A Casa Lotérica in Brazil, where many people go to pay their bills. Photo: Rafael Neddermeyer/Fotos Públicas
by Maíra Gouveia, designer and researcher at Questtonó
During the initial stages of our project with Energisa, the sixth biggest power company in Brazil, we came across an essential piece of information. 40% of all energy bill payments were done in Casas Lotéricas (lottery stores), all over Brazil. For most of us researchers, paying bills is as practical as opening out bank apps and scanning the barcode. Still, in a country where around 50% of the population doesn’t have a bank account, we felt it was extremely important to understand what exactly is a Casa Lotérica, and why it is so important to so many Brazilians when it comes to paying bills in person for this research design example.
What is Casa Lotérica?
The literal translation to Casa Lotérica is Lottery House. Its first lottery store was created in 1784 in Ouro Preto, Brazil, in order to collect funds to build the city’s councilors camera and the public jail. It became famous all around the country and made official in Brazil by the emperor Dom Pedro II, in 1844.
While lotteries were first privately explored through 5-year concessions, this changed in 1961, when the government decided to control the whole operation. A few years later, in 1967, Brazil created the Sports Lottery, inspired by the same kind of gambling that happened in Europe. The government decided that this new lottery would only be sold in official establishments, and so Casa Lotérica was created. More and more game options were created throughout the years, and the Casa Lotérica spread all over Brazil, controlled by the Caixa Econômica national bank.
From sole gambling to utility bill payment center
While the Casa Lotérica became more and more popular, a banking crisis was happening in Brazil. A large number of state banks went bankrupt, and the government decided to privatize most of them. Large private banks incorporated these small banks and their clients as a consequence. From 1993 to 2013 the number of banks in Brazil went down from 243 to 158.
This moment marks a significant change in the role of the Casa Lotéricas. In order to avoid the big lines that were formed every month in their agencies, private banks started to refuse to accept payment for utility bills and to pressure the government to allow people to pay these bills in Casas Lotéricas since these were administered by Caixa Econômica, a national bank.
So, in 1991, Casas Lotéricas became something else other than a place for gambling and transformed into the place where Brazil’s population gained access to bank services even if they don’t have a bank account. Nowadays, the revenue from bill payment taxes is much more expressive than the income that comes from gambling and the lottery itself.
Even though they’re controlled by Caixa Econômica, an official national bank, for many people Casas Lotéricas is a place where they get bank services in a simple, (sometimes) fast and uncomplicated way.
Research design project takeaway
One of our discoveries during the Deep Brazil design research is that people are scared of banks. They don’t understand their services, often feel like they’re being stolen and, more importantly, feel embarrassed by all the security checkpoints in the bank entrances. In Brazil, all the banks have a metal detector at the door, and one or more security guards check all people before they’re allowed to enter the facilities.
Casas Lotéricas are important because they offer the same services as a normal bank, without all the fuss.
That is the main takeaway out of this research design example. The simple language and the familiar faces make people trust Casas Lotéricas way more than any other bank, and the easy access to cashiers make it look like it’s a place for everyone – without any constraints or possible embarrassments, Casas Lotéricas provide important services for those who most need them.
Understanding how people perceive Casas Lotéricas was fundamental to our research design since any solution we proposed had an initial condition: it was important for the new solutions to be as easy and simple, if not more, than going to a Casa Lotérica. We had to avoid any association to known bank brands, as they are perceived as extremely untrustful, and tackle the few problems that we identified during the payment journey: long lines, commute price, distance, working hours.
For many people in Brazil, paying utility bills is only possible in a Casa Lotérica. The reasons are many: tradition, convenience, lack of information. During our journey to Brazil Profundo, we deep-dived into the realities of our consumers – talked about dreams, fears, regrets, their daily struggles, and what makes them happy. It’s our belief that a research design project is only complete if we are able to come up with simple words and symbols that translate the relationship of people to what they most care about.
It was only after we understood the meaning behind Casas Lotéricas that we managed to incorporate those same meanings to the core of our proposed solutions. This is what ensures that any design project created is speaking the same language as the people who are actually going to use them.
How to use research design to develop meaningful solutions?
If your company needs a deeper understanding of your customers to innovate solutions as seen in this research design example behind Energisa’s case study on energy and utilities digital transformation, expand your brand globally without losing its identity or even to redesign its whole consuming experience, the good news is: we can help you.
We are a cross-disciplinary team of designers, engineers, researchers and strategists who identify unique market opportunities based on people’s needs, and cultural trends with the ability to design & develop ready-for-market products, services, and experiences. We do this by developing physical and digital products, brands and services in a systemic and integrated way.
Questtonó is a design and innovation consultancy that has a successful track record of 25 years + 140 design awards, deeply understanding US & Brazil Market to deliver insight-driven + human-centered results.