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7 Reasons Why Dropdowns May Hurt Conversions

Sep 29th, 2016

Odds are your online store sells more than one product, and each of those products has multiple variations and product options.

Say your Shopify store sells shirts. Consider the following:

Size: XS, S, M, L, XL, L, XL (7 sizes)

Then color: Blue, Red, Grey, Brown, Black (5 colors)

Then style: Tank Top, Sweater, Hoodie, Long Sleeve, T-Shirt (5 styles)

7 x 5 x 5 = 175 variations

By default Shopify only allows 100 variations, three option types (e.g. size, color, material), and most of the time everything is done using drop-down menus (unless you have an award winning Shopify theme with built-in option types).

Shopify’s default admin interface does not make it easy for users to create new product variants in bulk. It’s all of time-consuming, tedious, and complicated.

For store owners who have upwards of 1000+ variants, it’s even more of a daunting task.

Is more always better?

Although choice and selection are great, can one desire too much of a good thing? The comic playwright Publius Terentius After said it best Ne quid nimus (Moderation in all things). There is also a more scientific study illustrating the negative impacts of excessive choice.

Sheena Iyengar, PhD, a professor at Columbia University, set up two different jam displays in a supermarket on two consecutive weekends. Throughout the day, customers either encountered a display featuring 24 different flavours of jam, or only six.

The study found 60% of customers stopped and were interested in the larger display, but only 3% of those actually bought some. Conversely, although only 40% of customers stopped and were interested in the smaller display, 30% of those customers bought some.

While the larger quantity or product variations was in fact better at attracting more people, the display featuring a limited number of streamlined products had better sales.

Something to consider when making product decisions...

Sometimes you have been looking at your ecommerce store and products so long, it becomes difficult for you to imagine yourself as a potential customer browsing for the first time.

To overcome blindness, one option is to use Peek by UserTesting to get free video recorded feedback on what users think of your site. There is also has a paid version if you want to ask users specific questions.

The Right Way To Collect Customer Information

Checkboxes, radio buttons, and text fields are excellent option types to improve ease of use for customers when compared with Shopify’s default drop-down menus. By using more effective option types to gather user input your conversion rates will most likely increase.

In fact, in a recent study by MECLABS radio buttons were shown to outperform dropdown menus by increasing conversion rates by 14.6% when customers had 4 choices to select from.

Unless you have between seven and 15 product options, drop-down menus might not be the best fit. Less than seven menu options is too few, as they lack readily available information. Less than seven, you should use either checkboxes or radio buttons.

For example, say there are two product options:

sign up form

[via: Google]

When using drop-down menus, the user has to click twice: once to view the drop-down list of options, and again to select one. For efficiency, you want your shoppers to be able to scan product options and make their selection quickly.

drop down menus

[via: Yahoo]

When using radio buttons, the user only has to click once: for their desired selection.

Radio buttons make all options permanently visible so that users can easily compare them. Radio buttons are also easier to operate for users who have difficulty making precise mouse movements.

More than 15 options makes drop-down menus difficult to navigate, especially if there is no way to sort through your product options. More than 15, you might want to consider a text field with autocomplete.

Listing things alphabetically is one possibility, but if that’s not viable it’s easy for the user to become overwhelmed in selecting the right option. If your selections aren’t clear to customers, or the shopper is unsure if the option they want is even there, they have to start scrolling which can be very frustrating.

In a recent usability study by Baymard, one of their test subjects got so confused they actually started scrolling the wrong way in a country selector even though the options were listed alphabetically.

If your customer knows what they’re looking for text boxes with autocomplete are probably the best answer. That way, a user can just start typing.

For monogrammed products, text boxes are the obvious and most viable choice.

Having three or more product options is great also, because it allows for a greater level of customizability.

Here’s one example of a Shopify store using Only Growth’s Product Options app with text fields and seven different product options:

Product options app

[via: Sophia Alexander]

Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could add hundreds of variations to your Shopify products, fast?

Here is one viable option: https://apps.shopify.com/onlygrowth-product-options

Product Options, the new Shopify app from Only Growth, takes all the hassle and hard work out of adding unlimited product options and variants in bulk, saving you the endless hours of inputting every product variant manually.


  • Simple, one-click, free installation that automatically styles itself to fit your Shopify theme. All Shopify themes are supported out of the box, with no extra coding required.
  • Save dozens of hours. Unlimited product options (supports up to 500 000+ variations). Also, Product Options responds faster when adding products to include search filters, maximizing user efficiency and your shopper’s experiences.
  • Stay organized, and earn more revenue by using dynamic pricing on your product variants.
  • Improve your online store’s efficiency, look, and design by specifying whether certain product fields are optional or required.
  • Save even more time by duplicating options.
  • Get more diverse customers and earn more sales using labels in several languages (limited however to one at a time), and option values.

Our Guarantee

Only Growth are a small group of passionate software engineers from Canada. We believe in providing the best user experience. Our apps are well designed, thoroughly tested and easy to use.

Having read 1,500+ frustration-filled reviews we understood that merchants were not getting what they paid for. That's why we made Product Options — because you deserve an app built with respect for your time, and your business, in mind.

Only Growth’s customer support team is only one email or phone call away, and you can always count on them for friendly, in-depth support available Monday to Friday from 8 am-10 pm Eastern time.

To download and install the Product Options app, click here, and be adding your first product option within 30 seconds!

Need help implementing any of the above or not exactly sure how? Contact Only Growth today for a free consultation.

About Only Growth:

Imagine a faster, easier way to turn casual shoppers into high-value customers for life. What could that do for your brand? Let's find out, together! Working with your core team, we grow your bottom line by attracting more visitors, improving your conversion rates, and enticing first-time customers to come back for more.

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