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How to create a perceptual map using Excel?


This article provides a detailed response to: How to create a perceptual map using Excel? For a comprehensive understanding of Market Research, we also include relevant case studies for further reading and links to Market Research best practice resources.

TLDR Creating a perceptual map in Excel involves gathering data, plotting it on a scatter plot, and customizing it for strategic analysis and decision-making.

Reading time: 4 minutes


Creating a perceptual map in Excel is a strategic approach to visually analyze how target audiences perceive your products or services in comparison to competitors. This powerful framework aids in identifying market opportunities and developing strategies for differentiation. Excel, given its ubiquity in the corporate world, serves as an accessible yet potent tool for constructing these maps. The process involves plotting products or brands based on two dimensions that are most relevant to consumer decision-making. These dimensions often include factors such as price, quality, performance, or luxury. By understanding where your organization stands in the eyes of consumers, you can better navigate the competitive terrain.

The first step in how to create a perceptual map in Excel involves gathering data. This data can come from market research, consumer surveys, or industry reports from reputable sources such as Gartner or Forrester. The objective is to obtain quantifiable measures that reflect the perceptions of your target market on the two chosen dimensions. For instance, if you're mapping smartphones, you might use battery life and camera quality as your dimensions. You'll need to score each product or brand on these attributes based on consumer feedback or expert evaluations.

Once the data is collected, the next step is to open Excel and input this data. Create a simple spreadsheet where each row represents a product or brand and each column represents one of the dimensions. For clarity, include a third column for the names of the products or brands. This setup is crucial as it forms the backbone of your perceptual map, enabling a straightforward transition from raw data to visual analysis.

After inputting the data, the creation of the perceptual map begins by selecting the appropriate chart type. In Excel, the scatter plot is the most suitable option for this task. Highlight your data excluding the product or brand names, navigate to the 'Insert' tab, and choose 'Scatter Plot'. This action will generate a basic perceptual map. However, to enhance its utility and readability, further customization is necessary. This includes adding data labels to identify each point on the map as a specific product or brand, adjusting the axis titles to reflect your dimensions, and applying different colors or shapes to distinguish between competitors.

Customizing Your Perceptual Map

Customization plays a pivotal role in transforming a basic scatter plot into a comprehensive perceptual map. Begin by right-clicking on any data point and selecting 'Add Data Labels'. Then, format these labels to include the product or brand names from your spreadsheet. This step is critical for ensuring that viewers can easily identify each competitor on the map. Additionally, consider adjusting the scale of the axes to better fit your data points and enhance readability. This might involve setting a specific range for each axis or changing the axis titles to more accurately describe the dimensions you are analyzing.

Another aspect of customization involves the visual differentiation of data points. This can be achieved by assigning unique colors or shapes to each competitor. Such visual cues assist in quickly distinguishing between different market players, making the map more intuitive. To implement this, click on a data point to select all points of that series, then choose 'Format Data Series'. Here, you can select different fill colors or marker styles. Leveraging these visual elements effectively can turn a simple chart into a dynamic tool for strategic analysis.

Finally, it's crucial to contextualize the perceptual map within the broader strategic framework of your organization. This means not just viewing it as a standalone tool, but integrating it into your ongoing strategic planning and performance management efforts. Consider how the insights from the map can inform product development, marketing strategies, and competitive positioning. The goal is to leverage this visual tool to uncover gaps in the market, identify areas for improvement, and ultimately drive strategic decision-making.

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Applying Insights from Your Perceptual Map

The real value of a perceptual map lies in its application to strategic decision-making. By visualizing where your products or services stand relative to competitors, you can identify strategic opportunities for differentiation or improvement. For example, if your product is perceived as high-quality but expensive, there might be an opportunity to introduce a more cost-effective option that retains a level of quality acceptable to your target market.

Moreover, perceptual maps can reveal market segments that are underserved or overly crowded. This insight is invaluable for organizations looking to enter new markets or adjust their product offerings. It provides a clear visual representation of where there's room for innovation and where competition is most intense. By aligning this analysis with your organization's strengths and strategic objectives, you can make informed decisions about where to allocate resources for maximum impact.

In conclusion, learning how to create a perceptual map in Excel is more than just mastering a technical skill. It's about embracing a framework that enhances strategic planning and market analysis. By following the steps outlined above and applying the insights gained, organizations can navigate the competitive landscape more effectively. This tool, when used correctly, can be a cornerstone of your strategy development and innovation efforts, guiding your organization towards sustained success in a rapidly changing market.

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