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5 ways to increase ecommerce sales using the JTBD framework

When you think about customers ‘hiring’ your product to accomplish their ‘jobs’, it becomes easier to bridge the gap between understanding users and delivering their desired outcomes.

Last updated

5 Jan 2023

Gain a competitive advantage and achieve your online business’s growth goals when you adopt the jobs-to-be-done (JTBD) framework to understand exactly who your customers are. Use this guide to delve into what ecommerce JTBD is and how it can help you focus on your customers’ end goals rather than features and solutions when developing products people love to buy or sign up for.

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What is the jobs-to-be-done (JTBD) framework?

The JTBD theory proposes that, instead of purchasing products, people hire them to get a job done. A ‘job’ can be a stand-in for something they wish to accomplish in a specific circumstance (i.e. it is outcome-driven).

For example, a job may be cooking delicious food when the product is an air fryer. For the same product, decreasing meal prep time might be a job for people who are employed full-time.

Thinking in terms of this theory lets you focus on the circumstances in which customers find themselves while searching for your product. It homes in on the experience that leads them to make a purchase rather than the characteristics that define them as ideal customers (see note below). 

As such, the JTBD framework is a valuable tool for mapping the customer journey and bolstering business profitability. It enables you to:

  • Conduct meaningful market research

  • Address challenges to product innovation

  • Enhance the user experience (UX)

  • Attract quality leads

  • Ramp up conversion rates 

  • Gain a competitive advantage

  • Retain customers while enticing new ones

Note: embracing the JTBD framework doesn’t mean letting go of customer personas entirely. Rather, it’s a complement—a separate approach that allows you to know what users want out of products, i.e. why they are looking for a certain thing now.

Remember:

  • They can hire a product and rehire it as long as it works to fulfill their needs

  • They can also fire a product that does not get the job done for them

To fully grasp the ‘jobs’ concept, you can interpret it in two ways we’ll discuss below.

Jobs-As-Activities

This interpretation allows you to improve the speed, predictability, and efficiency of your site, app, or product. That’s because it tackles functional outcomes.

Here are some examples of how brands and businesses interpret Jobs-As-Activities:

Example 1: Zappos

E-retailer Zappos helps online customers find the perfect pair of shoes.

Example 2: building company

A Detroit-based building company targets downsizers who want to move out of their bigger homes.

Example 3: Waze

Navigation app Waze guides people to find free parking spaces near their destination.

Jobs-As-Progress

Meanwhile, this other interpretation brings you into the headspace of someone who buys your product. It involves the emotional and social dimensions of a purchase.

Using the same business examples, Jobs-As-Progress may come up as:

Example 1: Zappos

Customers simplify the way they buy shoes by choosing not to visit a physical store to get a pair—something Zappos fulfills.

Example 2: building company

Downsizers, comprising retirees and divorced single parents, want a smooth transition to a new chapter in their lives.

Example 3: Waze

Drivers and navigators hope to reduce the time it will take to reach their destination, which Waze enables them to achieve.

How to apply the JTBD framework and boost ecommerce sales

Now that you’ve got some background, you’re probably excited to put the JTBD framework to the test. 💪 But before you begin, consider this creative exercise: 

You’re essentially about to create a customer journey map with JTBD as your compass. The process involves walking in your customers' shoes and imagining the steps they must take to manifest their desired outcomes.

#Hotjar’s process of customer journey mapping
Hotjar’s process of customer journey mapping

It will inevitably involve lots of assumptions when you start. But in the end, you should be able to validate ideas and influence decision-makers to prioritize the improvements customers require to see value in your product.

Here’s a breakdown of the process:

1. Structure market research based on ecommerce jobs to be done

During market research, frame the buying journey based on the jobs your prospects want to accomplish—but make sure you’re not treating these jobs as a straightforward task. Instead, take the entire experience into account. 

For instance, it’s not just about empty nesters downsizing to a condominium; it’s also about them transitioning into a new phase and probably seeking to retire in their forever home.

Taking jobs to the next, deeper level with user research

Market research is broad, and most useful when launching a brand-new business or expanding to new markets. On the other hand, user research is more of a recurring responsibility. 

So, with the latter, apply either the Jobs-As-Activities or Jobs-As-Progress interpretation. Here’s how:

  • Jobs-As-Activities: sales data tells you some long-time customers have stopped using your product. You can investigate why this is happening and uncover ways to encourage usage by conducting user interviews (now available with our new product, Hotjar Engage) related to how these specific customers experienced your product.

  • Jobs-As-Progress: you find out that people use your product beyond how you imagined they would. Here, you consult the voice of the customer through a survey to learn what drives such behavior and what kind of progress they hope to make. Insights from their responses can further open you up to opportunities.

2. Find and focus on the right outcomes

Once you’ve completed your interviews, look for patterns and insights, even unusual clues. List all the problems your prospects encounter and identify what you can solve. But don’t stop at that.   

To nail the right outcomes, spot issues that are blocking them completely. At this point, tap into behavior analytics tools (like Hotjar—that’s us! 👋) to pinpoint the cause of each problem. In particular, watch session recordings to see where users u-turn (quickly return to their previous page) or rage click (click or tap continuously out of pure frustration).

