The primary goal of market research is to understand your target audience and design products that will appeal to them. Perceptual maps are a market research method that focuses on understanding your customers’ perspectives and how to use them to improve your products and services

A perceptual map helps you discover what customers want from your product, such as the specific features customers value in your products, and why they would pick your competitor’s product over yours or vice versa.

What Is a Perceptual Map

A positioning map is pretty similar to a Perceptual map but they are not the same. A positioning map shows your brand personality and products, but a perceptual map shows how customers perceive the brand.

A Perceptual map collects customer data and uses it to develop a view of how consumers interact with similar brands and their products. It’s a diagram that shows how your brand and its products are perceived by customers in comparison to your competitors.

A perceptual map ensures that your brand attributes match your brand image; there’s a high chance of customers dropping you if there’s a disparity between what customers expect from you and what they experience or perceive. This is where you need to carefully craft your brand voice and tone to match your company values.

How to Build a Perceptual Map

Creating a Perceptual map is the first step to grasping how your customers view your company, not just what it stands for and offers. This allows you to reshape your marketing strategy so that your target audience sees you as you are, 

The following steps are how to develop a successful perceptual map:

1. Choose Important Product Attributes/Elements

Begin by selecting product attributes that are important to your customers; this will help you create a meaningful Perceptual map. These product elements are what your customers consider when deciding whether to choose your company or one of your competitors.

The primary goal of attribute selection is to highlight the features of your product that customers value. Customers may form an inaccurate opinion of your brand based on previous experiences with similar products.

So, it’s very important to explicitly outline the attributes that matter to customers. Perceptual maps aren’t the same for all of your products and services; what customers see in one product may be different in another.

For example, a product launch Perceptual map will highlight different attributes than a subscription plan Perceptual map. For the subscription plan perceptual map, you’re likely to outline the attributes are features that users receive with each plan.

2. Choose the Attributes that will Represent the Map’s Axes.

After selecting the important attributes, the next step is to filter the attributes so that you can clearly see how customers perceive the product. Because the Perceptual map is a linear graph, using two attributes results in a straightforward process.

For example, if your product is a phone charger, the attributes you selected are charging speed, charger length, and durability. When setting dimensions, you should only use two of these three attributes.

Market research typically chooses two attributes because it is much easier to see the impact of these attributes on your customer’s perspective when there are fewer attributes. When there are more attributes, the map becomes much more complicated to interpret.

So choose the attributes that are most important to customers; attributes they base their purchasing decisions on.

Keep in mind that while price motivates customers to buy or dismiss it, it has little effect on how they perceive a brand and its product. Instead of including price as an attribute, consider quality; quality has a significant impact on the value of a product to customers.

3. Decide Products/Brands To Map

Following the selection of the attribute dimensions for your Perceptual map, handpick the brands or products that are similar to yours- your competitors.

Choosing the right product to map will help you understand why a brand or product is better from the perspective of customers than yours. You can then use the data to improve your product’s reception among your customers and target audience.

Assume you chose charging speed and durability as your axes in the charger example. When mapping products, you can select other competitors who offer a similar charger with similar features to yours.

You can make a table that lists the brands or products you’re adding to your map in a column and two more columns for the attributes.

 

Name

Attribute A (1-10 rating) Attribute B (1-10 rating)

Product X

Product Y

 

4. Create a Survey

Next, create a survey to help you collect data from your target audience about how they perceive each product based on the attributes you selected.

For example, you can ask your respondents how they would rate Samsung on a scale of 1-10 based on design and usability.

You can then do this for all the brands you selected. The survey results will help you get an average scale value for the product based on the chosen attributes.

If you have more than two significant attributes that customers value, you can create multiple surveys to design separate Perceptual maps per attribute pair.

The main reason market researchers use rating scales for Perceptual maps is that the average scale value makes it easier to determine whether average customers have a positive or negative perception of the brand. You can also use open-ended questions, but they will take considerably longer to analyze.

5. Design the Map

Finally, use the market research data to create your personalized map. All you need to do is plot the graph of one attribute against the other.

The scale rating of each respondent becomes a graph value. Plotting the attributes against each other shows the area your product is in a positive light with customers.

