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August 23, 2012 | Research Brief

Measuring Consumer Preferences Using Conjoint Poker

Play games: use a modified form of poker to more accurately predict consumer preferences.

Topics: Marketing

The Idea

Play games: use a modified form of poker to more accurately predict consumer preferences.

The Research

Thanks to online data collection, conjoint analysis — a standard tool of market researchers — is now easier and less costly to conduct. But conjoint analysis is time-consuming and complex: consumers’ responses aren’t always consistent with their real-life preferences. So conjoint surveys ask consumers a series of questions about their product preferences and infer real-life choices based on a complex analysis of choice combinations. For example, rather than ask which set of laptop features is most important, conjoint surveys ask consumers to make choices between many different laptops that have many different combinations of features.

Another consistent market research challenge is capturing and keeping the attention of survey participants, who use subtle strategies to simplify and speed up taking the surveys. That simplification can diminish how accurately their survey choices reflect their real-world preferences.

How can market researchers get people to pay more attention and treat their experimental choices more like real choices? Let them play games: Professor Olivier Toubia, Martijn de Jong of Erasmus University in the Netherlands, and Johann Füller and Daniel Stieger of the University of Innsbruck in Austria used the principles of conjoint analysis to design an online poker game that could be played as a market research study that reveals consumer preferences.

The game substituted different computer features like RAM and hard drive capacity for suits and numbers. Players created hands based on which features and combination of features they most preferred and had a chance to receive the actual product after several rounds of play. The researchers used eye-tracking technology to assess how engaged and attentive participants were, comparing eye movements of participants in a regular conjoint version of the study with those in the conjoint poker version.

Practical Applications

Marketing managers

You can use this research to more accurately predict likely consumer preferences for your firm’s products and services.

The poker players spent much more time on the information presented about the products — taking in 85 to 90 percent of the information compared with 60 to 70 percent for a standard conjoint study. Conjoint poker also better predicted market share, and participants reported enjoying the game more than those who took the traditional survey. Conjoint poker does not require participants to be skilled poker players. Although playing conjoint poker does takes more time and is more complex than a standard survey, participants need not be skilled poker players to compete, and most users reported they would do it again and would only ask for the same amount ($5) of compensation.

Olivier Toubia is the Glaubinger Professor of Business in the Marketing Division at Columbia Business School.

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