Menu-Based Conjoint: When There Are Just Too Many Choices

Menu-Based Conjoint: When There Are Just Too Many Choices

An overview of the new methodology we’re showcasing at next month’s Corporate Researchers Conference in Dallas.

Marketing research projects must inevitably strike a balance between scheduling, cost, and rigor.  The growth of DIY research and data-centric analytics continue to pressure agencies to deliver insights quickly, within constrained budgets.  At the same time, clients operating in a digital age of virtual production and product customization face increasingly complex business challenges and research questions.  New methodologies provide a way for research agencies to meet these changing demands and offer unique insights for our clients.

One such methodology is Menu-Based Conjoint (MBC).  This exciting evolution of traditional conjoint was born out of the need to model complex decisions and customized outcomes.  We take for granted how often consumers juggle dozens of alternatives to order from a fast-food menu or customize options on a new car, yet modeling these tasks has been dauntingly prohibitive for researchers until the advent of Menu-Based Conjoint.  The evolution of digital commerce will make modeling complexity relevant to a growing number of research scenarios and industries.

Take for instance Autodesk, a global leader in design software.  From its beginnings with a single product, AutoCAD, the company now sells more than 100 design tools that facilitate construction, manufacturing, media, and environmental management across the globe.  In light of its extensive product lines, Autodesk’s challenges when creating, marketing and managing their product portfolio and brand(s) are substantial.

Autodesk approached Illuminas to help understand the complex trade-offs its customers make when evaluating vast product offerings.  As the complexity of Autodesk’s marketing research task has increased dramatically, we have brought increasingly complex methods to bear in order to inform them.

Conjoint analysis has proven to be one of the great success stories of marketing research. Over the past 40 years, it has become an indispensable tool for making complex decisions observable within the realm of survey questionnaires. The combination of experimental designs and choice-based observation has yielded a myriad of approaches that have proven robust and flexible to a variety of market(ing) measurement needs.

Menu-Based Conjoint represents the latest evolution of choice analysis. Spawned over a decade ago (Liechty, Venkatram and Cohen, 2001) in response to web-based customization, the technique is slowly filtering its way into the mainstream through commercial software (Sawtooth Software, 2012).

Whereas traditional conjoint was built to suit mass-market products with uniform features and prices, Menu-Based Conjoint advances the method by acknowledging that any purchase choice can be a custom combination of many individual decisions. Rather than forcing a respondent to conform to a single definition of preference, Menu-Based Conjoint allows them to exhibit preference in a way that matches the realities of a more fluid purchase experience.

Menu-Based Conjoint has afforded Autodesk the power to model product customization, multi-product selection, and cross-elasticity modeling with the proven framework of experimental design.  Although software products are virtual rather than tangible, the benefits from Menu-Based Conjoint are easily translated across a variety of purchase scenarios.

At next month’s Corporate Researchers Conference hosted by the Marketing Research Association (MRA), Illuminas and Autodesk will be presenting a session on Menu-Based Conjoint and how we have successfully leveraged this new methodology over the last year.  Andrew Elder (Illuminas SVP of Marketing Sciences) and Srinath Jonnalagadda (Autodesk Sr. Manager of Suites & Web Services) will review the background of Menu-Based Conjoint and how it is different than prior conjoint approaches, both in theory and as applied to client experience.  Using a variety of Autodesk case studies, we will review the outcomes of Menu-Based Conjoint and the flexibility it affords both researchers and clients.  Best practices from our experience will be shared from both client and researcher perspectives.

We’re excited to be sharing this new approach with the research industry, and are looking forward to the opportunity to discuss the benefits and applications with those in attendance.  If you’re unable to make it to Dallas for the conference, we’ll be sharing the presentation afterwards and are always happy to schedule individual conversations for those who may be interested in learning more.  Just drop us a line at [email protected] if you’d like more information on how Menu-Based Conjoint may be the right methodology for your business needs.