Latest Trends in Market Research: How JTBD is Shaping the Future

There has been a seismic shift in how we discover and purchase products which has us questioning whether market research is starkly out of touch?
By
Adelynne Chao

Gone are the days where the predictable flow of consumer behavior was easily tracked and influenced through a few limited marketing channels. Welcome to the era where TikTok, Instagram, and a myriad of digital platforms bombard us advertising, influencing, and marketing. There has undoubtedly been a seismic shift in how we discover, interact with, and purchase products which has us questioning whether market research methodologies today are starkly out of touch?

In this article we dive deep into how modern frameworks like Jobs to Be Done (JTBD) and generative AI technologies are not just shaping, but revolutionizing the future of understanding consumer behavior. It's time to say goodbye to the bar charts and lengthy reports of yesteryear and embrace a future where market research brings clarity, drives decision-making, and places the customer at the heart of every strategy.


The outdated market research playbook 

Traditional market research techniques, while once groundbreaking, now seem to be stuck in a bit of a time warp. Many of these methods, including concept testing, brand tracking, and segmentation studies, were developed in an era that predates the internet's ubiquity. Back then, consumers' choices were influenced by a limited set of channels—primarily TV and print media. This simplicity in the consumer decision-making process allowed for straightforward approaches to market research that focused heavily on direct consumer feedback and behavior in these limited contexts.

However, the landscape of how consumers discover, evaluate, and purchase products has undergone a dramatic transformation. The digital age has introduced an explosion of information and access, with platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and countless online marketplaces reshaping the way brands and consumers interact. In this new environment, traditional market research methodologies fall short. They often miss the nuances of consumer behavior that are influenced by the rapid, complex flow of information across various digital platforms.

The crux of the issue is that many of these outdated market research techniques are predicated on assumptions about consumer behavior that no longer hold true. They rely on models that view consumer decision-making as a linear process (including the brand funnel), influenced by a small number of controlled media channels. Today's reality is anything but linear. Consumers are influenced by a diverse array of sources, many of which did not exist when these methodologies were conceived.

Traditional market research outputs themselves also leave a lot to be desired. There can be an over reliance on charts and lengthy data-heavy reports filled with industry jargon, which often do little to clarify the actionable steps businesses need to take. In an age that requires quick thinking and quick decision-making, sifting through dense reports for insights can hinder rather than help. We’re in the age of “information overload”. Modern businesses need a modern approach, and this calls for a refresh in the way market research is conducted and communicated.

A new playbook is needed—one that understands the digital-first consumer and delivers insights that are clear and actionable.


The rise of customer obsession through JTBD 

The market today isn't what it used to be. In a landscape saturated with options, the key to differentiation and success lies not just in offering a product but in fulfilling a specific need or job that the customer is looking to get done. This is where the Jobs to Be Done (JTBD) framework comes into play, steering businesses towards a profound understanding of their customers' core needs and desires.

JTBD is a framework that is very much in tune with the modern consumer. Unlike traditional methods that often categorize consumers based on demographic data or superficial preferences, JTBD seeks to uncover the underlying reasons behind a consumer's decision to purchase a product or service. It answers not just the "what" but the "why" behind consumer choices, focusing on the tasks they are trying to accomplish or the problems they are trying to solve.

This framework has empowered businesses to become truly customer-obsessed. By identifying and understanding the jobs that customers need done, companies can tailor their products, services, and marketing strategies to meet these needs more precisely. This alignment not only enhances customer satisfaction but also fosters loyalty and drives growth. The reason is simple: when businesses solve real problems, customers are more likely to return and recommend their products or services to others.

Direct-to-Consumer (D2C) brands have been at the forefront of adopting a JTBD-centric approach, leveraging it to carve out niches in crowded markets. By focusing on specific customer jobs, these brands deliver value that resonates on a personal level, setting them apart from competitors who may still be relying on broader, less targeted strategies. Through this product-first approach they are able to build a name for themselves at a relatively rapid pace.

In the mattress industry for example, Casper identified a primary job consumers were hiring for: obtaining a good night's sleep through a hassle-free buying experience. The mattress-buying process was traditionally fraught with complexity, high markups, and the daunting task of navigating myriad options in-store. Casper simplified this job by offering a single, universally comfortable mattress model that could be easily ordered online and delivered in a compact box directly to the customer's door. Their 100-night trial further addressed the job of ensuring satisfaction without the pressure of making an immediate decision. By honing in on these specific customer needs, Casper disrupted the mattress industry and set a new standard for the buying experience.

