Scaling Techniques in Business Research

by Andra Picincu - Updated June 26, 2018
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Companies use different methods to assess customer satisfaction, happiness and other critical aspects of the sales process. Large organizations often employ scaling techniques in market research. Polls, surveys and questionnaires are just a few examples. Their role is to determine how customers feel about a particular product, what features they are looking for or why they dislike a specific item. Brands can use this data to identify areas of improvement and develop better products.

Various scaling techniques are used in business market research and each has unique characteristics. Choosing one over another depends on your budget and goals.

Nominal Scales

Nominal scales are the easiest to use but provide the lowest measurement level. Unlike other techniques, they don't express any relationships or values between variables. Researchers use them to determine frequency counts, such as the number of men and women who prefer a specific product color or size. For example, you can ask respondents whether they have black, brown, blonde or gray hair. If you're selling hair care products, this information will provide insights into your target market. Assuming that most of your customers have gray hair, you could develop a product that helps cover gray hairs and restores natural color.

Interval Scales

Interval scales are commonly used in commercial marketing research. They indicate the order as well as the differences between variables. A distinctive feature of this method is that there is no absolute zero point. Examples include opinion scales and attitude scales.

Temperature, for instance, represents an interval scale. We can say that a temperature of 10-degrees Celsius is lower than one of 20-degrees Celsius.

As a business owner, you can ask respondents to rate their satisfaction on a scale from one to 10. Or you can ask them to state their income as a range, such as $1,500-$2,500, $2,500-$4,500 and so on which will give you a better understanding of their spending power.

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Ordinal Scales

This scaling technique helps measure non-numeric concepts, such as comfort, satisfaction, overall experience and more. A good example would be: Dissatisfied, Satisfied, Somehow Satisfied or Extremely Satisfied. Respondents will tick the box that best reflects their satisfaction level.

Ordinal scales allow you to rank the variables you measure regarding which has less or more of the quality it represents. They don't indicate the magnitude of difference, but only the relative position of items.

Comparative Scales

As their name suggests, these scales allow respondents to compare various products or services. They are widely used in market research, offering valuable insights into customer preferences. For example, if you're planning to launch a new energy drink, you can ask prospects whether they would prefer vanilla, citrus or berry flavor.

Comparative scaling techniques measure how respondents interact with items as well as the individual difference in response tendencies. Companies can use this data to define their audience better and create products that address its needs and wants.

Ratio Scales

Ratio scales are the most comprehensive of all scaling techniques because they measure the exact value of items. Additionally, they have a fixed origin or zero points. Respondents can provide compelling information, such as their annual household income, the amount spent on their last purchase, the time spent watching TV on a daily basis and more. From here, researchers can apply various statistics like mode, frequency, range, standard deviation and variance.

There are many other scaling techniques used in market research. For instance, you can use the unity-sum-gain technique when launching new products or services. Companies can also work with non-comparative scales, such as line marking scales, continuous rating scales and semantic scales. Each has a different purpose and a unique method of measurement.

About the Author

Andra Picincu is a digital marketing consultant with over nine years of experience. She works closely with small businesses and large organizations alike to help them grow and increase brand awareness.

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