Understanding respondents’ preferences are the foundation of survey research, but even a simple task requires the right tool to get the best results. A few traditional approaches still dominate when considering new product features to prioritize or compare concepts and messaging.
Asking respondents to rate each feature or concept simply is a straightforward method that yields easy-to-understand results. However, respondents often say they like everything equally or agree with each prompt to advance the survey faster. This leaves you no better understanding of their preferences than when you started.
Another option is a ranking question. Having respondents rank their preferences avoids choosing everything as essential or just clicking through quickly. Nonetheless, it can become cumbersome to rank many concepts, and it doesn’t allow for ties. It is also impossible to discern the gap between each ranking. This makes it challenging to report results beyond the top few features.
MaxDiff scaling with research services
The Maximum Difference Scale, referred to as MaxDiff, is a trade-off analysis technique allowing you to make multiple pairwise comparisons to establish preferences. Respondents repeatedly view a small list and make two choices, the most and the least preferred or essential item.
This allows for a more significant number of concepts and provides ratio data to measure the magnitude of each rank difference. A quick example will help you feel more confident about using the MaxDiff question type if that still sounds a little confusing.
Recently, an American software firm wished to compare which features of its software were most valuable to its customers and ex-customers to improve client or user retention. The client had a long list of features that would have been very difficult to rank all at once. It would have also been unclear which was preferred for similar features if respondents said they liked both. This made it very hard to understand which parts they should focus on to satisfy the most significant number of users. The MaxDiff question type was the perfect solution to their problem.
Using the MaxDiff question, we could include all their requested features and meaningfully measure the preferences between them. To set up the question, we selected the MaxDiff question type in our QuestionPro research tool and added each of their features. Respondents are then shown lists of only a few parts and asked which is their most and least preferred. The number of lists they see can be calibrated to get the best data, so each feature is shown the same number of times and compared equally to all other parts.
For respondents, they never have to see all the features together but rather a series of easy-to-navigate preference questions. When the survey closes, the response data can be reviewed with QuestionPro’s analytics, and filters can be applied to understand the preferences of different respondent groups, such as customers and ex-customers. The effective use of the MaxDiff question type allows users to clearly and easily identify the most impactful features for respondents and where they overlap for different respondent segments.
In addition to product and service features, the MaxDiff question can be used in a variety of ways, such as:
- Benefits of products and services
- Names for new products and services
- Positioning Statements
- Advertising Banners
- Design Concepts
- Loyalty Program Offers
- Advertising Messages
- Satisfaction Drivers
- User Frustrations, motivations
- Brand Perceptions
The MaxDiff question type offers many advantages over traditional rating or ranking questions but is often overlooked in the questionnaire design process. QuestionPro has an experienced Research Services team that is happy to assist you with your questionnaire design. To better understand how MaxDiff questions or others can improve your research project reach out to our team today.