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  1. #1
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    Effect of Toll Free Numbers?
    During one of the sessions at the Affiliate Summit, it was suggested that a merchant place a prominent toll free number at the top of their page (which was previously "hidden" in the small print at the bottom of the page) to help increase customer confidence and conversion ratios. Numerous affiliates in the audience quickly jumped on that advice, because of it being a leak.

    I think I'm the oddball here, though, because I actually prefer merchants who display a toll free number on their site (as long as it's not overly prominent and they don't incentivize customers to use it). I feel like the increased confidence (and thus conversions) more than offsets the leakage. Of course I would rather see merchants use phone tracking (especially for niches like cruises, where phone orders are far more common), but I recognize that most don't.

    MERCHANTS: Have any of you done studies to determine how much listing of a toll free number increases conversions? How does that compare to the percentage of orders taken over the phone? In other words, is it a net gain for affiliates or a net loss?
    Michael Coley
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  2. #2
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    Michael -

    I've seen 800 #s work wonders as it adds a tremendous amount of trust.

    From an affiliate side, there's no reason merchants can't track them via 800#s, and in a lot of industries I've seen affiliates with dedicated numbers to track calls.

  3. #3
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    Here's my thoughts on 800 numbers, and their placements on merchant sites.

    First of all, we all need to remember that the website managers are responsible for making the site user friendly for all visitors, and that affiliates do not drive all traffic to a merchant site. So for non affiliate driven traffic, the 800 number is no problem, and probably very important for their conversions. I think this is especially true for merchants that started as catalog operations. Think Lands End, LLBean, etc.

    Secondly, 800 numbers have been around for years, and have been a huge part of direct marketing.

    As affiliates, I believe we need to understand this issue from the merchants point of view as well as ours, and all try to work together. It is unrealistic to expect merchants to remove the 800 number.

    Just MHO

  4. #4
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    Hi Michael

    I think having the number creates more sales

    The key where affiliates are concerned is making sure that either its not displayed when an affiliate has directed the traffic to the merchant or its tracked.

    There are numerous ways to ensure its tracked and at buy.at we always advise this route as we feel the number does help to drive more volume for all parties.

    There is no reason in this day and age that any merchant coudln't adopt a solution for tracking a phone call

    Mal
    Malcolm Cowley
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  5. #5
    http and a telephoto
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    Toll free numbers listed on customer support and about the company pages increase confidence. They don't need to be prominent or on every page even. A lot of online companies don't WANT to take orders by phone, it requires more manpower. There are exceptions of course, where customers need to call with questions, but usually the customer then goes and orders online once questions are answered, or the operator pulls up the cart with the already started order (which should then track).
    Deborah Carney
    TeamLoxly.com BookGoodies.com ABCsPlus.com

  6. #6
    Analytics Dude Kevin's Avatar
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    In some the areas I work in, 800 number tracking is critical. I specificly choose to only represent merchants that are willing to provide it, and more importantly, HONOR it.

    Sure, a call center can miss one every now and again, but the EPC will speak volumes.

    It's interesting that Ski mentioned catalog companies. I'm in the works with one right now, and what some of you might know, and others not know, is that traditional catalog companies have been asking for codes off of the back of their books for YEARS.

    Making the transition for companies such as these will be very easy, almost old hat. We plan on enticing people to use the cart, but catch 99% of the callers as well. More on that in a few months.

    So my vote? Put the number on there, not too big, not too small, and friggin track it.
    Last edited by Noth; July 24th, 2007 at 03:25 PM. Reason: Speling. I was excited to see this softall....
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  7. #7
    Lite On The Do, Heavy On The Nuts Donuts's Avatar
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    Generally, I agree - the more available a merchant makes themselves, the better I do. However, there are some certain situations where I feel drastically different.

    Satellite tv requires a phone call to confirm scheduled installation - if an online merchant pushes them hard to call, which is needed to close the sale and for the affiliate to get the credit, it'll perform horribly. If however they have a form to complete online, make the number available, but politely make it clear that they don't want the customer to be on hold and ask them to pick a convenient time to be called... then online aff sales can track better (and outbound calling specialist closers can be the phone callers instead of the general call receiving people).

    High ticket items like oriental rugs can be the same way - the conversion rate is low, but the ticket is high - a few sales lost to phone tracking breakage a month can shove you into the red - so it's best in these cases to consider and then control things in a measured fashio, not just slap a big ol toll-free up there.

