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Added: August 20, 2021
If you have been reading this blog for some time, you probably know that Clayton Christensen’s jobs to be done theory is part of our conversion optimization process.
We have been using this theory on eCommerce, lead gen, and SaaS websites. This article will define the Jobs-to-be-done theory, what questions you should ask, and how you can use it to increase eCommerce sales.
Defining the Jobs-to-be-done Framework?
The jobs-to-be-done framework is based on the idea that people don’t buy a product, but they hire it to get a job done. So it’s all about understanding the customers’ specific job and the thought process that triggered them to hire a product or service.
Our conversion optimization team attempts to uncover the progress that customers are trying to make when using this framework. This progress can either be physical or psychological.
The idea behind this whole theory is to understand your product through the lens of your customers. But, as you conduct these JTBD interviews, the focus should never be on the product itself, but it has to be placed on the customer.
The JTBD framework takes the next step to explore customers’ true motivations for making a purchase. In the often-used example, the top-of-mind explanation is, “I need a drill.” but if you probe the customer a little deeper, you will discover that the customer actually needs a well-drilled hole.
Over the years of using Clayton Christensen’s jobs to be done framework, we have noticed that there’s nothing that is an impulse purchase. People don’t just suddenly make a purchase. They go through the purchase journey just like any other customer.
In this article about how people make decisions, Invesp’s co-founder Ayat Shukairy says:
“There is nothing like an impulse purchase. Just because something is “inexpensive” doesn’t mean it’s an impulse decision. Just because someone tends to purchase suddenly doesn’t mean they are making those decisions impulsively. They’ve gone through a purchase journey – may be faster than others, but they have.”
Another essential thing to note about the JTBD theory is that a single product has multifaceted jobs. By the way, a job in progress that a customer seeks in a given circumstance.
Every product has three job dimensions to it. It’s not always about the functional job, but there are also two power job dimensions: social and emotional.
In our previous articles about the JTBD theory, we have explained in detail all the three job dimensions, but here’s a quick recap:
Functional job: This is an anchor in which the emotional and social jobs are defined. Without defining the core functional job, there’s no way you can determine the emotional and social jobs.
Emotional job: This is the feeling that your customers want to have or avoid when they purchase or use your product or service.
Social job: This is how we want other people to perceive us after purchasing or using the product or service.
Unlocking all these different job dimensions from the customer will help you understand the real value that your product is bringing to the table. In a nutshell, the JTBD theory helps us understand what motivates customers to act by showing us what they need to get done.
The framework also helps drive innovation within e-Commerce businesses by helping you identify jobs that are poorly performed in the customers’ lives and then coming up with products and experiences that cover that gap.
Besides opening up innovation doors, the jobs-to-be-done theory can pinpoint you to different markets that you never knew existed. This is something that we have experienced first-hand:
One of our clients is a large e-Commerce business that focuses on selling high-end furniture. For the longest time, they used to think that they were selling furniture to individuals.
But when we conducted the JTBD interviews, we noticed that a big chunk of their customer base is basically real estate agents that help move people into new apartments. Our CRO strategists then advised them to venture into this market. And from that real estate market, our client generated close to $21 million in sales. This goes to show the power of the JTBD theory.
Questions you should ask during Jobs-to-be-done interviews
In most cases, your products are hired to do a different kind of job you never anticipated. Growth opportunities are found when you uncover the entire job the customers are trying to accomplish. The only way to learn about this is to ask the right questions that will draw insightful answers.
According to Ayat,
“The questions we ask during the jobs-to-be-done interviews help us understand the journey from the moment a customer first heard about the product to the day they finally decided to make a purchase.”
She also adds:
“When conducting these interviews, it’s important to use your questions to dig deep into the emotions of your customers. The only way you can do this is to try to make them imagine the day they made a purchase. What I usually say at the beginning of the interview is, “imagine I’m shooting a documentary, there is a camera on my shoulder, and I’m zooming into you and your life at that moment when you decided to make the purchase.”
It’s easy to ask customers the wrong questions. It’s easy to ask customers about their opinions. Remember, this is not a focus group, you don’t want to ask customers for their views, but you want to learn what motivated them to make a purchase.