Applications of a Perceptual Map

Using Perceptual maps allows you to compare how major attributes affect a customer’s perception of a brand or a product. Here are some of the most common applications for Perceptual surveys:

Product Management

Product managers use Perceptual maps to discover features that their company should include in their product to make it more desirable. They also use the Perceptual map to see which product features customers dislike and how they can improve those features.

Perceptual maps also enable product managers to compare features to determine which are the most and least useful. This analysis helps product managers in determining which features should be improved, added, or removed from the product.

Growth/Marketing Teams

In most cases, the marketing and growth team designs the Perceptual map after gathering survey data. They are also the department on which the Perceptual map has the greatest impact. 

Growth and Marketing teams use the Perceptual map to restructure their messaging to make the brand more appealing to customers. They use survey data to determine the product attributes to emphasize when promoting the brand.

For example, if customers value a product’s simplicity and design. The marketing campaign will emphasize how simple the product is to use and how beautiful its design is when creating promotional messages.

Sales

Marketing employs the information gleaned from the Perceptual map to create campaigns that ensure customers see what is important to them in a product or brand. Sales do the same thing, emphasizing the attributes that appeal to customers while on a sales call.

When speaking with customers, the only way to capture and hold their attention long enough to persuade them to purchase a product is to tell them what they need from the product. A good Perceptual map assists the sales team in developing strategies based on customer attributes to capture the leads generated by marketing’s attention and convert them into long-term customers. 

So, when the sales team conducts a demo for a potential customer or a sales call, they are not going in blind and end up performing poorly. They already have a plan for how the conversation should go to successfully close deals.

Advantages of a Perceptual Map

The ultimate goal of Perceptual maps is to fully grasp how clients view a product and how to use the Perceptual map to improve a product’s market performance.

Understand Your Target Audience

Perceptual maps can help you learn what your customers and target audience think about your products. It also helps you to determine which characteristics motivate your customers to choose your product over your competitor’s.

Perceptual maps can help you understand how your brand or product fits into your niche;  helps you determine whether or not you are an industry leader.

Knowing these perceptions allows you to reposition your brand and product to become a leader in your industry by focusing on the attributes that matter to the product.

It helps Compare Qualitative and Quantitative Attributes

Brands can use Perceptual maps to compare quantitative and qualitative product elements. A Perceptual map of a shower gel, for example, could emphasize its volume and fragrance.

The Perceptual maps help you understand a qualitative attribute, that’s the fragrance that is difficult to measure.

Competitor Analysis

Perceptual maps not only tell you what to add or remove to make your product more appealing to customers, but it also shows you what customers value in your competitor’s product. Knowing what customers value in your competitor’s product allows you to optimize your product so that it is a better fit for your customers’ needs and performs better in the market.

For example, if your competitor’s customer service rating is significantly higher than yours, it’s time to rethink your customer experience strategy. You can use the insights to implement some of your competitor’s strategies to optimize your customer experience.

Easy to Interpret

Perceptual maps are also simple to understand and analyze; it’s a linear graph that shows which attributes customers value in a product.

Also, Perceptual maps use scale rating as participant response, so it’s easy for respondents to complete. The tendency of respondents to drop off during simple surveys is way less than asking complicated questions or surveys that take quite a while to complete e.g open-ended surveys.

Disadvantages of a Perceptual Map

Perceptual maps are an excellent way to understand your customers’ perceptions of your brand versus what it actually is. You can use it to close the gap between your customers’ opinions and your brand offerings by incorporating product elements that your customers want to see in your brand. 

However, it is not flawless. Here are some downsides to using perceptual Maps:

  • It’s dependent on the attributes chosen
  • It’s not an in-depth market research method
  • You can only analyze two attributes at a time, if you have more than two important attributes, you’d have to create multiple maps
  • It’s not an effective market research method for multi-brand enterprises.

Conclusion

Perceptual maps are an excellent tool for developing effective marketing strategies and promoting a positive brand image. 

A customer perception survey is an important element in creating an effective perceptual map. You can create and customize your perpetual survey with formplus and export the collected data as a spreadsheet to create your perceptual map.


  • Moradeke Owa
  • on 9 min read

Formplus

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