Good survey questions will help your business acquire the right information to drive growth. Surveys can be made up of different types of questions. Each type has a unique approach to gathering data. The questions you choose and the way you use them in your survey will affect its results.
These are the types of survey question we will cover:
- Open-Ended Questions
- Closed-Ended Questions
- Multiple Choice Questions
- Rating Scale Questions
- Likert Scale Questions
- Nominal Questions
- Demographic Questions
- Matrix Table Questions
- Side-by-Side Matrix Questions
- Data Reference Questions
- Choice Model Questions
- Net Promoter Score Questions
- Picture Choice Questions
- Image Rating Questions
- Visual Analog Scale Questions
But before we go into the actual question types, let’s talk a little about how you should use them.
How to Use Survey Questions in Market Research
First, you need to make sure it’s a survey you’re after. In some cases, you may find that it’s actually a questionnaire that you need (read more here to learn the difference: Survey Vs. Questionnaire). In any case, though, you will need to use the right type of questions.
To determine the right type of questions for your survey, consider these factors:
- The kind of data you want to gather
- The depth of the information you require
- How long it takes to answer the survey
Regardless of the size of your business, you can use surveys to collect customer feedback, get new registrations, and improve retention.
Surveys can help you gather valuable insights into critical aspects of your business. From brand awareness to customer responsiveness, effective surveys give you the data you need to stay ahead of the competition.
So, how should you use surveys for your market research?
Identify Customer Needs and Expectations
Perhaps the idea of using customer surveys in this advanced era of data analytics seems quaint. But one of the best ways to find out what consumers need and expect is to go directly to the source and ask. That’s why surveys still matter. All companies can benefit from using market research surveys to determine the needs of their clients.
Determine Brand Attributes
A market research survey can also help your company identify the attributes that consumers associate with your brand. These could be tangible or intangible features that they think of when they see your brand. By determining your brand attributes, you can identify other brands in the same niche. Additionally, you can gain a clear understanding of what your audience values.
Understand Your Market’s Supply and Demand Chain
Surveying existing and potential customers enables you to understand the language of supply and demand. You can understand consumer satisfaction levels and identify opportunities for the market to absorb new products. At the same time, you can use the data you collect to build customer-centric products or services. By understanding your target market, you can minimize the risks involved in important business ventures.
Acquire Customer Demographic Information
Before any campaign or product launch, every company needs to determine its key demographic. Online surveys make it so much easier for marketers to get to know their audience and build a buyer persona. With a market research survey, you can collect details such as family income, race, and ethnicity.
Strategize for New Product Launches
Businesses of all sizes can use customer surveys to fine-tune products and improve services. Let’s say there’s a product you want to launch. But you’re hesitant to do so without ensuring that it will be well-received by your target audience. Why not send out a survey? With the data you gather, you can identify issues that may have been overlooked in the development process and make the necessary changes to improve your product’s success.
Develop a Strategic Marketing Plan
Surveys can be used in the initial phases of a campaign to help shape your marketing plan. Thanks to in-depth analytics, a quick and easy survey that respondents can finish within minutes can give you a clear idea of what potential consumers need and expect.
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Types of Survey Questions
No matter the purpose of your survey, the questions you ask will be crucial to its success. For this reason, it’s best to set the goal of your survey and define the information you want to gather before writing the questions.
Ask yourself: What do I want to know? Why do I want to know this? Can direct questions help me get the information I need? How am I going to use the data I gather?
Once you have a clear goal in mind, you can choose the best questions to elicit the right kind of information. We’ve made a list of the most common types of survey questions to help you get started.
1. Open-Ended Questions
If you prefer to gather qualitative insights from your respondents, the best way to do so is through an open-ended question. That’s because such questions give respondents more opportunity to say what’s on their minds. After all, an open question doesn’t come with pre-set options that respondents can choose from. Instead, it uses a text box where respondents can leave more detailed responses.
