Perceptual Mapping: What It Is and How It Helps Business

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published July 13, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Businesses often seek feedback to recognize their strengths and identify areas for growth. Perceptual mapping is a tool that can help companies understand customer viewpoints to help guide business decisions. Any organization using perceptual mapping can consider new strategies for growth based upon customer perceptions of the organization and its major competitors. In this article, we explain what perceptual mapping is and how you may benefit from using a perceptual map.

What is perceptual mapping?

Perceptual mapping is using a chart or visual representation to illustrate how customers perceive a brand or product. The map measures customer viewpoints and perceptions toward specific goods or services and depicts the feelings and impressions of consumers to help you understand their thoughts.

A perceptual map is often a two-dimensional graph charting customer sentiment of two product attributes, such as the taste and texture of food products. Perceptual mapping can also highlight customer perceptions of brand attributes, such as the quality and trustworthiness of a clothing brand. Some perceptual maps highlight customer viewpoints on three attributes or more, and some of these maps highlight how different demographic groups may perceive a product or brand.

Who should use a perceptual map?

Businesses and organizations that provide a service can use a perceptual map to better understand the perceptions of their customers. This includes the schools, colleges and universities that want to measure student sentiment. Political campaigns can also use perceptual maps to gauge voter perceptions. Marketing teams and brand managers often use perceptual maps to evaluate customer feelings in competitive industries.

Why should you use a perceptual map?

Reasons to use a perceptual map include:

Gain insight into customers

You can learn more about your customers and get a better understanding of how they view your product, brand or service by using a perceptual map. The information presented in the chart can provide you with insight into the minds of customers and can tell you how customers think of you and your competitors, which can help you develop or enhance marketing strategies for growth.

Help with tracking perceptions

You can use perceptual maps to track how customer perceptions may change. Introducing a new product or service could influence consumer sentiment and by embracing perceptual mapping, you can track and measure whether the perceptions improve or remain favorable when introducing new products or services. This could help you better understand how customers perceive the value of your brand against the value of other brands.

Market research on competitors

You can use perceptual maps to learn about your competition through market research by tracking and observing how customers perceive competitor products. Understanding customer perceptions of competitor brands and products can help you develop marketing strategies to better compete in your industry. Customers often make purchasing decisions based on preferences and perceptions, and knowing those preferences and perceptions can provide you with an opportunity to attract and maintain their patronage.

Related: How to Conduct Market Research

Repositioning of your brand

Perceptual maps can help you reposition your brand by letting you know what customers think of your brand versus competitor brands. Repositioning can help improve the strength and value of a brand, and perceptual maps can help you develop an effective repositioning strategy.

Related: What Is Repositioning?

Development of new products

Perceptual maps can reveal customer preferences, and knowing what customers like and what customers prefer can help you develop new products that align with their preferences. Data from a perceptual map can help you predict demand for a new product, which can guide you in the production cycle when developing and mass-producing a new product.

Related: What Is a Competitive Landscape?

How to create a perceptual map

Here are five steps you can use to create a perceptual map:

1. Select attributes

Attributes are the variables the customer factors into their decision to purchase a product or service. You can select attributes for your product or service by looking at the characteristics of the product. For example, attributes for a food product can be its taste, texture, smell and quality, and attributes for a vehicle can be its price, performance and model year. You can select the most prominent attributes for your product or brand. The attributes can be at least two characteristics, and they can be attributes your average customer finds important.

2. Identify competition

You can identify your top competition, which can be several businesses or organizations that provide similar products and services to what you provide. This step can help you develop a perceptual map showing where you and your competitors rank in the thoughts and perceptions of your customers.

Related: Competitive Rivalry: What Is It and Why Is It Important?

3. Survey consumers

You can create and distribute a questionnaire that surveys a group of consumers. The survey can ask questions related to the selected attributes. For a food product, your survey could ask consumers whether they prefer their food to be sweet or bitter and ask their preferences concerning soft food versus chewy food. The survey can ask consumers to rate your product or brand on a five-point scale and to rate your competitors according to the same system.

4. Analyze survey data

You can analyze the survey response data to see how the respondents rate your brand in comparison with competitor brands. You can review their preferences to see how respondents felt about your product or service and how they feel about competing brands. The survey response data can show the preferences and perceptions of consumers.

Related: Competitor Analysis Framework: Definition, Benefits and Types

5. Create your map

You can create your perceptual map using computer software and the survey's data. Basic software programs can graph a two-dimensional perceptual map featuring an X-axis and Y-axis that intersect. The map can show where you and your competitors fall on the chart that may depict consumer preferences for attributes like quality and trustworthiness. Advanced software programs can create more sophisticated perceptual maps factoring consumer perceptions of multiple attributes and may showcase how different demographic groups perceive you and your competitors.

Explore more articles