My wife has a purse that she bought in December of last year. I noticed that one of the straps was fraying and pointed it out to her. What started as a simple public service announcement soon turned into a Jobs To Be Done interview about when and where she bought it.
At the Switch Workshop NYC, one of the tips given was to start at the point of purchase, so I followed this advice and began at the “end” of the JTBD timeline. In Jobs To Be Done, one of the tools used is the concept of a timeline. The idea is that you want to place the consumer back in time and relive their emotions and thoughts going “in” to the purchase. Post purchase, if you ask them how they feel about things, they are prone to rationalize and you’ll get false information - if you recreate their thinking going “in” to the purchase you get a better understanding of the forces at work when they hired the purchase to do a job.
She kept claiming that the purse was an “impulse buy” but we shall see that that’s not quite true. She explained how she was shopping at DSW on her lunch break, it was December.
“Why were you shopping?” I asked.
She explained that the impetus for shopping was that her niece’s birthday was coming up and she was looking for a gift for her.
“So you were looking for shoes for her?”
“Well, no, actually, I really needed a pair of new boots.”
It turns out that her black boots had holes in them and she needed new boots. She had holes in her boots since last year but, as she explained, it wasn’t until it got to the Fall and was cold, rainy and snowy that the holes became a problem. She would still wear the boots when it didn’t rain or snow, but it had rained recently and since it was cold she had to wear pumps and got her feet icky and wet!
“Okay,” I said, “So you waiting until December to buy new boots and picked up a purse as well? Why did you wait so long?”
She paused to think about this, “There must be some reason… I know! I have another pair of brown boots and they finally got a hole in them too! That’s why I could wait on the black boots until December.”
So here I realized that there was actually a parallel timeline involving boots that I had uncovered that was related to her purse purchase.
In the Jobs To Be Done timeline, you try to identify key points or events and capture the emotional energy around those. For my wife, she noticed 1 year ago her old black boots had developed holes in them. In the timeline, this would be called the “First Thought”. However, she didn’t actively act on this idea for a year. She had her other pair of boots to fall back on and with the warm weather in Spring and Summer, the boots weren’t on her mind. It wasn’t until her second pair of boots developed holes that her thoughts were triggered back to “I should really look for a new boot”. In the timeline, this event marks the change to “passive looking” - and the 2nd boots hole discovered is called Event #1. She still wasn’t shopping yet, but the level of emotion was rising.
Later, she really developed urgency and switched to “active looking” when she got caught on a rainy day and had to wear pumps. Her feet got wet and gross (New York City streets) and then the emotion really ramped up. Event #2 was the trigger to start shopping.
I wanted to get back to the purse, so we switched gears .
“So back to the purse purchase, before this did you not have a purse to use? Why get a new one?”
She pointed to her old purse, “Oh I had that one. But you can see it’s cute but too big. I can’t use it on the weekend.”
“Weekend? What do you mean?”
She then went on to describe how she wanted a big, but not too big purse (a long monologue ensued about women and huge purses). The old purse was good because it could fit her book, which she needed for her long subway ride to work, but on the weekends, she didn’t have a book to read, and then the purse was a little too big. She did own a cute small purse that was better for weekends.
So every weekend before we headed out, she would unpack the contents of her weekday purse onto the bed, and them repack all the items into the weekend purse - minus the book and her work pass. Then on Sunday night, she would unpack the contents of her weekend purse and put all that back into the weekday purse - plus her book and work pass. This went on for a year.
I kinda stared at her in disbelief.
I asked her when she bought her old purse - it was also about a year ago when a friend was visiting from California. They went shopping together and her friend found the purse and suggested she buy it. She did indeed buy it but soon after that she had the first thought: “This purse is too stiff and bulky for the weekend.” From there, she starts to passively look the first time she has to empty her purse and the only actively look as she enters the DSW and sees the purse rack on the way to purchasing her boots.
This highlights another point in the JTBD timeline - the experience of the purchase and the satisfaction or the dissatisfaction with the purchase. In this case, the dissatisfaction with the original purse became the first thought to getting another purse. The timeline for her old purse purchase flows right into the timeline for her new purse purchase.
So in this single interview, there are actually three purchase decisions we could unpack. The boots, the old purse and the new purse. I also asked her about how satisfied she felt after using her purse.
“I like it. It can fit my book for the subway and is small and cute enough for the weekend. Plus it has a lot of pockets to organize stuff.”
Of course, now that I’ve pointed out the strap was frayed on her new purse…