Laddering Technique in Market Research

Finding out what is important to your customers and what influences their decisions is an essential result when conducting online market research. To accomplish this, your organization must be able to dig deeper into participant responses during focus groups to uncover the functional and emotional motivators for your customers. By using the laddering technique in your market research strategy, you will gain a better understanding of your customers, clients, or employees, which can be put to use in your daily operation. Armed with this information, your organization will be able to build new product concepts, create more effective marketing materials, and appeal to your audience more effectively.

What Is the Purpose of Laddering?

The purpose of laddering is to uncover the basic emotions that feed into a customer’s decision to purchase a certain product. The technique gets its name due to the nature of the questions asked by the researcher. By continuing to dig deeper in responses to your questions about your brand or a particular product, you are able to discover the “whys” that are present in every transaction.

Laddering, when looked at metaphorically, connects a person’s beliefs and values with their decision to buy your product. Each question you ask is a rung on the ladder that brings you one step closer to gaining this insight.

How Does Laddering Work?

Laddering is usually completed as a four-step process while you are conducting a focus group with individuals. You can deploy the technique by asking participants in online market research to elaborate on their responses to initial questions. The step-by-step questioning line allows you to find out the following information about your customers:

  1. Features of products they find important
  2. Functional benefits received from the feature
  3. Higher order benefits that are deeper than serving a functional purpose
  4. Emotional needs met by each of the benefits received

To find out these things you will need to start out with a generic question about your brand or product, and ask follow-up questions that are more direct and personal. For example, finding out why someone purchased a new pair of shoes from your company could include this dialogue:

  • “What do you like best about the shoes?”
    • “They are very comfortable.” (Feature)
  • “What makes comfort important?”
    • “I need to be able to run long distances at a time.” (Functional benefit)
  • “How does comfort achieve this for you?”
    • “I can run longer without getting injured or feeling fatigued.” (Higher benefit)
  • “What does running without pain or fatigue do for you?”
    • “I can get faster and feel accomplished by improving my marathon time.” (Emotional benefit)

From this conversation, you’ve identified that a customer wants to improve her time, and that determination led her to purchase your company’s shoes to help achieve that goal.

What Value Can Be Gained from Laddering?

Market researchers turn to laddering as a technique because they are able to gain the qualitative information that can be used to enhance product offerings, advertisements, and overall business strategy. Once you are able to connect a physical action with its underlying motivation, you have all of the tools needed to create compelling advertising copy that resonates with your audience.

The qualitative data you collect through laddering helps build your relationship with customers because you will understand their values and see ways that you can fulfill their needs. To use laddering effectively it is important to work with experts in online focus groups that will assist you with conducting your research and making the most out of the data it produces. To learn more about how focus groups can bolster your market research strategy, contact a representative of e-Focus Groups at (707) 585-7363.