Ideally, you should ask such questions when you’re doing expert interviews or preliminary research. You may also opt to end surveys with this type of question. This is to give respondents a chance to share additional concerns with you. By letting respondents give answers in their own words, you can identify opportunities you might have overlooked. At the same time, it shows that you appreciate their effort to answer all your questions.
Since quantifying written answers isn’t easy to do, opt to use these questions sparingly, especially if you’re dealing with a large population.
Examples of open-ended questions:
- What can you tell us about yourself? (Your age, gender, hobbies, interests, and anything else you’re willing to share)
- How satisfied or dissatisfied are you with our service?
- What has kept you from signing up for our newsletter?
2. Closed-Ended Questions
Consumers want surveys they can answer in a jiffy. Closed-ended questions are ideal for market research for that reason. They come with a limited number of options, often one-word responses such as yes or no, multiple-choice, or a rating scale. Compared to open-ended questions, these drive limited insights because respondents only have to choose from pre-selected choices.
Ask closed-ended questions if you need to gather quantifiable data or to categorize your respondents. Furthermore, you can use such questions to drive higher response rates. Let’s say your audience isn’t particularly interested in the topic you intend to ask them about. You can use closed-ended questions to make it easier for them to complete the survey in minutes.
Close-ended question examples:
- Are you satisfied with our service?
- How likely are you to recommend us on a scale of 0 to 10?
- Would you consider using our product again?
3. Multiple Choice Questions
Multiple-choice questions are a basic type of closed-ended survey question that give respondents multiple answers to choose from. These questions can be broken down into two main categories:
- Single answer questions – respondents are directed to choose one, and only one answer from a list of answer options.
- Multiple answer questions – where respondents can select a number of answers from a list of answer options.
Examples of multiple-choice:
- What do you think about our customer service? (select one answer)
- It’s exceptional
- It’s OK
- Could be better
- It’s terrible
- Which of the following products do you purchase regularly at our store? (select up to 5 answers)
- Whole-grain rice
- Gluten-free noodles
- Soy milk
- Suger-free soft drinks
- Lactose-free ice cream
4. Rating Scale Questions
Also called ordinal questions, these questions help researchers measure the opinions and attitudes of consumers in a quantitative way. This type of question comes with a range of response options. It could be from 1 to 5 or 1 to 10.
In a survey, a respondent selects the number that accurately represents their response. Of course, you have to establish the value of the numbers on your scale for it to be effective.
With the lack of proper survey scaling, respondents won’t know how to answer the question. It also leads to inaccurate results. If you want to know how likely respondents are to give a product recommendation, you can establish a scale from 1 to 10. Then, assign the value of 1 and 10. The lowest number on the scale could, for instance, mean Not at All Likely while the highest value could represent Extremely Likely.
Examples of rating scale questions:
- On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate our products?
- How likely are you to recommend our company to a friend or colleague?
- How would you rate your online shopping experience with us?
5. Likert Scale Questions
These questions can either be unipolar or bipolar. Unipolar scales center on the presence or absence of quality. Moreover, they don’t have a natural midpoint. For example, a unipolar satisfaction scale may have the following options: extremely satisfied, very satisfied, moderately satisfied, slightly satisfied, and not satisfied.
Bipolar scales, on the other hand, are based on either side of neutrality. That means they have a midpoint. A common bipolar scale, for instance, may have the following options: extremely unsatisfied, very unsatisfied, somewhat unsatisfied, neither satisfied nor dissatisfied, somewhat satisfied, very satisfied, extremely satisfied.
Likert scale examples:
- How important is it that you can access customer support 24/7? (Choices: Very Important, Important, Neutral, Low importance, and Not Important At All)
- How satisfied are you after using our products? (Choices: Very Satisfied, Moderately Satisfied, Neutral, Slightly Unsatisfied, and Very Unsatisfied)
- How would you rate our customer care representative’s knowledge of our products? (Choices: Not at All Satisfactory, Low Satisfactory, Somewhat Satisfactory, Satisfactory, and Very Satisfactory)
6. Nominal Questions
Also a type of measurement scale, nominal questions come with tags or labels for identifying or classifying items. For these questions, you can use non-numeric variables. You can also assign numbers to each response option, but they won’t actually have value.
