-10 rule, among others.

A more robust and extensive Economic Engineering Analysis was performed by one of Praeter Labs partner companies, GT Consulting S.C., who specializes in carrying out Feasibility Analyses and Quality Control Studies for Engineering, Product Development, and Economic Models. A similar analysis, but for Marketing and Publicity campaigns was developed by another partner company INVOMEX S.A. de C.V..

To learn more about my work with Praeter Labs and the Totoli Rewards® Project, please contact me.

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