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    July 11, 2022

    How would you beat Uber using Jobs-To-Be-Done

    In this latest episode of the How Would You Beat podcast, we looked at how companies can beat Uber. Do you build another ride-sharing app? Would autonomous cars be the way to beat Uber? Or should you solve a bigger problem - the traffic problem - to beat Uber? 

    Let’s look at some ways a competitor to Uber might beat them: 

    Approach 1: Head-to-Head with The Same Product

    The traditional way to compete with Uber is to build a ride-sharing app. But can you really beat them and be profitable using this approach? Let’s find out. 

    Lyft is often viewed as Uber’s primary competitor in the US. It broke into the market by trying to create customer segmentation within the ride-sharing apps space and competed on customer needs such as safety or making the ride a social experience. However, you can question the actual significance or importance of such features in ride-sharing apps. 

    The bottomline is that Uber is in an undifferentiated market with Lyft, the only surviving competitor to Uber. There is already a downward price pressure because the customer’s primary goal for either solution is to get to a destination. Which is made even more challenging due to the fact that ride-sharing has not been profitable for Uber (even before the pandemic).

    It has been difficult for Lyft to differentiate from Uber, which is clear when you look at its market share - Uber owns 72% of the market, while Lyft owns only 28%.


    How Jobs-to-be-Done Helps You Find New Competitive Approaches 

    What if you tried another method? The Jobs-to-be-Done approach says that if you want to compete with an incumbent like Uber, you need to analyze the job-to-be-done that their product enables and then define that job independent of the product

    The main job-to-be-done for ride-sharing apps would be “get to a destination on time.”

    The next step is to break the job down further into job steps and then analyze the needs and struggles at every step of the process of getting said job done. To beat an incumbent, you need to find an area of the job where customers struggle in a very specific way and in the same way. If you can find a way to solve their struggle such that they will be willing to pay you, then you have found a market opportunity and a sweet spot where you might be able to start trying to beat the incumbent.

    Jobs-to-be-Done will help you to properly segment your market so that you can identify exactly where the opportunity is. Remember, you want to look for jobs-to-be-done for ride-sharing apps but you also want to look at the job-to-be-done independent of ride-sharing apps.  Through this lens, you have a few other approaches to consider. 

    Approach 2: Consider a different customer definition

    One possible way of looking at the market is to say that there are more beneficiaries - or people who benefit from the job getting done - than the obvious ones. Typically, you would view Uber’s job beneficiaries as:

    1) The drivers 

    2) The riders

    But there is a third possible beneficiary and that is the municipality. This beneficiary is also potentially a customer and if they have unmet needs, it's even better because they might be willing to pay to have these needs met. 

    The fact that traffic congestion exists is a clear indication that the municipality has unmet needs - or is struggling - with regard to optimizing the flow of goods, services, and people.  

     With the municipality as the job beneficiary, the job-to-be-done might be expanded to “managing the flow of goods and services”. You’re able to verify this as a real human problem because the problem exists (and has always existed) with or without its current solutions such as cars, planes, trains, the subway system, and even Uber and competitors of Uber. 

    Municipalities don’t want traffic congestion because their revenue, which they get from the tax base, comes from the free flow of goods and services through the city. The municipality cannot afford to not do this right because it could end up like Detroit which suffered from the highest municipal bankruptcy in the nation’s history

    The next step would be to determine what municipalities would pay to optimize the flow of goods and services, which is essentially their job-to-be-done. 

    A big car company like Ford or General Motors could compete with Uber by entering a public-private partnership with municipalities. They could sell or lease autonomous vehicles to municipalities and use proprietary software to arrange pick-ups and drops such that people never have to stop at red lights, for example.  

    The car company could also maybe subsidize its cars to arrive at a fee that the municipality might be willing to pay to alleviate its struggle with optimizing traffic. This roadmap has the potential to be extremely profitable because it’s a question of how much the municipality is willing to pay to optimize the flow of goods, services and people so as to access higher tax revenue. 


    Approach 3: Create a new platform to get the whole job done

    Driverless cars are definitely formidable competitors to Uber. Autonomous vehicles are a solution to optimizing traffic, and could be safer than human-operated cars. In other words, they have lots of benefits to speak for over and above serving the main goal of “get to a destination on time”.

    Elon Musk has invested in another new platform to get the whole job done through The Boring Company, which proposes a car flinging tunnel where cars move at high speeds (it is called a car flinging tunnel) without colliding because the flow of the cars is managed. 

    In the post-pandemic context, if you were to compete with Uber you might also want to think about the option of people not needing transportation in the first place because they don’t actually have to make the trip. How could you serve unmet needs in that context? Uber seems to have gotten this partially correct with Uber eats. They serve the section of the market that goes to a restaurant to eat (and uses Uber to get there) in addition to serving the unmet needs of the segment that doesn't want to go to the restaurant in order to eat.

    This post-pandemic situation is dynamic of course, but the truth is that customer needs are just as dynamic in normal times. Jobs-to-be-Done pushes you to maintain a market pulse so that you can look at all these customer jobs and find out where the struggle is, or in other words, where the market opportunity is. Using quantitative techniques, you are able to develop some amount of predictability about what is happening in your market. Or alternatively, you are able to change the definition of your market so as to stay profitable as your market environment evolves. 

    The bottom-line is that companies need to create enough customer value, and eliminate struggles in a way that people will be willing to pay for. JTBD is just the tool that you need to develop products and features which deliver the kind of customer value that can make you profitable. 

    The thrv app can help you plan your product roadmap around customer needs that are identified by an in-built, at-a-click survey mechanism. The app uses JTBD metrics to prioritize customer needs so that you build products and features that the market is most in need of - the idea is that a customer’s willingness to pay is linked to the intensity of his need and the ability of the solution to serve their unmet needs.  

    If you want to learn more about thrv and our Jobs-to-be-Done approach, contact thrv today

    Posted by Jay Haynes

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