On a nominal scale, you assign each number to a unique label. Especially if the goal is identification, you have to stick to a one-to-one correlation between the numeric value and the label. Much like cars on a race track, numbers are assigned to identify the driver associated with the car. It doesn’t represent the characteristics of the vehicle.
However, when a nominal scale is used for classification, the numerical values assigned to each descriptor serve as a tag. This is for categorizing or arranging the objects in a class. For example, you want to know your respondents’ gender. You can assign the letter M for males and F for females in the survey question.
Examples of nominal questions:
- What is your hair color? (Choices: 1 – Black, 2 – Blonde, 3 – Brown, 4 – Red, 5 – Other)
- How old are you? (Choices: 1 – Under 25, 2 – 25-35, 3 – Over 35)
- How do you commute to work? (Choices: 1- Car, 2 – Bus, 3 – Train, 4 – Walk, 5 – Other)
7. Demographic Questions
As its name suggests, this question type is used for gathering information about a consumer. From their background to income level, demographic questions can provide you with deeper insights into your target market.
Demographic questions help you understand your target market. By collecting customer data, you can identify similarities and differences between different demographics. Then, you can make buyer personas and classify them based on who they are or what they do.
When writing demographic questions, place yourself in the shoes of your respondents. If you want to ask students about their income, your response options should range below $20,000 per year, because most of them are probably not making more than that. But if your respondents are affluent, your choices should have a range higher than $100,000.
Examples of demographic questions:
- How old are you?
- What is your level of education?
- What is your marital status?
- What’s your current employment status?
8. Matrix Table Questions
If you need to ask a series of questions that require the same response options, you can group them together in a matrix table instead of breaking them into separate questions.
While these bundled questions are convenient, you have to use them carefully. Visually, large matrix tables can seem overwhelming. In addition, they aren’t always mobile-friendly. Having too many questions or choices may even trigger undesirable survey-taking behavior such as straight-lining. This is when respondents select the same options without carefully considering each one. Sometimes, they do that because they just want to finish the matrix.
Example of a matrix table questions:
- How satisfied or dissatisfied are you with the following?
Under this question, you can list a few variables such as interaction with sales staff, products offered in-store, price of the products, and available sizes at the store. Then, you can make a brief list of response options. There should be no more than five options.
9. Side-by-Side Matrix Questions
A side-by-side matrix is similar to your regular matrix table in that it allows you to group together questions that require simple response options. However, a matrix table only lets you collect data from a single variable. A side-by-side matrix, on the other hand, enables you to gather data on two or more dimensions.
For example, you want to ask respondents about the importance and satisfaction levels of different in-store services, you can group them together in a side-by-side matrix. By organizing questions in tables, your respondents can easily fill out the survey in minutes.
Much like a regular matrix table, you shouldn’t overwhelm consumers. Avoid adding too many variables to your table. Moreover, you should keep the response options short.
Examples of side-by-side matrix questions:
- What is your favorite type of cake?
Add different variables such as Vanilla, Marble, Cheesecake, and Chocolate to your matrix question. Since it’s a side-by-side matrix, you can add two or more dimensions next to each other. Favorite cake, taste, and look are a few examples. Under each table, you enter the choices; you can use a 1 to 10 numerical scale.
- How would you rate our shopping services?
Identify the variables. They can be customer support, packaging, and on-time arrival. Next, you should add different dimensions to the question such as importance and satisfaction level. On each table, you should add a similar scale. You can start with 1, which could mean Not Important and Not Satisfied.
10. Data Reference Questions
Use data reference questions to gather validated data against standardized databases. For example, direct respondents to enter their postal code or zip code in a small text box. The value entered will then be cross-referenced with the database. If it is correct, their city or state will be displayed, and they can proceed with the survey. And if it is incorrect, they’ll be asked to enter a valid postal code or zip code.