Avoid asking the why questions.
It’s not helpful to ask a customer, “Why did you buy this product?” because they will only give you top-of-mind answers. This question doesn’t help draw any emotions that the customer was going through when they decided to buy the product.
And again, it’s not helpful to ask customers questions about the future like “We are considering adding feature X to the product, would you use it?” People are not really good at predicting their future behaviors –but, they can definitely tell you what they did in the past.
Instead, ask them…
When did you make the purchase?
This question helps you understand everything in your customers’ minds the day they made the purchase decision. Ayat suggests digging deeper by also following up with questions like:
“What was the weather like? Who were you with? These kinds of questions will make the customer go back to when they finally bought the product.
When was the first time you actually heard of the brand?
This question will help you understand how familiar the customer is with the brand and the particular product. Knowing how your customers heard about your brand can help you structure effective marketing campaigns on the right kind of channels.
When did you feel you needed this product?
This will help you understand the events that led to the purchase of the product. What are some of the incidents that occurred throughout their journey before the purchase? This can help understand their entire journey from the moment that they first heard about the brand, the first time they heard of the product, to the moment they made a purchase.
What did your life look like before making a purchase?
Here’s the thing, when a customer decides to hire your product, there’s a specific solution that they have to fire. When you ask them about life before using your products, customers are more likely to talk about events in their life and triggers that led them to purchase your product.
As you talk about life before your product, make sure that you ask about what was good and bad about that kind of life. Remember, you have to capture every detail = leading up to the purchase of your product = as if you were filming a documentary.
So, if we were to recommend a list of 9 questions you should ask during the JTBD customer interviews, here’s how it would look like:
- When did you decide to buy our product?
- What was happening in your life before our product?
- What happened that finally made you say I need to find something else?
- How did you start looking for this product?
- Were you Googling, or were you just asking friends?
- Did you hear about our product/brand previously?
- What led you to us?
- Once you discovered our brand/product, what made you confident that this was the right solution for you?
- Is there anything that you noticed?
Using Jobs to be done to increase eCommerce conversions
When your eCommerce business has dozens of products, how do you go about the interviews? Which customers should you focus on? Do you reach out to customers who purchased a particular product, or do you just choose randomly?
These are the exact questions I asked Ayat, and this is what she said, “it tends to be a little bit more challenging to apply the jobs-to-be-done framework on eCommerce companies that have hundreds of products.“
Even though it’s challenging, she also says that there is a way to apply the framework:
“If a website has multiple products, you can focus more on the brand and not the actual products. You can still ask your customers why they decided to hire the brand and not any other brands. Doing so will help you understand the competition landscape. And when it comes to competition, it’s not necessarily eCommerce business vs. other eCommerce businesses.“
Ayat also adds that the information gathered can also be used to “create better opportunities on the website, and you can also learn more about the push and pull factors that made people make a purchase decision.”
If you work at an e-commerce business, you probably have a vast array of people that buy your product(s).
Not every customer is an ideal candidate for the JTBD interviews.
You don’t want to interview customers who just bought your product because they are probably in the honeymoon phase or they still haven’t started using it.
The ideal customers to interview have purchased your product between a month to three months ago.
It’s also vital to ensure that the customers you will interview are the real decision-makers or the actual person who bought the product.
Another essential thing to think about is figuring out who exactly you are trying to reach better. Are you going after a new market? Are you going after high-paying customers?
When you have answered these questions, then you’d have to get on the phone with at least 10 or more of those customers.
Once you have figured out who you want to interview, you can then reach out to them by saying:
Hey, we are looking to better understand how people like you use our product and why they use it. We would love to connect with you for 40 to 4 minutes.
The truth is not everyone will be interested. Not everyone is going to have time. So if you can entice your target customers by offering them a gift card, you may get their attention.
When interviewing those customers, just start finding patterns in the pains and what motivated them to buy from the brand or the specific product.
JTBD interviews are unlike any other kind of customer interview, they are highly tactical. When conducting JTBD interviews, always make sure that you record and transcribe all the interviews. Don’t just depend on taking notes, you might end up missing important quotes. If possible, conduct these interviews with a team member and take turns to ask customers questions. This will help