    Like most things, there are exceptions to the general rule - including the benefits of a prominently displayed phone number.

  8. #8
    Affiliate Manager PetsWarehouse.com's Avatar
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    Debbie you're correct it is a manpower issue, we used to have our tel # at the top of every page we had to add several customer service reps, most call were not orders they were asking question on pet or fish care.
    As far as orders they preferred to order online at their own pace.

    We are now adding back the tel# to certain pages and just now incorporating the SAS tracking info.

    If it's not an affiliate coming thru it appears like this

    800-789-5400
    Promo Code: N/A



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    Bob Pets Warehouse
    Worlds Largest Pet Supply DataBase
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  9. #9
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    "I think I'm the oddball here, though, because I actually prefer merchants who display a toll free number on their site (as long as it's not overly prominent and they don't incentivize customers to use it)."

    Same here.

    Also keep in mind, affiliate managers in general have zero say in that. They run the affiliate program, they're not the merchant, they don't code the site.

    And of course I would take affiliate tracking whenever possible.

  10. #10
    Analytics Dude Kevin's Avatar
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    Trust: In house AM's may not, but OPMs do... Also, in house AM's ARE the merchant...
    Kevin Webster
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  11. #11
    ABW Ambassador Greg Rice's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trust

    Also keep in mind, affiliate managers in general have zero say in that. They run the affiliate program, they're not the merchant, they don't code the site.

    And of course I would take affiliate tracking whenever possible.
    I wouldn't say "zero say" in this, at least with my clients. Tracking all affiliate sales IS my job so I do have a say (but not the final decision). Merchants need to know how important this is and that's where I come in. During the initial call, this topic is usually one of my screening questions. After explaining the importance, none so far said they wouldn't do it. If the merchant agrees that affiliates should get paid for all sales or leads they refer, then they need to find the way to make it work. Otherwise, commissions need to be increased to compensate. If a manager isn't pushing for this, they're doing a disservice to their clients and their affiliates IMHO.
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  12. #12
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    I agree that phone tracking is great, but even if it's not offered, my argument is that the toll free number (in most cases) still does more good (increased conversions due to confidence) than harm (untracked phone sales). Obviously the exceptions (which I mentioned in my original post and others have also brought up) would be certain industries like cruises, overly prominent numbers, or incenting customers to call (i.e. "Call to save 10%").

    I'm just curious if any merchants have statistics to back up my assertion.
    Michael Coley
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  13. #13
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    "I wouldn't say "zero say" in this, at least with my clients."

    I put "in general" before that and usually with the bigger merchants. I think with smaller programs, affiliate managers have more input because a percentage of their overall sales will be higher via affiliates then big brand merchants.

  14. #14
    Affiliate Manager cbsturg's Avatar
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    MC,

    I'm working with a company right now who is looking into adding a toll-free number to their website. We have a conference call scheduled for tomorrow night to implement a game plan for testing this (mainly, the company is looking to know if enough people would use the service to warrant paying a full-time staff; if conversions would increase to offset those costs; etc.). I'll be more than happy to share our observations here once I have some concrete data. Mind you, it will be a bit specific to our particular market, but it will interesting to see none-the-less.
    Chris Sturgill
    "All my life I've had one dream, to achieve my many goals." - H. Simpson

  15. #15
    Analytics Dude Kevin's Avatar
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    I asked one of my partners (who loves to research) if he could find out anything about this in trade pubs, etc about the original question (aff tracking aside). Will let you know if we turn anything up. I've been meaning to look into this for a while anyhow.
    Kevin Webster
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  16. #16
    Member stellarseller's Avatar
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    Thumbs up Always be available
    800#'s anywhere & all the time. It is a display of rock solid customer service, and a committment to excellence. I would like to add that an email address right below the 800# is also a wise choice. These two forms of contact when prominently displayed in tandem convey proprietary availability...

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noth
    I asked one of my partners (who loves to research) if he could find out anything about this in trade pubs, etc about the original question (aff tracking aside). Will let you know if we turn anything up. I've been meaning to look into this for a while anyhow.
    I can only speak anecdotally, but for the sites I've worked on (high volume sites that typically require a longer term commitment and a somewhat complicated by nature ordering process) we've seen 40% and higher of orders come by phone.

    If noth doesn't post the info he sent his partner looking for, I'll try and dig something up as well.

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