In this article, I explore how the analysis of the competence it is a complex task in the digital age due to the fact that industries have increasingly indefinite borders. To make sense of competition, I propose to use the theory of “jobs to be done” (JTBD) and thus be able to identify the competitors look beyond the classic models. Finally, I suggest an interesting approach: use competitors to test new ideas for digital products or new product features, without investing a lot of time and resources.
Traditionally, the competition is understood as those other organizations that offer the same solutions or offers similar to yours. A classical approach classifies competition into direct and indirect competitors. Direct competitors offer the same product or service as yours, and indirect competitors offer a different product or service, but that satisfies the same need of your customer.
Competition in the digital landscape
The competition has become more complex. in his book Driving Digital Strategy, Sunil Gupta explains that industry boundaries are becoming blurred (blurred industries boundaries). Successful digital businesses offer more than just products. They take advantage of capabilities such as data management and business models to develop platforms and ecosystems that offer a variety of solutions for their users. These capabilities allow organizations to quickly develop new services and products that go beyond their original offerings. Consequently, digital products can be easily and quickly copied and improved.
This is why we see competitors emerge from unexpected industries. A classic example is the fact that today, one of Walmart’s most threatening digital competitors is not another supermarket, but the tech giant Amazon.
When industry boundaries are so blurred, one wonders how can competitors be identified and what to do with this knowledge?
Competitor identification: the “jobs to be done” approach
Identifying direct and indirect competitors is a relatively easy task. However, how do you try to anticipate who the potential competitors are? The answer is to use a JTBD approach.
in the excellent book When Coffee and Kale CompeteAlan Klement defines a JTBD as:
“The process that a consumer goes through every time they try to transform their current life situation for a better one, but cannot because there are limitations that stop them.” In other words, it is our human nature to want to be better, to do things more efficiently, and thereby achieve a better version of ourselves. The “work to be done, or job to be done” is that process of self-improvement. For example, we may want to buy a car to transport our children safely – and be a good father or mother; but it can also be the case that we want a car to show status, and feel admired. In both cases, the same product has more than a purely utilitarian focus: users are looking for a form of transportation that also helps them in their personal self-improvement process.
With this in mind, it’s worth asking yourself, how is your product or service helping your customer achieve a better version of themselves?
Let’s look at another example: a mobile application that provides summarized audiobooks offers a cheap and fast alternative to access knowledge. But it also serves to provide a form of entertainment during the commute to work (competing with radio, podcasts, YouTube, social networks or printed books). The user of this application values her time and seeks to gain knowledge to improve her life or perhaps to have more interesting conversations. In conclusion, he seeks to create a better version of himself.
Quoting Klement, “competition is defined in the minds of customers, and they use progress as their yardstick.”
With this in mind, to identify relevant competitors for your business, I propose to analyze:
- What “job to do” of your users, or in other words, what better version of themselves are they looking to achieve by using your product or service?
- What other alternatives do they have to achieve that?
- How do those other alternatives do?
- You can do it too? Is it worthwhile/feasible for you to do so?
What else can you do to help your users progress faster, more efficiently, or even beyond their own idea of progress?
Answering these questions will help you identify new competitors and gain insight into what progress means for your users and how you can help them achieve it.
Use the competition to test your ideas
As we explored, we are in a highly competitive landscape where competition can come from anywhere and companies are increasingly quick to react to change. But such a complex landscape can also be taken advantage of by using competitor analysis to test your own ideas for new product development or to create new features for existing products, before committing time and money to building them.
The way to do this is like this:
Imagine your product is a podcast platform and you want to test a new search feature that you think will be useful to your users. This new feature uses duration, genre, author, and keywords as search variables. You think the feature will help your users find relevant content quickly, improving their experience with your product. Before you invest time and resources in developing your feature, why not test it against an existing feature? Searching for similar features, you find that a summary audiobook mobile app has a search feature that is very similar to what you have in mind. As you will notice, this competitor does not offer exactly the same product as yours, but as we discussed above, in the mind of the user, they can be used for the same purpose, for example, entertainment during the commute to work.
Here the step by step of how to conduct the test
1. Recruit 5 of your own users
If you don’t have users yet, recruit 5 people who have the profile of your potential customers (for example, we need 5 users that we know listen to audiobooks or podcasts on the go). Ask them to help you do a test session using the summarized audiobooks app. The objective is to observe how they use it, where they get stuck, where they get excited, etc.
2. Clearly define the task you want them to perform and specify a relevant context
For our example, we will ask participants to find a summary of the book they want to listen to during their next trip.
3. Do not intervene
Participants may want to ask you questions, including questions about how to use the product (which tells you a lot about how flawed it is!). Don’t be tempted to reply and just tell them to continue, that your job is just to take note of how they interact with the product.
4. Write down your observations
Paying attention to whether users get lost, stopped, abandoned the task, how fast they run it, etc.
5. Once they have finished the task
Ask them questions like:
- How did you find the task? If they answer something like, difficult, easy or very long, go deeper: what was easy?
- Why did you get stuck in part X? Why did you hesitate?
- How easy was the task?
- What was difficult about the task?
- Did you find what you were looking for? Why?
- Why did you select that audiobook?
6. Remember that we are only testing one feature and how useful it is
Don’t use this quiz to ask: would you buy this app? did you like it? Remember that what users say they will do and what they actually do tend to differ. And ultimately, this test is not designed to check the “desirability” of a product, but only the usability of a feature.
Identify Patterns If most of the participants say that the search function is effective in finding material to listen to on their next commute, and they find the process easy, then you already have indications that this is a worthwhile feature. develop.
If, on the other hand, the task is considered too complicated, too long or irrelevant, then it is better not to invest more effort in developing this function and to explore a different approach.
This process not only provides a system for testing ideas, but it is also a way to approach your users (or potential users) and develop a closer relationship with them to better understand their needs and progress ideas.
The way competition occurs in the digital landscape brings with it new challenges, such as the emergence of unexpected new competitors and the rapid development of simpler and more effective ways to solve customer needs.
In this article, I propose a view of the competition through the lens of JTBD theory, or how your product or service helps its users to create better versions of themselves. Second, I suggest using the sea of competitors to test new features or product ideas in a cheaper and more efficient way. These insights expand the traditional view of competition and offer an alternative to creatively using competitor analysis to test ideas and drive innovation in organizations.
Roxana Rojas Linares Roxana Rojas is a specialist in innovation, entrepreneurship and business strategy with a master’s degree in Entrepreneurship from the University of Sheffield, England. She has collaborated in institutions such as the Tecnológico de Monterrey and the Interactive Museum of Economics. She currently works in the education technology industry identifying innovation opportunities for Twinkl Ltd.