The Consumer NOW Index: Understanding and interpreting the MaxDiff


The Consumer NOW Index is an on-going tracker focused on consumer sentiments, attitudes, and actions in the US, UK, and Germany (aged 18-70). Here, we will focus on the results from the MaxDiff in the German market with a deep dive into how the method works and best practices to interpret the results. 


What is Maximum Difference Scaling (MaxDiff)?


MaxDiff is used to identify consumers' preferences towards product features, advertising claims, or branding. It’s used to understand which items to prioritize by asking respondents to make trade-offs between the items. These forced trade-off decisions indirectly determine a valid importance ranking by preventing respondents from marking "everything as important" (also known as "ceiling effect").


Typical MaxDiff research questions:


  • What product features are the most important for the decision to buy?
  • Do different target groups have the same needs?
  • What advertising slogans do consumer find the most appealing?
  • Which products in the online shop have the greatest potential?


MaxDiff findings from the Consumer NOW Index Wave 5

In each wave of the Index, we ask consumers "thinking about the past week, which of the following products are the most important and the least important to you?"

In wave 5 of the Index, the MaxDiff shows that the most important products for consumers fresh meats/fresh produce and hand soap. Less important are personal care products and non-essential products (e.g. alcoholic beverages, make-up).






The MaxDiff score is the percentage of how often an item is chosen as the best option minus the percentage of how often an item is chosen as the worst option. The higher the score the more important/preferred the item is.


How are the MaxDiff scores measured? 


In the survey, participants choose the best (or most important) and worst (or least important) item for each set of alternatives. These decisions are then used to determine a preference/importance ranking using the MaxDiff scores.








Today Top — Tomorrow Flop


Throughout the Consumer NOW Index, the MaxDiff has proven that consumer preferences and priorities shift during times of uncertainty. While hand sanitizers have been increasing in importance throughout each wave, the importance of other items such as toilet paper increased initially, but is now declining. Disinfectant spray was especially important for German consumers in waves 2 and 3 (March 27th - April 8th, 2020), but less so for wave 4 (April 10th - 15th, 2020l).


For some products we are observe a kind of "up and down" pattern (e.g. for medicine or canned food). It's possible that these products are staple items that become more relevant consumer's use up their supplies and they need to be purchased again. 


Women rely on soap


The MaxDiff presents particularly interesting insights when you split by the data by different segment groups. For example, bread and coffee are more important for the older German generation (39-69), while the younger German cohort (18-38) tend to consider canned foods as the more important. In a gender comparison, German women clearly prefer hand soap more often than German men. While German men consider soft drinks more important than the women do.


People from Germany love their bread


The comparison between the countries confirms the cliché: German's love their bread! Bread appears in the top 5 most preferred items compared to the US respondents who attach a greater importance to cleaning products, and the UK consumers who keep toilet paper in their the top 5 products.





Benefits of quantilope's MaxDiff: 


  • Provides automatic suggestions for optimal survey designs
  • Set up within a few minutes
  • Intuitive analyses and comparisons of sub-segments
  • Gamified approach for respondents


Click here for the full Insights Dashboard: Consumer NOW Index.


We recommend opening it on a large screen and zooming in or out as needed.


Learn more about the Consumer NOW Index

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