Examples of data reference questions:
- What is your five-digit zip code?
- What is your postal code?
11. Choice Model Questions
Choice model questions enable you to grasp the essential aspects of consumers’ decision-making process. This involves a quantitative method called Conjoint Analysis. It helps you grasp your users’ preferences, the features they like, and the right price range your target market can afford. More importantly, it enables you to understand if your new products will be accepted by your target market.
These questions also involve Maximum Difference Scaling, a method that allows the ranking of up to 30 elements. This can include product features, benefits, opportunities for potential investment, and possible marketing messages for an upcoming product.
Example of a choice model questions:
- If you were to buy a sandwich, which feature-set would you choose?
Let’s say you want to know about consumers’ bread, filling, and sauce preferences. In your survey, you can give them three sandwich options. You can, for instance, offer three kinds of bread: grain wheat, parmesan oregano, and Italian. As for the sauces, you can make them choose between ranch, blue cheese, and mustard. Finally, you need to suggest three types of filling, for example, chicken, veggies, and meatballs.
Respondents will see unique combinations of these ingredients in your survey. Then, they will have to choose the one that they like best.
12. Net Promoter Score Questions
A net promoter score (NPS) question measures brand shareability, as well as customer satisfaction levels. It helps you gauge the likelihood of respondents recommending your company to friends or colleagues. The scoring model involves a scale of 0 to 10, which is divided into three sections. Respondents who give a 9 to 10 score are considered Promoters. Passives give a 7 to 8 score, while the rest are considered Detractors.
Once you’ve gathered all the data, the responses per section are calculated. Then, the net value of promoters is shown. This type of survey question helps you understand why promoters are leaving high ratings so you can work on enhancing those strengths. At the same time, it enables you to determine weaknesses. It illustrates why detractors are leaving such low ratings.
Examples of net promoter score questions:
- On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely are you to recommend our brand to a friend or colleague? (0 = Not at all Likely and 10 = Very Likely)
- Would you encourage friends to work at our company?
- How likely are you to recommend (specific name of the product) to friends?
13. Picture Choice Questions
It’s no secret that people respond to visual content more than plain text. This applies to surveys as well – visual content can boost user experience. Think of these questions as visual versions of multiple-choice questions. Users can pick one or many from a visual list of options. You can use picture choice questions to make your survey more engaging. Just make sure that all of the images are optimized for smaller screens.
Picture choice examples:
- What is your favorite pizza topping?
- Which color of our new (specific product name) is your favorite?
- What other products would you like to see in our online store?
Opinion Stage has an online survey maker tool that can help you design image-based survey questions in minutes. Choose from hundreds of professionally-designed templates, and tailor your survey to fit your needs, or design it from scratch.
14. Image Rating Questions
Another way to incorporate images in questions is through image ratings. Let’s say you want to know how satisfied consumers are with your products. You can display all of the items you want respondents to rate. Under each item, provide a shortlist of options (e.g. very unsatisfied, unsatisfied, neutral, satisfied, very unsatisfied).
You may also ask your respondents to rank their favorite products. You can give them multiple options. Then, ask them for their top three or five favorites. Questions such as these should work well on mobile devices. After all, respondents only have to tap on their favorite items to participate.
Example of image rating questions:
- How would you rate our ice cream?
- What are your 5 favorite desserts?
15. Visual Analog Scale Questions
Another type of scale you can use in a survey is the visual analog scale, which displays your questions in a more engaging manner. For instance, you can use text sliders or numeric sliders to ask respondents to rate the service they’ve received from your company, and let them select an image line that best illustrates their answer.
You can also use pictures to depict each option. Smiley ratings are commonly used in surveys nowadays because they’re easy on the eyes and quite fun.
Examples of visual analog scale questions:
- How would you rate the overall quality of our customer service?
- What do you think of our website’s interface?
- How satisfied are you with our products?
