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Phone numbers are crucial, even online
Phone numbers are crucial, even online

Online retailers benefit from using phones

Online businesses don’t want to receive calls. Instead, they prefer customers to complete purchases without assistance. This appears to be more convenient but GRAHAM JONES says appearances can be deceptive.

According to various studies into eye tracking, browsers of websites generally look for two pieces of information: the navigation bar and a company’s phone number.

Furthermore, exit surveys have shown that one reason people leave websites is because of the lack of a visible phone number.

Research also shows that a phone number on a website enables greater trust in visitors – they know they can contact a business easily if they have an issue.

The bottom line is that no phone number generally makes a site seem less trustworthy.

Even in these days of email, social media and live chat, there are plenty of consumers who like to know they can call if needed.

Phones add to profits

There is more to highlighting a phone number than improving trust. A new study from Marchex shows that the humble telephone is more powerful in online business than companies realise.

Customers that call online businesses convert 30 per cent quicker than customers who don’t. That means businesses get money sooner from callers and they get it with less effort. Not only is this better for cash flow but it also reduces costs, which in turn boosts profitability.

Furthermore, customers who call a business generally spend 28 per cent more than people who do not use the phone! What’s not to like?

On top of this, customers who call are more likely to stick with the company for longer – the Marchex study found the retention rate for phone customers is 28 per cent higher than that of website visitors.

Encourage callers

What this all means is that businesses that can get their online customers to call them will sell more products and services and reduce their costs.

"A shopper will feel closer to a business on the other side of the planet than one located in the neighbouring suburb all because one takes phone calls."

The result is both an increased turnover and a raised profitability.

What is the best way to encourage shoppers to make a phone call?

Firstly, retailers need to be set up to receive calls and, secondly, businesses need to show that they welcome calls. This means a highly visible phone number on every web page in the top-right position, which is where people generally look for phone numbers.

Businesses also need to be able to answer those calls in seconds as allowing customers to hang on is worse than not receiving calls at all. Thus, businesses must be well-organised internally to cope with the calls when they start coming.

The second step towards encouraging phone calls is to use email as a call to action. The study shows that email is the most effective method of getting people to call a business. If your email signature does not suggest that people call you then your business is missing out.

Why the phone is important

Even though shoppers love the convenience of online shopping and the ‘buy now’ button, the telephone allows them to speak with a real person. Not only does this provide comfort and increase trust between the business and its customers but it also assures shoppers that the business has a human side and that there are people taking care of shoppers.

One of the problems with online shopping is the increased distance between customers and companies. Even if a business and its customer are in the same town, the online experience creates a perception of distance. When this occurs, shoppers feel less connected to the company and less faithful to them.

Feeling like a local

A phone call helps create a shorter distance between customer and supplier, which enables businesses to feel more local. When shoppers talk to someone, the perception of distance dissipates; consequently, they feel a closer connection.

It’s odd but also true that a shopper will feel closer to a business on the other side of the planet than one located in the neighbouring suburb all because one takes phone calls while the other one wants to do everything online.

With closeness comes loyalty, increased trust and an emotional connection. That’s why the phone helps increase sales and profits. In the days of e-commerce and click to buy systems, the telephone may seem old-fashioned; however, it has an important and valuable place in any online business.

Getting customers to do everything online in the pursuit of convenience and efficiency can reduce turnover and profitability, which is the antithesis of what businesses are trying to achieve.

Graham Jones

Contributor •

Graham Jones studies online behaviour and consumer psychology to help businesses improve website success. Visit:

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