Anchored MaxDiff Scaling – Making MaxDiff BulletProof

What do you value more jungle or beaches, sweet or savory, bright colors, or dark colors? These rudimentary options all lead to insights into why your respondents make the choices that they do. If every business could accurately answer ‘the why’ in an ideal world, it would seem like no business should fail, and every product could succeed. While explaining the elusive ‘why’ question is something companies will always be pursuing, the new Anchored MaxDiff can take them to the next level. 

What is Anchored MaxDiff scaling?

Anchored MaxDiff is a simple yet effective model to enhance a max-diff exercise from a relative model (where one option’s utility is comparable to the others) – to an absolute model. Anchored MaxDiff experiments supplement standard MaxDiff questions with additional questions designed to determine the attributes’ absolute importance.

Traditional MaxDiff identifies the relative importance of the attributes while Anchored MaxDiff permits conclusions about whether specific characteristics are actually important or not important at all.

In MaxDiff analysis, respondents indicate which items are relatively better (or worse) than others. The scores are estimated on a relative scale, without any indication that the items are good or bad, important or unimportant, in an absolute sense.

To put it in simple terms, it may be that feature A is twice as important as feature B, which we would find out from MaxDiff. It may also be that neither A nor B is very important at all. We would not find this out from traditional MaxDiff. With anchoring – this allows researchers to add in an additional “Anchoring” question that determines if any of the features are fundamentally important. 

Practical use case of when to enable Anchored MaxDiff

Anchored MaxDiff analysis can help in almost any situation with multiple options. Be it a case when a smartphone manufacturing company wants to understand what features are of primary importance to customers or an apparel brand that wants to find what their customers are likely to buy out of all the latest trends.

Let’s understand this with an Anchored MaxDiff example.

When market researchers want to know which credit cards are the most and least preferred by their target audience, a simple MaxDiff question would help. However, out of the 6 options, respondents may only select 2, but what about the others? They might definitely have some preferences or opinions on the other 4, but a traditional MaxDiff does not give the options for those extended.

 Anchored MaxDiff goes a step further and gathers from its respondents how they perceive these options relative to others. Assume Visa is the most preferred, and Discover is the least preferred option, knowing that the anchored multiple choice question will help you get insights into the importance assigned credit cards by your audience in relation to the other.

If the respondents select Visa, Mastercard, and American Express select as “must-haves,” you know that though Visa is the most preferred option, Mastercard and American Express are also essential for them too.

maxdiff example

Another area where Anchored MaxDiff question can be used is – Concept testing. Let respondents select a design that they love (and hate). And then ask an anchored question to select all the concepts that they mostly love!

How does anchoring work?

There are two types of anchoring models we can use;

  1. Binary Direct
  2. Dual Response

We will discuss both these options below. Both these models allow for anchoring add in an additional step/question into the max diff exercise – in the form of a multiple-choice question.

What is a Binary Direct model?

The binary-direct anchoring model is by far the easiest and most convenient model for the researcher as well as the user. 

In the Binary-Direct model, respondents are shown _all_ the available choices and asked for all the “Must-Haves” – this allows respondents to draw a fundamental line between the “must-haves” and “nice to have” – this creates the binary anchor. 

Direct Binary Method

What is the Dual Response Model?

With the dual-response model, respondents are asked to identify some, all, or none of the options – using a simple multiple-choice question.

Dual Response Method

How do I set it up on QuestionPro Max Diff Survey?

To enable anchoring, there is a setting on the Max Diff Question Type – that enables that. By default, Anchoring is NOT enabled. If you’d like anchoring on your Max Diff scale – you’ll have to enable that.

Add Anchored MaxDiff question 

One of the striking features of an Anchored MaxDiff question is that you can even customize the anchored question. It means you can tailor your survey to collect data that will help you make the right decisions.

What kind of output do I get when I enable anchoring?

When anchoring is enabled – depending upon the anchoring model used (Binary Direct or Dual Response) – the raw data will contain the output of that question also. 

anchored maxdiff example

10 Reasons to use Anchored MaxDiff scaling

You can interpret a piece of data in ten different ways unless you have a rating scale. If I say there is a 12% growth in the travel industry, that can mean 12% industry growth as well as 12% quarterly growth! But if I say the travel industry grew 12% this year as compared to the last year, you have a reference point to compare with.

Making decisions off of insights about your respondent’s best/worst preferences can give you some insights, but adding an anchored question gives you a clear direction for the other choices as well. Instead of leaving the rest of the options in the dark, Anchored MaxDiff question lets you get more out of the survey.

Some of the questions that an Anchored Maxdiff question can answer are:

  1. How do customers perceive product features or attributes?
  2. What do customers consider while making purchase decisions?
  3. How much does a product actually meet customers’ needs?
  4. How does the audience perceive different products or services?
  5. What products do customers view as ‘absolute essentials’?
  6. What features are customers willing to trade-off for the ‘absolute essentials’ features?
  7. Does keeping a constant connection with the customers have an impact on their buying decisions?
  8. How does a business fare as compared to its close competitors?
  9. Is there a scope for a business to be “Most Preferred” by customers?
  10. Are there any early warning signs for a company?

A single data point doesn’t make sense unless it has some reference or a benchmark. While a simple MaxDiff survey is apt for those who want to have a high-level understanding of audiences’ preferences, you can dig deeper with an Anchored MaxDiff survey. The latter lets you discriminate between various options and make effective decisions.

References & additional reading

  1. Anchored Max Diff help file
  2. Anchored Max Diff – DataSheet