The Elements of Value
August 09, 2016
Harvard Business Review
This article originally appeared in Harvard Business Review (subscription required).
When customers evaluate a product or service, they weigh its perceived value against the asking price. Marketers have generally focused much of their time and energy on managing the price side of that equation, since raising prices can immediately boost profits. But that’s the easy part: Pricing usually consists of managing a relatively small set of numbers, and pricing analytics and tactics are highly evolved.
What consumers truly value, however, can be difficult to pin down and psychologically complicated. How can leadership teams actively manage value or devise ways to deliver more of it, whether functional (saving time, reducing cost) or emotional (reducing anxiety, providing entertainment)? Discrete choice analysis—which simulates demand for different combinations of product features, pricing, and other components—and similar research techniques are powerful and useful tools, but they are designed to test consumer reactions to preconceived concepts of value—the concepts that managers are accustomed to judging. Coming up with new concepts requires anticipating what else people might consider valuable.
The amount and nature of value in a particular product or service always lie in the eye of the beholder, of course. Yet universal building blocks of value do exist, creating opportunities for companies to improve their performance in current markets or break into new ones. A rigorous model of consumer value allows a company to come up with new combinations of value that its products and services could deliver. The right combinations, our analysis shows, pay off in stronger customer loyalty, greater consumer willingness to try a particular brand, and sustained revenue growth.
We have identified 30 “elements of value”—fundamental attributes in their most essential and discrete forms. These elements fall into four categories: functional, emotional, life changing, and social impact. Some elements are more inwardly focused, primarily addressing consumers’ personal needs. For example, the life-changing element motivation is at the core of Fitbit’s exercise-tracking products. Others are outwardly focused, helping customers interact in or navigate the external world. The functional element organizes is central to The Container Store and Intuit’s TurboTax, because both help consumers deal with complexities in their world.
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Eric Almquist is a partner with Bain & Company’s Customer Strategy & Marketing practice and the global head of consumer insights for Bain. John Senior is a partner with Bain & Company’s Customer Strategy & Marketing practice. Nicolas Bloch is a coleader of Bain & Company’s Strategy practice.