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This 43 message thread spans 2 pages: 43 ( [1] 2 > >     
Phone Orders versus Online

 2:50 pm on Mar 23, 2007 (gmt 0)

I've heard in some industries people say 2/3 of orders come via phone orders.

Do you guys have any guesses as to which industries people prefer to phone as oppose to just buying online?

The factors that I can come up with are:

- phone number is visible on all pages
- older demographic prefer the phone
- high order amounts so people feel safer phoning
- business was/is a mail order company
- people need more info




 3:14 pm on Mar 23, 2007 (gmt 0)

* non-techy people prefer ordering by phone.
* order by phone at work so web surfing activity is not tracked
* company proxy blocks https so phone order is only way
* buyer has no computer or computer is broken

in the same way, I find buyers who purchase telephones buy it online. ;)


 3:22 pm on Mar 23, 2007 (gmt 0)

I've heard in some industries people say 2/3 of orders come via phone orders

I can't recall anyone here saying that. Perhaps that would be true of a site selling very expensive or custom made items.

We have our 800# on every page. Still, the vast majority of orders are done 100% online. I think that our phone-in orders have declined over the years as customers have gotten the hang of using a shopping cart.

Phone orders tend to be bigger than cart orders, but they can be very time-consuming.


 4:06 pm on Mar 23, 2007 (gmt 0)

>>>>I've heard in some industries people say 2/3 of orders come via phone orders.

You will hear me say that jsinger.

We get 2 or 3 phone orders for every completed internet order. Somedays its 4 to 1.

It can be a 20 dollar sale or a 10 000 dollar sale.

Maybe we are unique.


 4:20 pm on Mar 23, 2007 (gmt 0)


Do you have a catalog that you mail out? That could be a reason *shrugs* i.e my mail order 'theory'.


 4:37 pm on Mar 23, 2007 (gmt 0)

>>>Do you have a catalog that you mail out?

not anymore, we discontinued it 4 years ago to focus on the web

we still get lots of calls requesting the catalog

usually when people call they are looking at the website at the same time


 4:47 pm on Mar 23, 2007 (gmt 0)

I can't imagine the work involved with producing professional catalog (and every x months at that!).

Yes a website with loads of products is no joke either, but I'm sure things get complicated when you get into print/delivery etc.

I would guess that the vast majority of mail order business has transitioned online but with the added competition online many probably have tried to stick to mailing a catalog hehe.


 5:42 pm on Mar 23, 2007 (gmt 0)

Phone seems to be more for questions, rather then orders.


 5:45 pm on Mar 23, 2007 (gmt 0)

i would imagine its costing us business by not printing a catalog anymore

some people are angry when they call and ask for the catalog and we give them the bad news, in fact somebody just swore at one of our sales people and then hung up about an hour ago

i think there are just as many catalogs printed and mailed in north america as there ever were ... judging from my mailbox


 5:46 pm on Mar 23, 2007 (gmt 0)

>>>Phone seems to be more for questions, rather then orders.

that is true, then it is up to the sales person to close the sale and try to up sale the customer

that is the upside to phone orders


 7:12 pm on Mar 23, 2007 (gmt 0)

For sure a phone number at the top of the page gives the visitor some confidence that there is a real person behind this website that they can contact, it just seems that some industries people call while in others they don't.

So a number at the top of the page could be like a 'hacker safe' icon for some stores, while others it is a deal breaker to not have one (I believe the auto parts industry is also 2/3's by phone).

Other factors:

- nature of the product, is it complicated? Are visitors new to the industry that might require some hand holding, etc.

- people have heard of fake products being sold in the given niche, and get some sort of assurance when talking with someone that the product they are buying is not a fake/knockoff.


 4:54 am on Mar 24, 2007 (gmt 0)

We display our 'local call' (like free call) phone number in a very prominent position. For one thing, its incredibly frustrating when you go to a site and click on contact us and it brings up a form or ticketing sytem.

