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Unlocking Product Success: Utilizing Vectors of Differentiation & Conjoint Analysis

Unlocking Product Success: Utilizing Vectors of Differentiation & Conjoint Analysis to Determine Optimal Feature Sets and Willingness to Pay

In my last blog post, I discussed how adopting a “Jobs to be Done” focus in your voice of the customer research can yield a deep understanding of customer needs and increase the chances of achieving product-market fit.  At the conclusion of this research, you should have hundreds of qualitative verbatim responses and process observations which can be distilled down (using an Affinity exercise or similar method) to a handful of key features and attributes.

Some will be “table stakes” and must be included by all market offerings to be included in customers’ consideration sets. In the case of a smartphone, table stakes attributes could include, among others: text messaging capabilities, a touchscreen and speakerphone mode.  However, some features and attributes will ultimately be potential vectors of differentiation.

Understanding Vectors of Differentiation

A vector of differentiation (VOD) refers to a set of distinct attributes, features, or characteristics that separate one product or brand from its competitors in the market. It represents the unique selling points or value propositions that distinguish a product from others and create a competitive advantage.

Just like a vector in mathematics, which has magnitude and direction, a vector of differentiation encapsulates the magnitude or significance of the features and the direction in which they set the product apart. These features can be tangible or intangible, functional or emotional, and they are aimed at meeting specific customer needs or preferences that are not effectively addressed by competing offerings.

For example, if we again consider the smartphone industry, some vectors of differentiation could include camera quality, battery life, user interface, design aesthetics, app ecosystem, or exclusive software features. Each of these vectors represents a unique aspect of the product that sets it apart from others and influences customers' buying decisions.

By focusing on these distinctive features, companies can differentiate themselves, attract target customers, build brand loyalty, and ultimately gain a competitive edge over their rivals. However, it is very rare that a business can physically design and profitably execute all VOD’s.  There are tradeoffs to be made.  But how do you determine which features, alone and in combination with others, will drive the highest user preference and willingness to pay?  This is exactly the question which conjoint analysis can answer.

What is Conjoint Analysis?

Conjoint analysis is a research technique that allows businesses to measure how customers evaluate and make choices among different product attributes or features. It involves presenting respondents with hypothetical product profiles that vary in attribute levels, and then capturing their preferences and trade-offs. By analyzing the data collected, companies can uncover the relative importance of various features, identify optimal combinations, and estimate the value customers place on each attribute.

Determining Optimal Feature Sets

Conjoint analysis enables businesses to determine the most desirable combinations of features for a new product or service. By presenting respondents with different profiles and asking them to rank or rate their preferences, companies can discern which attributes have the greatest impact on customers' decision-making. This information allows organizations to prioritize features and make informed decisions about what to include in their product offering. By identifying the optimal feature sets, companies can develop products that align with customer preferences, resulting in increased customer satisfaction and market share.

Assessing Willingness to Pay

Understanding customers' willingness to pay for specific features is crucial for pricing strategies and revenue optimization. Conjoint analysis helps estimate the value customers place on each attribute by utilizing trade-off exercises. By presenting respondents with different product profiles at different price points and asking them to choose their preferred options, businesses can gauge the perceived value of each attribute. This information is invaluable in determining pricing strategies, bundling options, and optimizing product positioning to maximize profitability. By leveraging conjoint analysis, companies can avoid underpricing or overpricing their products, ensuring they capture the optimal value from customers.

Driving Innovation and Market Success

Conjoint analysis not only aids in determining optimal feature sets and pricing strategies but also fosters innovation in the product development process. By understanding customer preferences and trade-offs, businesses gain insights into emerging trends, unmet needs, and potential white spaces in the market. This knowledge empowers organizations to develop innovative products that align with customer desires and expectations, giving them a competitive advantage. Conjoint analysis serves as a valuable tool for ideation, concept testing, and refining product ideas, allowing companies to deliver solutions that truly resonate with their target audience.

Mitigating Risk

New product development inherently involves risks, such as investing in features that customers do not value or misjudging price sensitivities. Conjoint analysis helps mitigate these risks by providing a data-driven approach to decision-making. By incorporating customer preferences and willingness to pay into the development process, companies can make informed choices, minimize costly mistakes, and increase the likelihood of market acceptance. Conjoint analysis acts as a safeguard, ensuring that investments in new product development are aligned with customer expectations and market demand.


Vectors of Differentiation & Conjoint analysis are powerful tools for organizations engaged in new product development efforts. By employing these research techniques, companies can determine optimal feature sets, assess customers' willingness to pay, drive innovation, and mitigate risks associated with new product launches. By leveraging the insights gained from conjoint analysis, businesses can develop products that align with customer preferences, capture market share, and ultimately achieve market success. Embracing these tools as valuable components of the product development process empowers companies to make informed decisions and unlock the potential for innovation and growth.

Take charge of your product's success by leveraging the power of Vectors of Differentiation and Conjoint Analysis. Schedule a consultation today and discover how these strategic tools can unlock untapped opportunities for your business.