How Would You Beat?

How Would You Beat Retailers? Featuring Matt Bjornson from Target

February 22, 2021 thrv Season 1 Episode 13
How Would You Beat?
How Would You Beat Retailers? Featuring Matt Bjornson from Target
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode, we have a special guest: Matt Bjornson, who was Director of Product Mangement at Target from 2016-2020. Matt is an expert at implementing JTBD methods at large companies. He had tremendous success using JTBD to grow Target's Registry product. In this episode, we discuss how to use JTBD with Matt and why JTBD is very useful in extremely competitive markets. 

Jay Haynes  0:02  

Welcome to our podcast, How Would You Beat? In each episode, we pick a company and talk about how you could use jobs-to-be-done innovation methods to beat that company's product. We'll discuss innovation theory and explain the methods so you can put the theory into practice at your company. I'm Jay Haynes, the founder and CEO of thrv, that's thrv without the vowels thrv.com. We help product marketing and sales teams use jobs-to-be-done innovation methods to build market and sell great products. 

I'm here with my colleague, Jared Ranere. So today we've got a special guest, Matt Bjornsen. We haven't done too many of these with guests. But he is a great person to have here on How Would You Beat using JTBD? Today, we'll look at how would you beat retailers and Matt, in particular, has a background in retail and both jobs-to -be-done. He's a retail and jobs-to-be-done expert which is kind of rare. He was the Director of Product Management at Target from 2016 to 2020.  He was responsible for turning around the registry group at Target. And for those of you who don't know, you're probably familiar with Target the company. It's done extremely well. It has $22 billion in revenue, which is up 21% in the past year which people might not have predicted going into COVID. It’s market cap is approaching $100 billion. And it's up 65% in the past year. So clearly the market thinks Target is doing something right. Matt has direct experience with jobs-to-be-done. And he can talk to why it is useful for retailers.  Why should retailers be using jobs-to-be-done innovation methods.  And how can retailers use jobs-to-be-done to beat their competitors.  Because certainly a company like Target has no shortage of competitors in the retail industry. So Matt, it's great to hear your story. It's great to have you here. We really enjoyed working with you and having a jobs-to-be-done expert like yourself here on our podcast today is exciting. We're excited to hear your story. Welcome.

Matt Bjornson  2:21  

Thanks, Jay. Thanks, Jared. Excited to be here. So I'll give you a little bit of a background on our jobs experience at Target.  I had long been interested in jobs-to-be-done theory. I've been in high tech products for a long time. So getting to know the writings of Clay Christensen who put forth the jobs theory was always something I wanted to do. And so when I became Product Director at Target over the registry experience. We had our jobs cut out to us, no pun intended. Even though Target is one of the companies that most often people think about when they're getting married or having a baby and they need all those things to kind of support their new stage in life. The business overall had kind of fallen on some pretty tough times and what was really interesting from my perspective about the opportunity. When I met with my leader as part of the process - here is something that unlike any other part of Target's business. It crossed not only the digital channels, but also the store and team member channels. So, having surfaces in this store that the guests, the expecting mothers or the couples would actually interact with our team members as well as digitally.  That was a huge area of interest for me. And that even in my time as a product leader over registry, we saw massive shifts that were happening.

So when I joined about 80% of revenue was coming from the stores and 20% digitally. Fast Forward three years that had drastically shifted to 60% digitally and 40% in store.  So you've seen  all these behavior changes with our guests, as a result of just overall changes in. And ecommerce and retail, obviously, Target is doing very well as a result of COVID, which no one would see. But like I said the Target registry had been in a really tough point. They had really no growth for a long period of time. And so, when I talked to my Leader, he was pretty, pretty candid about what this opportunity was about. It's really around, we need to grow the business again. 

Jay Haynes  5:35  

It's interesting to0 -- that looking at kind of growth problem you're trying to solve a jobs-to-be-done, that those particular jobs around registry wedding, an incredibly important relationship, if not the most important relationship in anybody of course. And children having new children, etc, those are both extremely functional, and extremely emotional  We always say we like to map out kind of the dimensions of function and emotion, and everything, everything contains emotion. But in some cases, it's like that, you're talking about people with very, very heightened emotions, because you're dealing with your life partner and your children. So it's interesting if that played into some of your thinking around it,

Matt Bjornson  6:24  

I would say fast forward once you and Jared came out and we did the sprint with you.   I would say, one, the emotional, but also the social jobs were also super interesting, as well. Because there's also this dynamic around expecting mothers want to appear, like  hey, I've got the confidence to take care of my child, and obviously, a baby is something that you got to keep alive, and you got to continue to grow and nourish. And so that was a huge opportunity that we saw with jobs that previously we would surface some of that as part of some of the research activities that we were doing. But some of the key benefits around jobs were really some mental models and some consistent language to think about.  As you and Jared brought us through the spread that language became part of not just product and not just design language but my counterparts in engineering. They were also using that language around hiring and firing and making progress and thinking about innovation in the context of speed and accuracy. Those are just huge wins for us as a team, as we were trying to actually roll this out and implement this. 

