MaxDiff is a form of analysis where survey respondents are shown a subset of possible items, often three to five at a time, and asked to indicate the two elements of the subset shown that are the most and least important to them. This forces respondents to make choices between options, in contrast to standard rating scales.
By analyzing all of their responses, the researcher can prioritize an entire list of items. MaxDiff analysis is very simple for the respondent, but gives extremely rich information to the researcher.
Imagine that a refrigerator manufacturer need to identify which features should be included in their new high-end product line. They might use a series of questions like the one below to identify the relative importance of the features they are considering.
For example, respondents would choose the most important feature and least important feature below. Then, they would see this question again, but without those two features they just selected. The list would diminish until they rated the importance of all features.
MaxDiff is an excellent way to gauge what features are most important to consumers. It can be used for improving marketing campaigns or product design.
Continuing with the example shown above, a MaxDiff survey can help a refrigerator manufacturer discern features are most and least important to them in a refrigerator: energy efficiency, size, luxury finishes, price, and layout. Different segments of the market may prioritize these features differently—an urban apartment dweller might value compact size the most, whereas a multi-child household may care less about whether a refrigerator has a stainless steel finish and more about layout and a low price.