Identifying Customer Needs, Barriers & Drivers Using this Template

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As Category Managers understanding our Customer’s Needs is imperative if we are to Succeed

While thinking on customer needs, I remembered something someone once wrote:

Category Management is dead.”

If meeting the needs of your customer better and faster than your competitor, is dead, then you will not succeed. Whether you are a Category Manager looking after a portfolio of products, trying to meet the needs of your shoppers or a brand manager, knowing what your customer wants is at the heart of what you do.

In this article, we aim to bring you a simple template that will challenge you to understand three things about your customer; needs, barriers and drivers.

By knowing these three elements of your customer and more importantly, meeting those needs, you will beat your competition to the end game, which is satisfying your customers. Or, as we say in the category management circles…

Aiming to disappoint the fewest shoppers.

Customer Needs, Barriers & Drivers Template

Customer needs, barriers and drivers template above cartoon shopper and document icon
Here’s how to use this template


Over 30 years of managing categories we have recognised the importance of customer needs. As, without them, you are floundering in the dark, trying to improve category performance but ultimately getting frustrated. The key is knowing your shoppers. And even more so, knowing what they want.

Columns (Shopper, Prepare and Eater)

The template is separated into 3 columns; shopper, preparer, and eater. As an example, Mum buys the fish fingers (Shopper), Dad cooks the fish fingers (Preparer), and the kids eat the fish fingers (the Eaters).

Pink and purple themed illustrations of the three types of customers, shopper, preparer and eater
The three types of customers


Sections (Barriers, Needs and Drivers)

The template is separated into 3 sections; barriers, needs and drivers. In essence, what stops them from buying more, what are their basic wants from the product, and what would encourage them to buy more?

For example, Mum (Shopper) might want to buy healthier fish fingers so that she feels less guilty about what she is feeding them. Dad (Preparer) might want to see the cooking instructions more clearly so that he doesn’t have to think too hard about cooking whilst helping the kids do their homework. The kids (Eaters) like the packet with Captain Birds Eye because they have seen him on TV.

Fish finger infographic showing the three types of customers, shopper, preparer and eater
Know your customers


Customer Needs Template

Purple themed customer needs editable PDF template from MBM
The template


By having 3 types of customers (Shopper, Preparer and Eater), and then asking of each of those types what are their barriers, needs and drivers, we have a template of 9 boxes. In each of those 9 boxes, we might have 3 points.

For example in the preparer box of needs, our Dad might want:

  • Easy to read cooking instructions so he doesn’t need to find his glasses.
  • No packaging beyond opening the box and emptying the contents onto a baking tray.
  • Packaging that can be put in the recycling bin.

Taking Action

Customer needs quote blog image with running cartoon shopper with boxes
Understanding your customer’s needs is the key


Getting the information is step 1. Though it is not easy, it is so worthwhile. Step 2, having completed the template is to take action. The 3 rows of ‘Action’ are where you choose what to do. You cannot action 3 built points from 9 boxes – 27 actions. So, you prioritise 1 action per box, giving you up to 9 actions. Nine actions that when complete will better give your customer what they want.

Next Steps to Meeting Your Customers’ Needs Better

  1. Download this editable Customer Needs Template.
  2. Begin by completing what you know about your customer.
  3. Then, aim to find out what you don’t know.
  4. Next, complete the action rows.
  5. After this, choose one action per box, giving you 9 actions in total.
  6. If this is still too much, place an asterisk against the top 3 actions, of the 9, that will achieve the biggest impact, quickest.
  7. Repeat annually.

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