13% of online sales only happen offline

One of the products we sold when I owned an Internet Service Provider was a wifi hotspot kit for coffee shops, hotels, and other similar locations. The system was pretty straight forward and not very expensive. We spent a lot of time optimizing the website for sales and had a very robust knowledge base and support section. The hotspot kits were also targeted towards a certain vertical in the hospitality industry, so they should just sell themselves. I was wrong.

Quickly after launch it was clear that sales were not going well. We got a few online orders, a handful of emails, and that was it despite pretty solid traffic some very good reviews. I also noticed that many of the email inquiries we got were asking for a phone number to call to ask some questions about the product. From the calls we got from the email it was clear that nothing the potential customers were asking wasn’t already listed on the website or couldn’t be answered in a quick email or online chat. It seems that some people just want to talk to someone before they buy.

As a result of this we updated the website to prominently list a phone number based on a study I read on KISSMetrics. The quote that I made me try this was from Jonathan Kay:

“People feel more comfortable with brands that they can put a face behind. Even though you might purchase a product exclusively online, having a phone number on your site and the ability to talk to a real person (who cares) in turn makes you feel more comfortable taking out your wallet (or recommending someone else to) for this brand.”

Being in the phone business I should have realized this sooner. It is, after all, what we tell our clients every day. So I built a quick IVR (interactive voice response) application which was automated and only routed the caller out to one of us after providing a few options for automated information and troubleshooting. Here’s the first month’s call breakdown:

  • 23 total calls
  • 11 were fully automated and never spoke to a person.
  • of the 12 that routed to a live person, 9 were new sales inquiries
  • 7 of the 9 purchased over the phone ($1,260 in revenue)

At the end of the first month our overall sales were up 13% as a result of adding a phone number to our site. I calculated the cost of the phone number, minutes, and time from my staff was under $100. Not a bad return.  Sure some of the customers that bought over the phone would have purchased entirely online, but the fact that they did end up buying over the phone means that given the choice (maybe by our competitor?) they prefer to finalize the purchase “offline”.

If you’re interested in building the same type of automated response platform for your company, check out Building Phone Applications. You can build the same IVR platform yourself with the examples in the book and a free Plivo account in an afternoon.

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