Marketing experiments are performed in order to see how marketing tools and marketing research surveys are perceived by the user. A recent series of marketing experiments examined form elements and how they effected surveys.  A particularly interesting study was of radio buttons versus drop down menus. Understanding the study results can help craft more successful online marketing surveys.

Marketing Experiments Answer Questions

A radio button is a circle placed in front of each item in the list of choices from which the survey taker is expected to choose one or more, depending on the survey question. The choice is made by clicking the mouse within the circle, or button, in order to fill it in.

For shorter lists, such as Yes/No answers, radio buttons work better. They take up more visual space, but they lay out all of the choices for the respondent. When used with larger lists, it can cause the survey to appear much longer and daunting, and may impact completion rates.

The acceptation to this is when the respondent is asked to select more than one option, often worded as “select all that apply.”

The drop down menu is simple text or text within a box that, when clicked on, presents a list of options. Once the option is chosen by the survey taker, the list will disappear, and only the choice will remain.

When the list of choices is lengthy, a drop down box can provide a visual shortening of the survey. Customers tend to assume lists to be in an order; alphabetically, low to high. This creates an easier format for the user to scroll through the list to find their desired answer.

Although it appears visually shorter, the survey’s difficulty increases when the user must scroll through a long list, squinting at small type, searching for their answer.

The end result of the test was somewhat surprising, as radio buttons outperformed dropdown menus: 11.7% response compared to 10.7% for dropdowns, a 15% difference, which is significant at p = .08. So why did a treatment that shortened the perceived length of the form not perform better?

Choosing between radio buttons and drop down menus is an important decision. Research Access examined the Marketing Experiment study in detail. Lauren Pitchford (the lead researcher) indicates menus using drop downs make marketing research surveys appear shorter. However, the same study found that employing drop down menus also increases the difficulty of the survey. Both may be used throughout the survey to serve each questions individual needs.

At New Perspectives, we make the hard choices for you. Contact New Perspectives to discuss all of your marketing research consulting needs.