The Fundamentals of Good Survey Questions
There is an art to writing effective questions for your survey. Regardless of the kind of survey you plan to deploy, there are a few practices that you should adhere to.
Use Clear and Simple Language
Always choose clear and simple words over jargon when writing your surveys. In doing so, you can keep the questions short yet specific.
Moreover, avoid double-barreled questions such as: “How much fruit and vegetable do you eat per day?” Such questions might be simple to understand, but they aren’t easy to answer because they cover two issues. They can confuse respondents and lead to ambiguous answers.
Focus on the Consumer
Make the survey engaging. Adress your respondents directly by using the second-person, and use first-person to refer to your company. This makes the survey more personal and helps respondents recall prior experiences with your company. In turn, it leads to quicker and accurate answers.
Be Concise and Courteous
Always aim to create a good introduction. Be courteous and engaging to motivate respondents to answer the entire survey. Be polite to your respondents, and sensitive to their feelings. At the same time, keep your questions short. Ideally, each question should be one sentence long. Focus on one subject per question, especially when it comes to open-ended questions.
Require Minimal Effort to Answer
There’s no point in asking 50 questions when you can combine everything into 10 critical questions. The more succinct a survey is, the more likely a respondent is to complete it. So, let them know that you value their time by designing a survey they can finish within minutes.
Stay Free From Bias
Don’t plant opinions in your respondents’ heads before they can formulate their own. Instead of asking questions like “How good was your in-store experience today?” Phrase it in a neutral way like “On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your in-store experience?”
Keep the Purpose of the Survey Vague
Sometimes, respondents have a tendency to give you the answers you want to hear. One of the simplest ways to prevent that is by keeping the purpose of your survey vague. Instead, you should give a general description of the survey.
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Sample Survey Questions
Below are examples of survey questions for different market research needs. You can use these templates as a guide and customize them to suit your brand’s needs.
- When was the last time you used (a type of product)?
- What brands come to mind as your top choice when you think of buying this product type?
- What factors do you consider when selecting a vendor? (rank by importance)
- Which of the following brands have you heard of? (please select all that apply)
- Where have you seen or heard of our brand in the last three months? (please select all that apply)
- How often have you heard people talking about our brand in the past three months?
- How familiar are you with our company?
- On a scale of 1 to 10, how likely are you to recommend our brand to a friend?
- What is your gender?
- How old are you?
- What is your marital status?
- What is your household income?
- Do you support children under the age of 18?
- How many children under the age of 18 reside in your household?
- What category best describes your employment status?
- Which general geographic area of the state do you reside in?
- Have you purchased from our company before?
- How long have you been a customer?
- Which best describes your latest experience with our brand? (please select all that apply)
- Which of the following attributes do you associate with our brand? (please select all that apply)
- What kind of feelings do you associate with our brand?
- How would you rate your level of emotional attachment to our brand?
- What five words would you use to describe our brand to a friend or colleague?
- On a scale of 1 to 10, how likely are you to recommend our brand to a friend or colleague? (1 being Not at All Likely at 10 being Extremely Likely)
- What is your first impression of the product?
- How important are the following features to you?
- How would you rate the product’s quality?
- If the product was already available, how likely are you to purchase it?
- How likely are you to replace an old product with this one?
- How likely would you recommend this product to a friend or colleague?
- What did you like best about this product?
- What are the features that you want to see improved?
- Based on the value for money, how would you rate this product compared to the competition?
- What is your first impression of the product packaging?
- How satisfied or dissatisfied are you with the following features? (Visual appeal, Quality, and Price)
- How similar or different is the packaging from the competition?
- Does the packaging have too little or too much information?
- How likely are you to purchase the product based on its packaging?
- What did you like best about the packaging?
- What did you dislike about the packaging?
- How would you like the packaging to be improved?
- How often do you purchase this type of product?
- What brands do you usually purchase? (Please select all that apply).
- On a scale of 1 to 5, how satisfied are you with the pricing of this type of product? (1 being Not at All Satisfied at 5 being Extremely Satisfied)
- What is the ideal price for this type of product?
