Gap Identification Using Jobs-To-Be-Done, Constraints and Outcomes

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The most common role that market research plays in helping companies to create new products is to identify gaps in the market, where a gap is an unmet need, want or identification of a problem with existing products. This page describes three related approaches to this problem; there are numerous other approaches.

Jobs-to-be-done

Any purchase can be thought of in terms of the jobs that need to be done which motivate the purchase. When buying a car, we may have in mind the jobs of getting to work, transportation to holidays and keeping up with the Joneses. When buying yogurt, the jobs to be done may include functional jobs, such as losing weight and satisfying hunger, emotional jobs such as making us happy and social jobs such as impressing people. The jobs may need to be done regularly, such as filling our stomachs, or they may be one-off jobs. They can be driven by a specific situation, such as having had to skip a meal, or be intrinsic to the person, such as a desire for a snack at the same time every day. The following table shows jobs to be done in the yogurt category.

Satisfy hunger Lose weight / Maintain current weight
Boost blood circulation Manage arthritis
Boost immunity Manage cholesterol
Build / Tone muscles Manage diabetes
Cool down Relieve muscular pain
Ease allergies Relieve stress
Fix / Maintain digestion / bowels activities Re-energise
Improve brain functions (e.g. Memory, alertness) Satisfy thirst
Improve vision Strengthen bones
Improve quality of sleep Strengthen nails
Have shiny hair Strengthen teeth
Indulge Ward off / Prevent cancer
Look younger


Note how different these are to generic statements of benefits and needs; they are all precise descriptions of activities that people do, or things they may want a yogurt to provide. When trying to come up with a list of jobs, it can be useful to focus on ancillary jobs, which can be split into related and unrelated ancillary jobs. When Apple launched the iPod, it not only provided a device for playing music, it also solved the related problems of buying and cataloging music. Similarly, Nespresso solves the problem of buying, storing and grinding coffee. Non-related jobs are jobs that can be done at the same time, such as taking photos with a camera or drinking coffee while driving (which is facilitated by cup-holders).


Constraints

Once we have identified the jobs-to-be-done, there are usually two ways that we can get more detailed information about the jobs. We can focus on constraints that prevent jobs from being done well and outcomes which that are desired from jobs. It is often helpful to prioritize jobs to be done in terms of how many people need to do these jobs, how important they are and how dissatisfied people are (each of which can can be measured using standard questions in a questionnaire (e.g., How important...). If a job is common, important and people are dissatisfied with the products they currently use for the job, then the job presents more of an opportunity. For example:

ImportanceSizeOpportunity.png

A constraint is something that prevents a job from being done or adversely impacts the outcome. The identification of constraints can be particularly helpful with new product development. When we focus on what consumers want, we are leaving it to the consumer to tell us what innovations they desire and they often do not have the insight or understanding of possibilities to be able to do this. Think about the coffee market five years ago. Research continued to show the important emotional and social role of coffee. The true aficionados wanted to be baristas in the comfort of their own homes. And what new products were targeted at this segment? Mini industrial coffee makers, designed to replicate the gourmet café experience, but with an emphasis on simplicity and ease of cleaning.

The Nespresso machine has been the standout success in this segment in recent times. Interestingly, it fails in terms of most of the key needs were identified if research into coffee before the Nespresso was launched. The user is nothing like a barista; they just drop a pod into a machine and press a button. How could such a functional product meet the market’s aspirations? It does so because it deals with all the constraints of the coffee making jobs. It is very fast. It is easy to clean. People can have much greater control over getting their perfect brew, with different varieties of coffee for every person. They can order online.

Outcomes

It can be useful to break down a job into a series of outcomes. An outcome is an assessment of how well a job has been done. For example, these outcomes relate to the ‘satisfy hunger’ job performed by yogurt:

Decrease price / cost Increase enjoyment
Decrease time taken to plan meal Decrease guilt
Decrease time taken to shop Decrease saturated fats
Decrease serving difficulty Decrease calories
Decrease consumption difficulty Decrease food intolerance
Decrease time to prepare Increase ease of eating ‘on the go’
Decrease time to clean up Increase environmental sustainability
Increase time until I become hungry next

Identifying and measuring jobs-to-be-done, constraints and outcomes

Jobs, constraints and outcomes are relatively easy to identify through any or all of qualitative research, introspection, discussions with stakeholders and reviewing previous studies. Various Ideation techniques, such as SCAMPER, can be useful.

If an outcome is both important and consumers believe that current products do badly on the outcome, this suggests that there is a gap in the market relating to this opportunity. One method for quantifying the resulting opportunities is to:

  1. Get consumers to rate the importance of each outcome on a scale of 1 to 10.
  2. Get consumers to rate their current level of satisfaction with the products they currently buy in terms of addressing these outcomes on a scale of 1 to 10.
  3. Prioritize the opportunities with the highest score, where the score is computed as:

Opportunity = 2 × Importance - Satisfaction

There is no great weight of scientific evidence behind this formula, but it is a useful place to start.