I would say the other part of that is really making a shift from kind of away from how the current business and the previous product leaders had thought about the registry as a business and it's very different from your kind of traditional e-commerce where, hey, I'm going to Target.com or some other retailer and I'm making a purchase. If you know someone in my family is having a  baby, you could empathize. What do they really need to kind of help them be a good mother or help  a baby get to sleep at night? That context around those jobs are very different from like, Hey, I got to bring a present to a wedding shower. Those are two completely different ways to think about the same business. And as we shifted our thinking around that, it was really kind of a pivotal thing for that to reinforce.   How we organize the teams, how we thought about our quarterly, our planning. How are we thinking about some  of our key metrics? As far as how are we measuring progress versus maybe some lagging indicators, like , the traditional e-commerce type metrics. It was a huge thing. It was obviously a multi year effort, but going from no growth to in year three, we grew the business by 25%. top line. 


Jared Ranere  9:50  

That's an amazing story.

Since this is How Would You Beat, I'm curious about the competitive situation you were in with the registry. Who were your competitors? How did you think about taking share from them before jobs-to-be -one? And then how did you think about it after jobs-to-be-done? Were there any shifts and how you approached your competition?

Matt Bjornson  10:13  

It's really interesting, Jared. I would say, pre jobs, there's the whole concept of a feature factory. So competitor XYZ releases this feature. And there's this mad frenzy. Stakeholders are like, "Why don't we have that feature and what have you". And, as part of the shift towards jobs, we really kind of reinforced the jobs that we were trying to solve. So prepare to bring a baby home.  Away from, hey, I'm building a registry. As you think more about that, the team thought of some really interesting things that no one in the registry space was really thinking about. So it really kind of opened our way of approaching our business. Even though quote, unquote, we're the registry team and there were these certain life moments that we were focused on, which I would say in retail, it's a huge opportunity. But it was more so about focusing on here's the jobs that we're going after. And baby is in retail for Target, Amazon, Walmart, that's a very critical demographic or segment that retailers want to live in. Because there's a lot of future habits change.  They try new retailers, because they're looking for us, ease of getting what I need. And how do I make that faster and better. Target had a lot of research as well to say, "Hey, but there's a lot happening around shifting retailer loyalty." But really didn't and so they had lots of data around that. But didn't really shift in mental models around. What would cause them to change? I'd say  Jared said, it was a huge shift. And in terms of, okay, competitor, XYZ, they're doing this to focusing on the job, it really provided teams with a lot of focus. And a lot of shared language to use with stakeholders even the guests. Because ultimately, we wanted to bring the guess language back into those jobs so that as we look at the job steps and how well we're doing, then we can objectively use their language to frame how the teams were thinking about and approaching opportunities.

Jay Haynes  13:11  

Yeah, that that's really great to hear, Matt. We always say this, too, that one of the benefits of Jobs-to-be-done, first and foremost, empathizing with your customer. And of course, in your case, you're getting married, you're having kids, those are just like moments to really empathize with their struggle. Not just, "Hey, here's the best use. You should buy these."  But really, what are they going through as their struggles. And the other is also to align your teams. 

So it's great to hear some of the internal perspective that it helped you reorganize your teams and focus on OKRs. We see this more and more.  The company set out these OKRs and then how do those OKRs have anything to do with your customers' struggle? Right? OKRs and all the internal stuff is focused on the company's success, not necessarily your customer success. And if you can bridge those gaps, really make the OKRs come together with what your customers are struggling just hearing your story that makes us just. We love this stuff. So  that's really exciting.

And it's interesting, also, from a retailer standpoint, and with the theme of How you Would Beat  retailers, we always think of this moment kind of registry and specifically new baby which sometimes go together obviously. Those are the moments.  If you could map out all the jobs to be done that a human goes through, you'd start with when they're born all the way till they die. And in there you've got your personal life and all the jobs that you're gonna need to get done when you're a baby and till your funeral. And then you're going to need all those business jobs because you're going to have a professional and work life. And then along the way you have medical jobs. 

