Stop obsessing over your competitors and get back to your customers
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When launching a new product or improving an existing one, it's tempting for product teams to look at competitors as a starting point. But if the goal is to launch a proposition that truly solves your customers' problems, do you even need to look at your competitors in the first place?
Instead of chasing feature parity, it's crucial to take a customer-focused approach. Don't just build a product that mirrors your competitors' offering, build a solution that truly improves your customers' financial life.
It's crucial to continuously talk with your customers
It all starts with your customers
At 11:FS, we take a customer-centric approach to product development using the Jobs to Be Done (JTBD) framework. You must have heard us talk about it here and there. Rather than asking customers what they want, we aim to understand what they are trying to achieve in order to design and build truly innovative solutions.
For example, when it comes to homebuying, people don’t want a mortgage, they want to buy a house.
By focusing on customer needs and outcomes over product features, we help our clients improve the lives of their customer-base whilst driving significant commercial impact for their own business.
As customer needs and the competitive landscape constantly evolve, it's crucial to continuously talk with your customers to stay relevant. If macro-jobs remain stable, micro-jobs and their relative importance can change. As an example, in the context of today's cost-of-living crisis, customers tend to prioritize tangible and short-term savings goals like ‘help me identify how much I can realistically afford to save alongside other costs’, over long-term ones such as ‘help me to achieve financial freedom and independence’.
Therefore, the most successful players will be the ones who can build a digital experience that combines a set of features that best address their customer pain points as they move through different financial challenges.
Apply a competitive analysis lens
You've done the hard work of understanding your customers' goals, now it’s time to turn your attention to competitors and identify your next growth opportunity.
Conducting competitor analysis is key to spotting trends and understanding how your competition solves your customers' problems.
But don't just list your competitors' features - assess how well their functionalities and visual design meet your customers' needs. (Shameless plug time, we have the perfect tool for that, it’s called 11:FS Pulse).
By doing so, you can identify which needs are currently underserved, allowing you to stand out in the market.
However, don't just look at your direct competitors. Look at who is using a JTBD methodology to solve their customers' needs and shape their propositions.
In the lending space for example, financial firms could take inspiration from how Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) brands empower customers to stay on top of their upcoming payments and maintain control over their finances. Both Klarna and Affirm, have set great examples for repayment practices by offering visual tracking and flexibility of repayment plans.
By listening to your customers' feedback and paying attention to the solutions they mention, you can gain valuable insights into the market and who you should take note of.
Adopting a customer-centric approach that takes into account the entire customer journey is the true path to success.
Don't be a copycat
As our ECD, Will Jones, covered - “80% of your features are not unique, don't overthink them”
That’s to say that drawing inspiration from best-in-class examples for typical features is a great shortcut in the design process, but blindly copying someone else's is not.
Peter Ramsey argues that this approach can cause designers to lose sight of the whole context in which the customer is trying to accomplish a task, including their feelings and motivations. Simply replicating someone else's feature won't necessarily lead to the same successful outcome.
Instead, adopting a customer-centric approach that takes into account the entire customer journey is the true path to success.
And when it comes to inspiration, there is so much more than financial services products. I recently came across Trust Bank's spending insights, I loved how they turned pie-charts into Tamagotchi-inspired characters that grow as customers spend!
This innovative approach not only helps customers track their finances but also adds an element of fun and engagement to the experience. By thinking outside the box and considering the emotional side of finance, companies can create groundbreaking, winning products that deliver on a JTBD basis.
My unfiltered opinion
If you want to design products that truly resonate with your customers and solve their problems, it's time to take a step back from obsessing over your direct competitors.
Start and end with your customers - build a true understanding of their needs, their desires, and their pain points. Then, take a stroll, attend an exhibition, or meet with friends. Finding true inspiration to help your customers achieve their goals doesn’t have to be confined to the usual spaces.