How to build a digital product: Mapache Gurú

How can you build an online comparator? Which is the process you have to follow, from the niche search phase to the launch? Today, we want to tell you the example of Mapache Gurú as a business case in all aspects, from strategy to technology.

Precedents

Mapache Gurú is a collaboration between several companies with shared partners. It is important to explain this factor, it is not self-promoting but when assessing how to launch a project you must take into account what cards you play.

  • The Fish ><///º>, Carlos Prieto, Daniel Seijo, Javi Sanromán and Óscar Miguel are responsible for design, strategy and technology respectively.
  • ADSLZone, one of the most important technology web groups in Spain, behind portals such as Movilzona or HTCManía.
  • Diariomotor and the online comparator ¿Qué coche me compro?, founded by the partners of The Fish, and the model that inspired us.

The story begins in 2005 with the creation of Diariomotor. In 2013 we saw that a blog hardly answers the user’s questions about which car to buy, and we decided to launch the car comparator.

At that time we registered other domains thinking that the technology and strategy could be taken to other sectors, such as a comparator of motorcycles, bicycles or mobiles.

In 2017 we sold half of the company to ADSLzone for the synergies we could have with a larger group. One of them is to take advantage of the know-how of the car comparator to bring it to technology.

Mapache Gurú

The overall strategy of a comparator and an online project: CAC and LTV

Our framework for launching a working B2C online project is as follows:

  • You must create value for the user
  • There must be someone willing to pay for it (either the user or a third party)
  • There must be a sustainable mechanism to put the user and the client in contact using the web.

I would say that 95% of projects fail because of the third point, which is never taken into account. More succinctly, CAC < LTV, i.e. the income per user (Life Time Value) must be less than what it costs you to attract it (Client Acquisition Cost).

For example, suppose a bicycle or motorcycle comparator:

  • Is it a value for the user? Yes, it would be helpful to choose among all the options
  • Is anyone willing to pay for it? Yes, bicycle shops or motorcycles brands
  • Is there a sustainable mechanism to connect them? To be sustainable (CAC<LTV), either users must arrive (relatively) easily or cheaply, or the benefit per user must be (relatively) high.

And this is where we have the problem. In both cases, there is a lot of SEO traffic, but also a lot of competition from other e-commerce and media sites. Margins in both cases are normal, neither especially high nor low.

But, above all, we do not have any differential advantage over other players in bicycles or motorcycles, as our websites do not have a recurring public of that profile.

In the case of mobile phones we also have a market with a lot of searches and a lot of competition, and with margins similar to the previous ones. However, there we do have a competitive advantage, and that is the traffic of the ADSLZone websites.

Although in this article we have simplified the process a little, the key is to analyze the CAC and LTV for each sector, and especially those in which we can have an advantage over other competitors.

Mapache Gurú

Product definition

Once we identify that opportunity in a sector (mobile devices) we ask ourselves questions like these:

  • How many mobiles are sold annually in our market?
  • How many of them are sold in the free channel, that is, not tied to operators?
  • How many of them are sold online?
  • What is the average selling price of these mobiles?
  • What kind of mobiles are sold the most? (e.g. Android or iOS)
  • How much commission can we get as affiliates (e.g. Amazon)?
  • What are the search and comparison channels?
  • What key factors does a user look for on a mobile phone? (e.g. features, price…)

In the case of mobile phones we find several interesting factors. For example, it is a very large market in both the United States and Spain, with reasonable commissions and a mature sector in which it is not difficult to reach agreements with stores.

The market is clearly segmented into two types: Apple and Android. Apple is a special case, especially in recent years the number of options was small and the price difference too. It is difficult to add value to the user and it is also difficult to commission the sale.

However, the opposite is happening in Android: there are more and more manufacturers and more fragmentation. Not only that, but they are all the same on the outside and have a very similar operating system, but technical features with a thousand parameters, and without taking into account possible cases such as the veto from Google to Huawei… How to decide then? Our user’s doubt is the opportunity to create a tool that adds value.

