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What is a rank order question?

A rank order question lets respondents order answer options as per their preference. Rank order scale is defined as a survey question type, that allows respondents to rearrange and rank multiple-choice options in a specific order.

Rank order survey questions are close-ended questions that allow respondents to evaluate multiple row items in relation to one column item or a question in a ranking survey and then rank the row items. They are multiple-choice questions presented in a single-column format. They are used in both pen and paper questionnaires as well as online surveys due to the accuracy of responses and detailed insights.

Rank order scale questions are one of the most commonly used survey question types. They are used in a survey when the market researcher would like to understand the order of importance of items when there are multiple items. This ranking could be on the basis of features, needs, likes or dislikes, effectiveness, etc. The ranking is by a simple ordinal position where one variable or option is higher than another. The ranking could also be by a relative position where one variable has a higher relative rating than another and subsequent ones.

Example of rank order scale questions

Consider a fitness tracker manufacturing company that wants to know what features are ranked most important by their respondents and what do they buy fitness tracker primarily for. Their ideal target audience is a group of people who already use a fitness tracker.

rank order question

Then you can ask the below question if you have determined in the previous questions, that the respondent is currently or planning to evaluate fitness trackers within three months. Otherwise, the question is way too hypothetical.

rank order question

If you are looking to offer a new, differentiated product, the first step is to know what the “table stakes” are. If you know certain features are well-liked in current products then you need to match respondents’ expectations at a minimum. Also, once you know the features that least liked, it offers you insights on what differentiators you should seize.

rank order question

If you are looking to offer a new, differentiated product, the first step is to know what the “table stakes” are. If you know certain features are well-liked in current products then you need to match respondents’ expectations at a minimum. Also, once you know the features that least liked, it offers you insights on what differentiators you should seize.

While this approach is wordier, it reflects a reality: choosing between products in many product categories is often ultimately driven by one or two items, and all other features don’t matter much.

Uses of rank order scale

Rank order questions are effective in collecting feedback quickly. Respondents find it quite easy to answer them and don’t have to spend time typing their feedback as in open-ended questions.

An airline company might have many ideas to improve the passenger experience but can’t implement all of them at one go. They can create a rank order survey and request their customers to rate the ideas on a scale from “not at all” to “very” important options.

A rank order survey is used for conducting secondary research. If preliminary research has been conducted and possible areas of product enhancement have been marked out, it builds a platform to validate the findings. You could present customers with a list of possible product improvements and ask them to select what product tweaks matter the most to them within the product.

But what if they select multiple options?

How would you find out which are they most interested in?

This is where rank order scaling questions help prioritize. They ask respondents to order the options from high to low. With such type of questions, respondents cannot say that all things are equally important. They are forced to prioritize, which helps you gather insightful and actionable data.

Types of rank order survey questions

rank order Constant sum rank order Drag and drop rank order Rank order scale by methods of sorting

There are multiple ways of sorting ordinal data using rank order scaling questions. Some of the major sorting types are:

Advantages of using rank order survey questions in surveys

How to use rank order questions in your surveys

Check out our rank order questions help document for a better understanding of how it works.

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