#A pre-built chart on the Hotjar Dashboard showing rage clicks over time
A pre-built chart on the Hotjar Dashboard showing rage clicks over time

The right outcomes will reveal themselves once you solve your customers’ most pressing problems and notice an uplift in your growth metrics, such as revenue, conversion rate, and retention rate.

💡Pro-tip: you can also tell these jobs or desired outcomes by their distinctive characteristics*:

  • Measurable

  • Controllable

  • Stable over time

  • Devoid of solutions

  • Multi-purpose

* Taken from Strategyn, the company that introduced Outcome-Driven (ODI), from which JTBD was derived

3. Measure success according to jobs to be done

Whether you’re building a new product or working on an existing one, you will measure performance based on the outcomes you’ve outlined. 

Thus, it would be best to plug outcomes into the job story format:

"When [situation] I want to [motivation] so I can [expected outcome]."

This way, you can return to the job statement to evaluate if your product is meeting needs and fulfilling desires. 

At the same time, you can discover insights, make development decisions, prioritize fixes, and target your marketing efforts based on the expected outcomes.

4. Combine customer personas and jobs to be done

The beauty of the ecommerce JTBD framework is that you don’t have to throw away your quantitative and qualitative data, personas, and competitive analysis. Instead, use them as a starting point for your assumptions.

For instance, user personas paint a picture of who your target customers are. JTBD answers the why so that you can deliver a job well done.

How DoorDash dominated the meal-delivery market

A chart showing DoorDash’s market share on Bloomberg Second Measure

Let’s look at how DoorDash, the current leader in restaurant food delivery in the United States, found the right job to fulfill for its customers. 

Its market base includes millennials, Gen Z, parents with young children, and foodies. You could argue that the demographics and behavior of its customers overlap with those of UberEats, Grubhub, and other competitors’ targets. And even the base job it does isn’t unique: delivering to people who are too busy to cook or don’t feel like cooking but still want to enjoy good food in their homes or workplaces.

Yet, DoorDash now dominates 59% of the market because it went deeper. How? The team looked at the same customer profiles in smaller cities and rural areas and realized the potential for its product to be used by these underserved segments—segments that now account for ​​almost 40% of DoorDash’s deliveries.

So ask buyers falling under any of your personas: what solutions did they try before using your product? What made them ‘fire’ these solutions? And, like DoorDash, look for gaps in the solutions offered by competitors and try to fill them effectively.

5. Align business processes

Think of your market as a group of people trying to get a job done. Recall that we defined a job as more of an experience than a task. So, in a sense, your ecommerce store is not selling a product but an experience.

That's why it’s crucial to “create the right set of experiences for the purchase and use of the product,” according to a group of Harvard Business Review authors led by Clayton M. Christensen, the academic and business consultant who coined the term ‘jobs to be done’. They add that integrating these experiences into your processes is just as vital.

From our earlier examples, Zappos fits the bill of an ecommerce business that has successfully aligned delightful customer experiences with its processes. The online shoe and clothing retailer lets customers:

  • Get the size and fit right through ready-made guides on its app and site

  • Return products without worries by eliminating shipping fees

  • Receive support instantly and efficiently with reduced call times

Now think: how can you take these lessons and apply them to your own ecommerce store?

When you should (and shouldn't) use ecommerce JTBD

The JTBD perspective helps ecommerce businesses clearly define and communicate what their customers need. It outlines the many causes of an ecommerce team’s woes, such as abandoned carts, conversion rate dips, and sales drops.

But it’s not the be-all and end-all of customer journey mapping or product development. As such, use the JTBD framework to:

✅ Determine and deliver features necessary to help customers get their job done

✅ Save time by avoiding the development of features that aren’t needed and do not drive people to get a hold of your product sooner

✅ Devise innovative solutions together with the design thinking process

✅ Optimize the customer experience by aligning customer needs with your ecommerce conversion rate optimization (CRO) recommendations

Do not use JTBD to:

❌ Replace user stories (jobs-to-be-done and user stories should complement each other)

❌ Promote untested conclusions

Complete your jobs to be done with Hotjar

Speaking of untested conclusions, you can tap Hotjar to validate any hypotheses you have about user motivations and behavior. We already mentioned User Interviews and Surveys as your main tools to uncover people’s jobs to be done.

But you can also use Feedback to understand if, say, your customers struggle more with your product in accomplishing a certain job than others. And as always, you can view Heatmaps and Recordings to conduct ecommerce CRO and pinpoint specific causes for trends like an increase in bounce rates or a decrease in conversion rate.

Make the most of the qualitative insights derived from these Hotjar tools. Share them with a boss, colleague, or teammate to drive your point across through powerful visual data—and get buy-in for product improvement ideas that support your customers’ JTBD.

Compel users to ‘hire’ your product

Design offerings around your customers’ ‘jobs to be done’. Take this crucial first step to selling products people will love—and pay a premium for.

JTBD framework FAQs