In short: compared to the Apple model in which users are clear about what to buy, in Android the range of options is infinite and it is very difficult to decide.

How the user makes decisions

Since we created our first car comparator we have a theory. Users do not use a comparator to make a decision, but to justify the decision they have already made. Even so, we show the data regardless of what the user is looking for, i.e. we do not try to reaffirm their choice or convince them otherwise.

Another of our maxims is that there is a substantial difference between how an industry names its products and how users perceive them. Our norm is to use the language of the user, not the language of the industry. It seems obvious but most sites do not. For example, a user doesn’t know what a B-SUV car is, but he does know what a “small and country” car is.

In the same way, we call mobiles according to what the user calls them or what typical use the user wants to give them, such as mobiles for selfies or mobiles for elderly people.

This is how buying guides are born, which are usually the entry point for most users. They are a profiled selection of a series of devices, made by the team of experts. But this in the background would be a manual comparator, does not reflect changes in real-time and fits generic searches.

But if the user really wants to profile by specific features, such as mobiles under 500€ with larger QHD screen and 8GB of RAM will prefer to use the mobile search engine.

This union between editorial and technology is a complete solution that is usually separate in most portals: either they are very good in the technical comparator or very good editorially, but not both.

Mapache Gurú

Should we grow vertically or horizontally? Should we focus on the core or extend it to other products?

One of our big questions from the beginning has been whether or not we should include other products within the same portal.

We could try to look good by explaining that “you have to do one thing and do it well”. But to create a successful project does not consist in following entrepreneurial book phrases, but in making difficult decisions.

Let’s imagine that we want to add other products such as loudspeakers to Mapache Gurú.

Cons:

  • We deviate from our core. We divide the focus.
  • The user would associate Mapache Gurú not only with mobiles, may perceive less specialization.
  • The platform needs to be prepared for several types of products.

Pros:

  • We can attract users for other products and that end up looking at mobiles.
  • The user would associate Mapache Gurú not only with mobiles but that is also positive if we do well.
  • The platform is already prepared for various types of products, the relative cost is low.

Our final decision has been not to discard other products, and in fact, at the time of writing this article, we are preparing the second vertical within Mapache Gurú.

We do not mean to say that there is a single answer, or that we are right, or that we are not going to change our mind. A lot of literature approaches it as a unique answer because it is easier to sell your story if you eliminate the uncertainty in the reader. Reality does not consist of eliminating uncertainty, but in learning to deal with it and to be more reactive than established dogmas.

Branding

When creating the brand for our product, we worked with multiple names and it took a few meetings and brainstormings until everyone involved was convinced with the name, colors, brand and, also very importantly, the tone and language in which we were going to speak to our users.

“Mapache Gurú” is a name that has sonority and strength and, although at first glance it may not seem so, with an international vocation. It has an attractive sonority for a Spanish speaker and also for an Anglo-Saxon, although the latter changes the accentuated syllable.

The raccoon is an animal that we love and admire for its intelligence and ability to adapt. It is a natural searcher, who does not cease in his effort to stir everything until he gets his trophy (an apple, a piece of pizza or other treasures), which is fully aligned with the spirit of our product and the functionality of exhaustive searches of our comparator.

The green color communicates concepts aligned with our business, such as growth, freshness, harmony, security or leisure.

The font of the logo is Choplin, which is a modern serif and apparently simple but very robust and solid, which are all positive values.

As far as language is concerned, we wanted it to be informal and with a lot of personality. The idea is to convey that it is our pet raccoon who recommends products, gives advice and warns you of price increases and decreases. This distances us from the competition in which cold numbers are everything. We try to talk on familiar terms, in a fun way but without ever losing the respect that our customers deserve.

Mapache Gurú

Design

The design was treated with the principle of “mobile-first”, that is, a design was proposed in which the most important thing is a perfect mobile experience, so it was designed first for this format, and then it was adapted to other resolutions such as tablet and desktop, looking for the best possible user experience on these devices.