It's interesting that this really is like the starting point for the journey. So, in an interesting way, retailers have this huge opportunity. And I know obviously they all think about, " Hey, we've got a baby, that's a new customer. How can we get that customer to be a customer for life?" Banks think this way as well. If you're in college, they're gonna send you a ton of credit cards, because if you set up your account with them, you're unlikely to switch your credit card, right? Same kind of idea. But they usually are focused on their products, what can we sell for this.  Maybe, what financial products can we sell to this person because they have a bank account. And the better way to do it is obviously, and it's great to hear that this would lead to your success at Target because thinking this way from your customers perspective, ultimately does lead to that kind of growth. 25% growth, I mean, most companies would kill for that, that is like a game changer in growth rates. It changes your equity value, changes your market cap, changes your multiple, whether you're public or private. Everything changes with the increasing growth rate. Warren Buffett's famous for saying, "Growth and value are tied at the hip."  And it's totally true. So that's an impressive story. It really is. 

Jared Ranere  16:13  

You mentioned leading versus lagging metrics. I'd love to hear you talk about that a little bit. What metrics, were you tracking that you would consider lagging metrics? And what were the new metrics that you started to look at that you felt were beating indicators of was something going to be successful or not?

Matt Bjornson  16:36  

Yeah, this could be a conversation in and of itself. In general, like retailers, like anyone else. They're looking at the ultimate lagging metric, our sales, right? So, I'm looking at how much was purchased off registry on a weekly basis, and there's the categories that they purchased off of. You can do a pivot table there with the registry type in categories, etc. And that's kind of typical, how retail thinks about those things. But if you look at something that we talked about during the sprint with you both was really around that you got the job executor, and you got the benefactor. And registry is kind of  a poster child, because it's closer to eBay than it is to Target.com and purchase anything. So, we've got the executor or executor of the job. And that's the gift giver. They're the ones who are friends and family. Jared, you're having you're having a baby and so I'm going to your shower. Or I'm helping you out with whatever helps a baby get to sleep at night or what have you. But you're the benefactor and they have different functional social, and emotional aspects of those jobs. And for us, it really started to say, as a benefactor you want to get things but how are you measuring progress? And so we would actually say, Okay, we've got active number of registries. Well, then how do we suss that out to say,” Okay, we've got net new registries, and then your past due date.”  Maybe there's some kind of long tail effect where you're gonna still purchase off your registry for the things that you didn't need after that. But we started looking at teasing apart some of those metrics.  On the benefactor side, and then you can go over on the executive side of things and say, “Okay, like, how often are they coming to the site to look at things? What are those kinds of key categories that they're looking at? How do you think about pairing the perfect gifts.”  So it's not just diapers, but it's also the butt cream and the wipes and it's everything else. Or,  you're getting to sleep at night. If we're focused on that job, there's maybe, I don't know what they're called, the rap things, the swaddle things, and maybe there's paired up with maybe a first couple books for a baby. So you start to think about how are those additional things that you can kind of get them to work either through personalization or through just curation. Think about some of those things that you're trying to identify where they're at with those jobs. 

So rather than just sales, how do you break apart those numbers?   I feel we kind of dipped our toe in the water. I think there's a lot more metrics that we could look at to identify other jobs other than preparing to bring a baby home.  We could look at other jobs, like how do we get to sleep at night to say, how do we know like, where these things are lined up? These are all the jobs that you need to do for bringing the baby home. But I feel we just scratched the surface.

 So we had to summarize the basic life cycle type metrics but we really tried to start to tease those apart into, especially when you look at new opportunities, like planting a perfect gift or something like that, like, what, what would those metrics look like? And so we started to piece those apart and tease those apart on what we call them bats or at the opportunity basis that are a feature basis that we were looking at.

