The term perceptual mapping refers to a collection of techniques which can be used to generate graphical representations of perceived product relationships. Although they generally also contain relevant product attributes, lending interpretability to the map, it is not necessarily a requirement. It is an invaluable tool to reduce a large data set with numerous attributes into an easily interpreted 2-dimensional plot. One hazard is some loss of data inherent in this type of analysis. A 2-dimensional plot may not fully, or accurately, depict the relationships among products or between products and attributes.
The type of data available has an impact on the statistical procedure used to generate the map. Data such as that obtained from descriptive analysis can be readily analyzed by Principal Component Analysis or PCA. However data obtained from a sorting task cannot be evaluated in this manner, but can instead be analyzed by Multi-dimensional Scaling (MDS
) or a similar technique. Other methods to generate perceptual maps include Multi-Factor Analysis (MFA
), Generalized Procrustes Analysis
and Discriminant Analysis
Perceptual mapping is a popular tool in market research. In this context it can be used in product category review. Maps can be generated which depict where currently available products fall in relation to each other and what attributes consumers associate with these products. When combined with consumer preference data it may be useful in determining opportunities for product placement.