The design is modern, clean and functional and, in addition to purely aesthetic criteria, two fundamental factors were taken into account:

  • Conversion: The design had to be oriented to results so that the user ends up in the purchase page of at least one of the products, through one of the multiple CTAs that we offer.
  • Performance: The design could not be an impediment for a very fast website and we wanted to avoid any perception on the user of unnecessary waits because of an excess of styles, javascript effects or oversized images.

For typography, we combined the font of the logo, Choplin, with Roboto in its serif and sans serif options. The combination works very well, being the web very legible even offering a lot of personality.

As for the design of the pages, there are three templates that required multiple versions. They were refined until we came up with a format in which we believe the user can take all the potential out of Mapache Gurú:

  • Search Engine: A search engine as powerful as the one developed for Mapache Gurú, requires an interface with which the user can get all the juice. This page is the heart of the web and the user can create complex search combinations using selectors, ranges, texts, filters, etc. It shows the trend in prices for each device while displaying a prices comparison between several stores where the user can start the buying process.
  • Product Page: The Product Page offers very complete information of each product, through the use of icons, statistical bars, tables, etc.. It offers a very prominent price zone per store that accompanies the user on the scroll tour through all the data.
  • Comparator: If showing the characteristics of a single product is already a challenge given a large number of specifications, showing the characteristics of three products at the same time, is a challenge that we believe we have overcome positively.

Technology

Just an approach to the technology behind Mapache Gurú: we’re a small development team, the same team that manages the development of similar stacks like our car comparator Qué coche me compro and that the origin website of our digital adventure: Diariomotor, our Spanish car news website with the most audience in Spain.

The technology stack behind Mapache Gurú encompasses different technologies, starting from a project base made in Rails and WordPress in headless mode, frontend technologies like Vue and a high performance/concurrency web infrastructure combining Nginx, Puma, Elastic search, MySQL and so on.

You can read more about the technology behind Mapache Gurú in this article: Mapache Gurú Tech Stack.

Mapache Gurú

Monetization

The basic model of Mapache Gurú is affiliation.  That is to say, for each mobile that is sold through a link we receive a commission.  This presents us with a dilemma: should we include mobile phones or shops where we do not receive a commission?  The answer is simple: yes. Basically, because the comparator wouldn’t make sense if it isn’t reliable. A different scenario would be if prices were very competitive and there was a single provider (store) that does not offer us a commission, there we could eliminate it if we do not harm the user.  

Initially, we launched without agreements with all the suppliers, but we still diverted traffic to them. The reason is that it’s easier to get started than to negotiate an agreement when we don’t have enough volume.  One of our strategies has always been to start selling late, when we are already in a position of strength, not when we have to ask for favors.

Marketing and Acquisition

As we said at the beginning, most online projects fail for the same reason: a relatively high acquisition cost compared to the revenue per user.

Our key channels for acquisition are agreements with other sites (our group and external) and organic traffic. We evaluated these four:

  • Agreements with portals (affiliates): We remark that it is our main asset, at least in theory, and our differential factor. Being able to derive traffic from other technology websites of our group means that, with the same other factors as the competition, we have an advantage.
  • SEO: here we compete without advantage, but even so we know that few can have our level of content and our level of technology at the same time. It is easy to find good content portals and good comparators, but not both on the same site.
  • Social networks: when we launched the car comparator we were clear that a car is not something you buy impulsively because you see a good offer. You have to be actively looking for it.                               
  • SEM: We are dedicated to selling qualified traffic, if we buy traffic to sell it more expensive we would be doing what is known as arbitration. There are very good people in that area and it is not our main value. However, we are providing an intermediate value that can improve the conversion, and is up to the user to decide. Although in theory, it could be a good idea, to this day we have not yet researched it in depth.

Related article: UI / UX Case Study with Apiece Apart