Why the telephone still matters enormously for eCommerce

As a more than reasonably tech-savvy 35yr old, I am comfortable making on-line purchases. However, there are times I find myself making a call to the company I wish to buy from. The reason varies, as I am sure it does for most customers, my discount code won’t work; I need more product info; my address isn’t recognised; the offer/deal sounds too good to be true; I want reassurance that I am not wasting my hard earned cash; it might be a one off purchase (who needs more than one chain-saw?) So if I can complete my purchase without being fully ‘tracked’ so much the better.

These reasons and many more flashed into my head when I read “Off the Grid”, a piece of research commissioned by ResourceTap, a provider of call tracking software who surveyed a representative sample of 2000 consumers and interviewed over 250 marketing managers. It basically found that even in today’s technical day and age with many touch-points being digitalised, a simple phone call still plays a critical role in the online customer journey. Here are some key figures:

  • One in three online shoppers say they prefer to talk to someone on the phone before buying – equating to £186m of weekly online spend in the UK.
  • This figure rises to 41% for those aged over 55; an important consideration when two thirds of retail spending growth over the next ten years is expected to come from this age group.
  • 57% say that they trust retailers and service providers more when they make it easy to contact them by phone and 56% say that they’re more likely to return to a retailer to buy again if they know they can talk to them via phone.
  • 72% of marketing managers said their companies make more than a quarter of their sales over the phone, and 46 % make more than half.

This shows how incredibly important this human touch-point is! And you can’t blame consumers for needing a tangible point of contact in an intangible digital environment! It made me think about how, as a customer, I value the phone contact with a supplier. I don’t want lots of follow-up calls, but more that I am reassured by the option of a phone call.  Remembering recent interactions with on-line retailers, I have found the on-line chat-boxes with sales advisors very helpful – it’s quicker than queuing in a call, and there is immediate traceability for the sales person. It also helps with time zone differences and potential pronunciation embarrassments.

But the phone is not a redundant tool. On the contrary even, it’s a vital piece that doesn’t always get used appropriately. There is research to suggest that, as the significance of the purchase increases, the more likely consumers are to put a call in. This consequential purchase needs to be tracked. So in my mind it’s not just the telephone that is important, but detailed CRM and tracking to understand individual’s behaviour. The ResourceTap research actually found that way too many companies rarely have the processes in place to track and analyse the calls they make:

  • 82% of marketers say it’s important to link online marketing to offline sales but 78% only link phone calls to marketing activity at the most basic campaign level.
  • More than half (52%) of marketers say they don’t have a complete view of how their on and offline marketing activity is driving phone sales.

Having been involved in sales cycles (albeit B2B), I have noticed that the phone plays an important part of marketing activity. I am able to trace my sales to campaigns and give my marketing manager true feedback on the campaigns and what revenue has been generated. It is a good thing to be able to attribute sales to particular campaigns and to remember that all consumers don’t behave in the same way. Any system that allows businesses to identify better ways of selling has to be a plus.

You can find the full “Off the Grid” research findings here – just scroll and let the facts speak for themselves!