If there are 10 rules for building trust the phone is definately one of them.

We get at least half of web generated orders called through on the phone. Have no problems with it except its manual processing


 5:46 am on Mar 24, 2007 (gmt 0)

If there are 10 rules for building trust the phone is definitely one of them

I can't think of many things that top a real 800# (or 888) number for engendering trust. A real street address (not a PO box) comes close behind. I'm gone if the "contact us" link merely opens a "mailto."

Among the top 10, I'd rank Hacker Safe and BBB around number 782 :)


 8:19 am on Mar 24, 2007 (gmt 0)

Phone contacts are once in a while but they usually become very long term and very loyal customers and extremely responsible and independent. We had to remove the phone number because of some annoying phone calls but we still have it added to every email we send out. We plan to add a fax number to our contact us page now.


 9:29 am on Mar 24, 2007 (gmt 0)

I've heard in some industries people say 2/3 of orders come via phone orders.

That's the key phrase right there.

In some industries the 2/3 statistic may apply. Brett just posted topic recently where a recent survey showed that...

29 percent of U.S. households, or 31 million homes, do not have Internet access and do not intend to subscribe to an Internet service over the next 12 months.

Um-hum, I don't know about you, but 31 million homes seems like a reasonable market to target, yes?

If you are appealing to an audience that does not use the Internet regularly, phone orders are a viable and strong potential source of revenue. If you have the volume, a call center operation may be an option.

31 million homes? Without Internet access? That's where all us "regional folks" come in with our local advertising campaigns, print ads, door hangers, newspaper inserts, etc. And right across the top of everything, that local telephone number. Let the switchboards light up! ;)

And then, all those phone orders are entered in directly through the web based system. The call center acts as the conduit between consumer and fulfillment.

The factors that I can come up with are:

- phone number is visible on all pages
- older demographic prefer the phone
- high order amounts so people feel safer phoning
- business was/is a mail order company
- people need more info

Another top factor is price point. The higher the price point, the more apt that consumer might be to place an order via the telephone. Many have preset limits on their credit cards as far as single purchase amounts go. They don't know it until they try to make the purchase. I know, its happened to me. :(

P.S. Many of those in those 31 million homes will probably access the Internet from work. Phone numbers are very important!


 12:08 pm on Mar 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

It's not just higher price points that create calls. It also the product. For us it's a combination of price, dimensions, color, usability, etc.... We sell products from $20-several thousand dollars, many with multiple options.

Over the years we have added more content. Partly to give the best description and information possible AND reduce the amount of calls.

We are now reversing our "more info online" strategy a bit to encourage more calls. We know our stuff better than most of our competitors and many calls can be converted. The consumer comfort level goes WAY up when they speak to a knowledgeable, friendly person. Call centers can't do what we do.

We don't always close the sale on the first call but in the end we close the sale on over 80% of calls.


 2:21 pm on Mar 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

On the catalog question I know that my personal preference is to choose items from a printed catalog in comfort on the sofa with a coffee. Mark the pages then when I go to the PC to check my email I also place the order.

I also know that my elderly mother, who refuses to learn how to read a text message on her mobile let alone buy a computer, uses mail order a lot more than I do. Anybody who goes internet only is going to loose her "grey pounds".


 4:33 pm on Mar 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

A number of companies I work with operate in sectors aimed at the 18-30 demographic and it becomes obvious when speaking to them over the phone that they really aren't confident about talking through an order.

Before one site in particular went live with their ecommerce site, customers would use the website or catalogue to decide on their purchases, then use email to fine-tune any requirements, final costs, etc, before calling up to hand over their payment details.

We did run the site with an order form for a couple of months, with instructions that the company would call back the customer to obtain payment details and often the customer would have changed their mind or forgotten that they'd even filled out an order request!


 4:43 pm on Mar 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

Further to the OP, with telephone orders, you run the risk of losing sales on impulse if the office is closed or all lines are busy.