Jared Ranere  21:29  

Yeah, it's almost like instead of measuring how much time something --trying to hit this goal of people spending a long time with the registry product. With the gift givers, you actually want to figure out, how can you decrease how long it takes them to put together the perfect gift? So that's kind of interesting, right? And then you can use the gift receivers reaction to that as a metric for was the gift good or not? And then you could track their experience as a parent, to find out if the registry actually succeeded in preparing them to have this baby. So it's a totally different set of metrics than what you would normally look at in a purchase funnel. And what I think is really interesting about that is that ecommerce is like  the Halcyon moment of being able to measure user behavior, right? Because you can measure every single click and you know at the end, do they make a purchase or not? But that can often lead to these really local optimizations, right? Because you're like, well, if we don't know if it's going to succeed, we don't want to put that much expense, that many resources into building something different. Because what if it breaks the funnel? So let's just AB test everything to death. And we'll know if our choices were good after we launched them. And that is the definition of a lagging metric, right? You don't know if it's good until after you put it out there. And because you're trying to measure after you launch it, you want to decrease the cost of every launch, which leads you to these incredibly minute local optimizations that only can create growth if you have a ton of traffic to start with. So if you're a new retailer, and you don't have the audience of somebody like Target, those local optimizations are going to get you nowhere. The question is, how do you get somebody to move from Amazon to go to your site in the first place? Right, your purchase funnel is not going to help you do that. So I just think it's fascinating to think about, like how these metrics of getting the job done can change your point of view, and everything about how you operate as a retailer and ecommerce and create these much bigger growth margins.

Jay Haynes  23:49  

Yeah, I wanted to mention something too, because we're covering a lot of detail too. So people listening might be a little confused about all how the pieces will come together. Because Matt's mentioning the job beneficiary and the job executor. And those are really important customer identifications you need to make.  But the other thing that I think is interesting about this is the gift giver and the gift receiver. 

And as Matt was mentioning, and Jared was just talking about traditional ecommerce approach to that is going to look at these metrics and just see, what's going on with the gift giving and receiving. Since Matt mentioned it too, the good example there is, well, if you're a new parent, and one of the jobs we know you definitely need to get done is to get a baby to sleep through the night. So we would take that job and we looked at this with Target and we said okay, getting a baby to sleep through the night.  If I'm going to hire Target, in the jobs-to-be-done language to help me get a baby to sleep through the night. How do I do it? And Matt, I remember when I first met with you guys, we walked around the store. He walked around, like hey, how do I get a baby to sleep tonight? Clearly, gravely important  job for parents. 

Jared, I both happen to also have twins. We both have twins. So we have twins getting ready to do that it's even more important than life or death. So, but you couldn't do it, you literally couldn't walk into the store and say, oh, here's how to get a baby to sleep through the night. There were different product categories or swaddles, there's bottles, there's diapers, there's toys, pacifiers, and which I always find fascinating. There's literally a pacifier display. And if you give your baby a pacifier, they will absolutely not sleep through the night. So it's the anti getting a baby to sleep through the night.  But if you're looking for a registry perspective, you're saying, "Okay, well, if I am going to put together a registry, one of the things I need to do is get a baby to sleep through the night". And that's where you can really help those gift receivers. The new parents says, "Okay, this is my goal."  And then from the gift giver, if I could give a new parent the gift of getting your baby to sleep through the night, that was probably the best gift you can give any parents. And it's funny because we had twins. We had to use some method, and it worked really well with our kids. So every new parent, I couldn't do it through a registry because it didn't exist yet. But I would go to their house. And I'd be like, okay, here's how we did it. And our four kids, every single one of them slept 12 hours every night after 90 days of being bored, and no one believed it.  Other parents were like, that can't happen. And it turns out, you need a lot to make it happen. But because we had twins, we researched it. We were very motivated to get this job done. But that is the way we break it down by looking at it from the perspective of the gift receiver. What's the job? I don't just need a swaddle blanket. Why do you need a swaddle blanket? Well, because I'm trying to get my baby to sleep tonight. And then from the giver, Matt, you mentioned this and Jared too, I think it's really, it's great to say, Well, if you can get that job done as fast as possible for the person going to the registry and creating the gifts they need. And for the gift giver, it's the optimal scenario. You don't spend a ton of time looking around trying to figure out which things I should give them. Do I  give them this swaddle blanket?  Do I give these diapers?  This bottle? It's going to help them get their job done. Yeah. So Matt, maybe. And sorry, Jared, did you have a question there?

Jared Ranere  27:25  

Now just one thing to point out, I just searched on Target.com -- Get a baby to sleep. And I got some product listings like a couple swaddles and a sleep trainer, and then I got an ad for Olli sleep supplements delightful gummies for a good night's rest. I hope Target is not recommending you give this to a baby!!

Matt Bjornson  27:49  

Drugs? Oh, boy.

