CBC or MaxDiff?

We’re often asked by client interested in “taking the plunge” into more advanced methods whether they should use Choice Based Conjoint (CBC) or MaxDiff for their studies. Of course – as with all research questions – the answer is entirely dependent on what insight is needed. And of course, that’s rarely a satisfying answer for clients who are struggling with multiple stakeholders! We find a typical problem for product managers we work with will center on prioritizing features and understanding the effect on buyer preference (choice).

To select between CBC and MaxDiff often depends on the nature of the feature “list” to be tested. CBC works well when there is a natural grouping of mutually exclusive features, e.g., color can be red, blue or green, and processor speed can be 1, 2 or 3 GHz. If, instead, we’re working with more of a laundry list of features that are not mutually exclusive, the prioritization problem lends itself well to MaxDiff. Interestingly, price sensitivity is intrinsic to CBC, but has to be added to MaxDiff. We’ve done this many times with excellent results. Likewise, the concept of simulation is closely linked to CBC, but we find that there is often an opportunity to use MaxDiff data to greater effect, developing simulators for evaluating preference for feature bundles.