 5:39 pm on Mar 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

I see a key factor missing in this thread and that is how familiar the consumer is with the product. If it's a one time buy, I could see phone orders % rising. Something they buy every 3 months, website at 11:00 pm works better for most.

We sell name brand consumable products. These are products the consumer has been using for years and knows exactly what they are getting. Our internet orders are 10 to 1 phone orders. In our business the phone is used more for information, troubleshooting and occasionally for ordering.

For those calling in to order: They tend to meet the demographic information mentioned above. Elderly, no computer , etc.

Great thread, we have really been evaluating our phone business recently on how to upsell and/or close the deal.


 6:26 pm on Mar 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

One of my clients is a UK based pure internet/mail order company that sells sports equipment, from their recent Customer Survey respondents said:

86% preferred to order Online to 14% that preferred the telephone.

They have a pretty mixed demographic split between under 40 year old users of equipment and older parents that are buying equipment for a family member.


 8:26 pm on Mar 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

To keep people off the phone, and costs down, you need to find out what drives those calls and resolve them on the web site.

Many phone calls are the fault of poor web design and junk ecommerce software

Common problems include:

- Adding a product to the cart stays on the product page with no clue the cart was updated, or not easily identifiable, should be very clear something happened

- Can't find VIEW CART or CHECKOUT easily

- Can't find shipping amounts easily without providing CC details

... and a whole bunch more


 6:46 am on Mar 26, 2007 (gmt 0)

incrediBILL said exactly what I was going to say. I will always call if I have a question that requires answering before I am comfortable placing the order. Keep track of the questions people are asking, and make sure they are answered prominently on the website.

Of course, for this reason you need a contact phone number.

BTW, I am happy to phone but am very reluctant to send an email or fill out a form, mainly because this places my decisionmaking/buying process in limbo for an indeterminable period of time. Also I have never gotten involved in an online chat with a retail site and likely never will.

Oliver Henniges

 7:05 am on Mar 26, 2007 (gmt 0)

I'd estimate our ratio is currently 1:1. But I always view this figure as a challenge for website improvement and the telephone is the most important feedback-channel for such improvement. Probably much more efficient than logfile-analysis.

Once the figure may be down to 1:10, I'm planning to take the phone-number off the top, and place it on the appropriate places burried deep down on the content pages.

I doubt those 29 % without internet access yet (probably a bit more in Europe) really are an interesting market: It is mainly lower class people seeking cheap stuff, trying to save money and complaining about shipping costs. We do sell on commission, and I'm quite happy that until now these people, who are planning not to pay and resell my stuff at ebay have been kept out of my shop for these socio-economico-technical reasons so far. This definitely isn't my primary target group, and as a shop owner you will always be in danger to perform some very basic schooling-tasks on the phone: How to fill in web-forms and how to correctly use the enter-key.


 12:41 pm on Mar 26, 2007 (gmt 0)

Anyone have experience of the finance / mortgage lead generation market? Our experience is that its 1:1


 1:29 pm on Mar 26, 2007 (gmt 0)

Yep I think incediBILL also hit the nail on the head. I work all day on the web making e-commerce websites yet I still regaularly pickup the phone - the main reason why? - if the site in question has no visible stock situation. I hate spending time hunting down the best deal only to place an order that takes ages to (or never) get fulfilled.

I recently bought my son a trampoline - the site I bought off was very nicely presented, easily navigable, and were bundling a freebie that made it the best deal on the web - the works - but no stock indication - so I called. Good thing was the lady on the other end was very helpful and friendly and offered choice of delivery dates etc so was a positive experience after all - I did tell her to get it sorted out though.

I think maybe this is more related to "non-brands" as you never know if the site in question is one man in his shed, or a faily large outfit with proper warehouse etc - and so you have no grasp of what stock holding they might have.

So in summary just to agree - if you get asked something more than 2 or 3 times over the phone it means your website lacks that info!


