The buyer utility map helps to get managers thinking from a demand-side perspective. It outlines all the levers companies can pull to deliver utility to buyers as well as the different experiences buyers can have of a product or service. This mindset helps managers identify the full range of utility propositions that a product or service can offer.
The buyer experience cycle. A buyer’s experience can usually be broken down into a cycle of distinct stages, running more or less sequentially from purchase to disposal. Each stage encompasses a wide variety of specific experiences. Purchasing, for example, might include the experience of browsing Amazon.com as well as the experience of pushing a shopping cart through Wal-Mart’s aisles.
Utility levers. Cutting across the stages of the buyer’s experience are what we call utility levers – the ways in which companies unlock utility for their customers. Most of the levers are obvious. Simplicity, fun and image, and environmental friendliness need little explanation. As does the idea that a product could reduce a buyer’s financial or physical risks. And a product or service offers convenience simply by being easy to obtain and or use. The most commonly used lever – but perhaps the least obvious- is that of customer productivity. An innovation can increase productivity by helping customers do things faster, better, or in different ways.
By locating a new product on one of the spaces of the buyer utility map, managers can clearly see how the new idea creates a different utility proposition from existing products. In our experience, managers all too often focus on delivering more of the same stage of the buyer’s experience. This approach may be reasonable in emerging industries, where there is plenty of room for improving a company’s utility proposition. But in many existing industries, this approach is unlikely to produce a market-shaping blue ocean strategy.