Recently I’ve been starting many of my projects using a mental model to identify new features which might be of use to a customer at each stage of the discovery and purchase journey. I’ve found the structure really useful to be able to think each step through thoroughly, and generate ideas which really help the customer and give them a different but valuable way to interact with the brand.
I can recommend this book to help when starting out with the models – Mental Models by Indi Young.
Ideally to begin, you interview people on the stages they think they go through when they’re doing something – choosing a film, deciding where to holiday or buying a coat. Unfortunately I’ve not been able to do too many one-to-one interviews with our customers, but store associates have really helped me out. Then, breaking down those interviews you can decipher the smaller goals at each stage of the purchase journey. Stack up each task people might do when completing each of those goals, at the top of the diagram. Below the goal labels, you can then stack ideas of what types of feature might support the behaviour above. Doing this helps to identify the gap and then the feature which might be exactly what the customer wanted but had not even thought of.
Hope this helps with your own projects.