The increasing adoption of JTBD-based strategies signals a move towards a more nuanced and effective form of market research, one that places the customer's needs and experiences at the center of business strategy. 


Market research has a usability problem 

In today's fast-paced business environment, the usability of market research outputs has come under scrutiny. Traditional market research, while rich in data, often misses the mark when it comes to delivering insights in a format that's actionable and accessible for decision-makers. The result is a usability crisis that can leave businesses paralyzed rather than empowered to act.

The crux of this issue lies in the delivery of market research findings. Historically, businesses have been inundated with lengthy reports, dense with charts and laden with jargon that, while technically informative, do little to illuminate a clear path forward. This traditional format assumes a one-size-fits-all approach to data interpretation, overlooking the diverse needs and time constraints of today's business leaders. In an age where agility and speed are of the essence, sifting through 150-slide presentations for actionable insights is not just inefficient; it's impractical.

The annual GRIT report by Greenbook, a leading voice on the state of the market research industry, consistently highlights a glaring need for more 'actionable' insights as a primary source of dissatisfaction among businesses working with market research agencies.

This usability crisis in market research highlights a broader theme. Businesses no longer need voluminous reports that catalog endless data points; they require concise, clearly articulated insights that directly inform strategy and action. The move towards more user-friendly, actionable market research outputs is not just about convenience—it's a critical step in ensuring that businesses can rapidly adapt and respond to the changing market landscape, leveraging insights that are both relevant and immediately applicable.

Emerging trends and technologies in market research

As market research evolves, emerging trends and technologies are setting the stage for a transformative shift in how data is collected, analyzed, and utilized. Among these advancements, the rise of generative AI tools. These tools are revolutionizing the traditional market research process by making data collection more seamless, crafting surveys with precision, summarizing key insights with clarity, and even facilitating interactions with synthetic personas. No doubt that the market research landscape is going to look very different in 5 years’ time because of these technologies.

Our proprietary tool as an example, SegmentAI, is addressing the usability crisis in market research head-on. SegmentAI is designed to activate and breathe life into existing insights about customer segments. It enables businesses to gain instant feedback on ideas and concepts through the lens of their current research and customer understanding. By embedding the Jobs to Be Done (JTBD) framework, SegmentAI allows for ongoing, real-time tracking of work against the core jobs of customers, ensuring that every strategy and initiative is aligned with customer needs. This tool acts as a customer-led coach, constantly reminding teams to center the customer in their development efforts, every day of the year.

In our mind, the critical value of these emerging trends in market research lies not in their novelty, but in their ability to deliver tangible client outcomes more swiftly and effectively than ever before. It's not about embracing new technologies for their own sake but about harnessing these innovations to generate real-world results. 

Redefining market research for the TikTok era

In the TikTok era, where content is king and attention spans are short, market research must adapt to remain relevant. The rapid rise of social media platforms like TikTok has fundamentally changed how consumers discover and interact with brands. It's a world where traditional brand loyalty takes a backseat to instant gratification and direct solutions to immediate needs. This shift necessitates a redefinition of market research methodologies to capture the fleeting yet impactful consumer interactions on these platforms.

Understanding consumer behavior in the TikTok era means diving into the fast-paced world of hashtags, trends, and viral content to discern what truly resonates with audiences. It's about identifying the 'jobs' products are being hired to do in real-time, from solving a specific problem to providing entertainment. What’s funny is you rarely hear people talking about “brand” in isolation on these platforms. The format of their content tends to follow the structure of how great <insert product> is for <insert job>. In other words, TikTok has become the platform to “help me know why I should buy something”. 

In short, customer understanding and market research is more important than ever but the frameworks we use, the ways we go about it and the results we get from it are in need of a big overhaul.

Conclusion

The future of market research lies in its ability to adapt to the changing digital landscape, offering insights that are not only relevant but also immediately applicable. In doing so, market research can provide the strategic guidance businesses need to navigate the complexities of the TikTok era, ensuring they remain connected to the evolving needs and preferences of their customers.

The integration of customer-led frameworks like JTBD, AI tools, and real-time social media analytics into market research practices reflects a broader trend towards more dynamic, customer-obsessed strategies. It’s about generating insights that drive action, foster innovation, and deliver real-world results.

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Untold is a marketing & growth consultancy specialising in customer-led growth strategies.

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