 3:59 pm on Mar 26, 2007 (gmt 0)

I'm going to have to agree with Oliver H. on this one. On our sites, we allow people to create/preview/place orders for custom widgets (with infinite customization options) online. As this market is reasonably competitive (so our prices must be good and our website must user-friendly), depending on the product, we don't always have the high margins to allow for phone orders all day.

Our current online-to-phone order ratio is around 50:1, and if we could increase it to 75:1 or 100:1, all the better. We allow for order-placing online, but the calling-in of credit card numbers (AFTER the order has been placed into the system and the widget has been customized online), and this has helped a great deal.

Another great way to deter phone orders is to ask "Were you having difficulties placing the order online?" This gives us 1. the opportunity to find out if the enduser is having problems with the website (or if there is an area we can better clarify) and 2. the opportunity to passively mention that orders CAN be placed online.


 4:02 pm on Mar 26, 2007 (gmt 0)

incrediBILL this may be true but as I do have a ecommerce site and we do display all this information were it is easy to find etc but as far as your opinion it may fit your business but

I would never operate an ecommerce site without a phone number to call for orders etc.. Why

We buld trust, we build support, we build a business, we upsell to them as well.

1 some people just don't like to buy over the internet period and would rather us do it viva phone.

2- Others call for the lastest info on what is available so we have the chance to sell more to this customer

3- some call cuz they like us. Bill Do you have a store were you go because you like the employees, well we treat our online store the same way as if they were right there.

4- To discourage calls communication to a prospective customer is not something I recommend for any ecommerce site and feel without proper communications your hurting yourself more than saving...

5- We get calls all the time requesting tracking numbers due to the emails being blocked as spam as Fedex sends them out automatically with the ship. This gives us the chance to speak to them thus building all the above for a return sale...

7-If you didn't know an ecommerce business survives on return customers you build on new customers. Without a customer base it is really hard to stay in business long...

I could go on an on about the importance of a displayed phone number as one of the most important properities an ecommerce business should have and diplay with going on 6 years in one of the toughest ecommerce business there is I kinda have a good idea about the phone thing...

Get one display it and answer it....


 5:12 pm on Mar 26, 2007 (gmt 0)

We get 2 or 3 phone orders for every completed internet order. Somedays its 4 to 1.

For one of my top clients at the moment, this is about the same ratio. It's moving over slowly, but he deals heavily in some markets where people are still more used to picking up the phone.

Rather than decreasing our catalog mailings, we've increased them - a year ago we were mailing 5,000 per month, now it's up to 50,000, and we're shooting for 100,00 by the end of the year. The catalogs increase BOTH the phone and the web orders.

We've just put in a call center to take off hour calls - both for customer service and for order taking.

We don't particularly want to move people over exclusively to the web - this is a B2B site, with a lot of repeat business, and we feel the relationship is important.

That said, one of the sales people told me just Friday that he had a large client (a public utility) who knows very well she can get special pricing by calling him up and placing her orders over the phone, but still prefers to do them all online, on her own time and whenever it's convenient for her.

To that end, we're focusing on making it easier for clients to do that, to re-order, and trying to cut down the number of calls that are for things other than new orders or customer service issues (such as problems with the website, or questions about how to order)


 6:35 pm on Mar 26, 2007 (gmt 0)

Many phone calls are the fault of poor web design and junk ecommerce software.

Many are also the sign of the times. There is a whole generation out there that still likes to do business via telephone. I'll take an order from a business owner over the phone any day, any time. Its another method of generating revenue. Its all going to be industry and product/service specific too. You're surely not going to sit there and take orders for a $4.95 product over the phone. No, that doesn't work. ;)

Poor web design?

I'll agree and the smart merchant is the one who takes those calls and turns them into an opportunity to improve upon their web design. You cater to your audience.

There is also the flip side of the coin and that is where you do everything you can to cater to that audience and they still need guidance via telcon. For those types of sites, a phone number on every "primary" page is a must. Think Accessibility. ;)

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