- What price range would make you consider that the product is too expensive?
- At what price is the product too cheap that its quality is questionable?
- How much does the price for our product compare to other products on the market?
- If the product was available, how likely would you be to purchase it?
Customer Satisfaction Levels
- How would you rate the following products/services at (name of company)?
- Which of the following attributes would you use to describe our product/service? Please select all that apply.
- Would you recommend our company to a friend or colleague? (1 being Very Unlikely and 10 being Very Likely)
- How responsive have our support team been to your questions and concerns?
- How likely are you to purchase from our company again?
- What other comments, concerns, or questions do you have for us?
- When was the last time you used this type of product?
- When you think of our brand, what words come to mind?
- Which of the following are important to your decision-making process?
- How well do our products perform based on the following categories? (Price, Quality, Design, etc.)
- How well does our product meet your needs?
- What was missing or disappointing about your experience with our brand?
- What did you like most about your experience with our brand?
- How can we improve your experience?
- In the household, are you the primary decision maker when it comes to purchasing this type of product?
- When was the last time you purchased this product type?
- How do you find out about brands offering this product type? Please select all that apply.
- When you think of this product type, which of the following are the top three brands that come to mind?
- How much of your purchasing decisions are influenced by social media?
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How to Improve Survey Response Rates
Every market research survey needs to be designed carefully in order to drive higher response rates. As a result, you can acquire the right data to inform the decision-making process.
Here are a few survey ideas to boost response rates:
Make It Personal
Write a survey as if it’s a conversation between you and your respondents. For example, use first-person pronouns to make your surveys feel more personal and customer-centric. In addition, stick with simple and specific language to better connect with respondents. Simply put, write your questions as you’d use them in a conversation with consumers.
Make It Engaging
Gathering data from consumers is essential to any business, but market research surveys don’t have to be dull. You can engage and connect with respondents on a human level through an interactive survey. As a result, you can obtain thorough responses and maximize the number of respondents that complete the entire survey.
Don’t Waste Their Time
No one wants to answer a survey with 50 questions because it takes too long to complete. Hence, you should narrow down your list to the most important ones. Only ask questions that will lead to actionable insights. As for the rest, you can get rid of them.
There are two types of incentives you can offer: monetary or non-monetary. Either way, you need to make sure that the incentive provides value to your target audience. In addition, you must choose between promised or prepaid incentives. In other words, you have to decide if you want to offer everyone or a small group of people some incentives.
Providing respondents with incentives to finish the survey can increase response rates—but not always. Customer satisfaction surveys, for example, won’t always need incentives because it might affect the quality of the results.
Make It Responsive
Perhaps the easiest way to gain respondents is to make your surveys responsive and mobile optimized. In doing so, it will perform well and look amazing on all devices. It should also enable you to reach consumers during their daily commute or lunch break. Thus, make sure your survey is optimized for different kinds of devices, especially for mobile.
Offer Surveys in Multiple Channels
If a survey is optimized for all device types, it should be easily accessed on social media. So, take advantage of your platforms and share your survey on different social media channels to increase participation rates.
Designing surveys doesn’t have to be challenging. On the contrary, you can easily create interactive surveys with Opinion Stage. Create a survey from scratch, or choose one of our many professionally-made templates to complete it within minutes. Through Opinion Stage, you can drive higher response rates and evaluate results from a powerful analytics dashboard.
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It’s important to be familiar with the different types of survey questions and when to use them. Getting to know each survey question type will help you improve your research. Not to mention, you can gain high-quality data when you design a survey with the right types of questions.
In addition, you should leverage the right tool to create engaging surveys in minutes. With an online survey maker like Opinion Stage, you can customize your surveys to fit your brand image. Or, you can choose from professionally-made templates. Either way, it can help boost response rates.
Last but not least, check your survey design before deploying it. Make sure to see what your survey will look like to your respondents. See opportunities for improvement, then apply the necessary changes.