Jared Ranere  27:54  

This is a great example of like, even keyword searches are about getting jobs done or not. Right? Like we always talk about how Google is the ultimate find tool to get jobs done engine because search works so well. And even the ad server needs to be a part of this, right? That's a part of the customer experience. So when I as a parent go on Target, and I search for- get a baby to sleep and I see all these, it really throws me.

Matt Bjornson  28:22  

Yes, yeah,

Jay Haynes  28:23  

I remember we did that same search on Amazon,  when we're working with Matt, and the first result, and Amazon, which is a good way to do your competitive analysis. So the first result of Amazon was "Go the F to sleep" which is a pretty well known book, but it clearly has nothing to do with helping you get your sleep.

Yeah. Great. Well, Matt, let me say just at the end here, maybe if there are  three things that you could tell other product managers, director products or product executives. Anybody listening who might be thinking like, Hey, jobs-to-be-done. What are the three things that I need to know about jobs-to-be-done, either  how to do it, or why it's valuable? Or how to overcome some obstacle? What are your kind of three? Top three thoughts on jobs-to-be-done?

Matt Bjornson  29:18  

Yeah, I mean, I would say one of one of the first things every large organization talks about how customer focused they are.  I would say that jobs theory is really the best way to bring that to life. Because it's not just talking about the metrics piece of it. It's not just the end result. You're really trying to tease apart t why are they choosing Target? Why are they choosing Amazon or what have you? And that why is really the important aspect that, of course, we want sales and what have you. And until you get to that point, you can kind of come up with personas or whatever kind of fantasy, like,  tool sets that you want to use. But until you kind of  bring to these and understand why people, people fired you.  Why did you fire Target registry for this? And,what were some of the causal mechanisms behind that? Until you start understanding that you really don't understand your customer at all. 

The other part of it is, and we don't have time to do this, but it's really kind of like, okay, who else am I really competing against?  I'm not competing with Amazon or Walmart. Maybe it's, it's something completely different, that you don't know about. So I think that's where, like a lot of potential innovation can really come from. 

So I think the other part and around jobs is, as a product leader, you really need to understand that this is going to take time, and the investment is worth it. But you really need to prioritize where we should go with this first?  I was fortunate I had a leader who supported my point of view. And that obviously meant a lot. But that allowed me in the team to kind of go out and pursue this opportunity. But it took us time, It was just bringing you in you and Jared in for a Sprint was just the starting point. And the hard work and really kind of fleshing those things out is it comes over time. It takes time and investment. And it takes a lot of communication with everyone in Target Loves Registry, they love baby registry. 

So whether it's marketing, merchandising, store ops with the team members, everyone was super passionate about it. And it also involves communicating with them, like the shifts, and why we're trying to make this why this makes the shift. And so ultimately, it's around growth and what have you. But I think the other part of it is and I think this is where this is probably maybe one of the challenges. I think the sweet spot is organizing teams around jobs. Because if not out, you can't go after everything, but those critical skills are critical jobs that are so important and vital for your business. You deserve to invest in those if those are really priorities. You really need to just go deep on those. And so at Target, there was another team, I think I introduced you to Andy Weisbecker. But he was over the flagship app, they had also organized at the same time registry did around jobs, because we both saw it's such a pivotal thing for us to not only prioritize development and engineering, but also where are we going to research? Where's the opportunities? So, I know that's probably three or five things.

Jay Haynes  33:51  

Yeah, that's great. No, and I think that's a great way to end. Because that does take us back to Clay Christensen, obviously helped spread jobs,-to-be-done thinking in jobs theory throughout the world. And he said specifically that which is competing against luck, which is a book.  That companies really need to organize around their customers' jobs. Because they organize the company around what the company needs to do. And that can lead to disaster. I mean, of course, just Kodak, Blackberry, Britannica, all the historical examples, they weren't ???guys around their customers, and now they're no longer companies. So that's really great to hear. I mean, we love to see this because,  a lot of times we can seem like we're talking about theory, but just Matt to have your experience and expertise in really, this is where the rubber meets the road. And it's really great to see product teams, adopting this stuff and implementing it with such great successful results like you've had, and that's great. Well, thanks so much for being here today. Hopefully. I think this was very enlightening. And certainly anybody who wants to follow up and learn more. We have a lot more resources they can learn about. So Matt, thanks again for being here. 

Matt Bjornson  35:11  

Thanks, Jay. Thanks, Jared. 

Jay Haynes  35:13  

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