What is two attribute trade-off analysis?


Posted on 18 April 2017


Two-attribute trade-off analysis was an early conjoint-like research technique where respondents were shown a series of trade-off tables. Each table would contain all the possible combinations of levels for two attributes. Respondents would then need to rank each column in the table according to their preference.

For example, consider a product that is has three attributes, two levels in each:

  • Size
    • Big
    • Small
  • Colour
    • Blue
    • White
  • Price
    • $10
    • $20

Each respondent would then be shown three tables (questions), with four concepts in each:

Question 1

  Alternative 1 Alternative 2 Alternative 3 Alternative 4
Size Big Big Small Small
Colour Blue White Blue White
Rank (1 to 4) ___ ___ ___ ___

Question 2

  Alternative 1 Alternative 2 Alternative 3 Alternative 4
Size Big Big Small Small
Price $10 $20 $10 $20
Rank (1 to 4) ___ ___ ___ ___

Question 3

  Alternative 1 Alternative 2 Alternative 3 Alternative 4
Colour Blue Blue White White
Price $10 $20 $10 $20
Rank (1 to 4) ___ ___ ___ ___

This approach has less cognitive load on participants and is simple to implement. However, it has major drawbacks because of which it is not currently used in practice:

  • The exercise is unrealistic because real-life alternatives do not present themselves for evaluation as combinations of two attributes.
  • If there are many attributes or levels, respondents get bored and often develop quick patterns to get through the survey quickly.

There were a number of related trade-off approaches, such as SIMALTO (Simultaneous Multi-Attribute Level Trade-Off). Choice-based conjoint has come to replace all such outdated methodologies.


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