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Phone Calls Aren’t Dead

You may have read tech articles reporting that the age of email is dead. Now rumors are flying that phone calls may be the next to go. A blog posted by explains why dying phone calls are a myth. We’ve summarized the blog post below:


I’m sure you’ve heard the meme that “email is dead” – if fact if you Google it you’ll find a long list of articles that will mislead you.

Data from (mid 2012):

  • There are 2.9 billion email accounts. This figure is predicted to reach 3.8 billion by 2014
  • The three largest webmail services had over 1 billion global users at the end of 2011
  • 62% of adult US Internet users check or send email on a daily basis
  • 94% of all online adults use email. 73% of those aged 12-17 do so
  • Social media users are over 60% more likely to check email at least four times a day than those who don’t use social media

The key is understanding the nuance. Of course unsolicited spam has very low open rates and is filtered by the major providers. But bacn (email you have subscribed to) can have incredibly high open rates. It’s precisely why Twitter now sends you regular emails telling you who has followed you, what your most popular Tweets are, new users suggestions, etc.

And while it’s true that young people are massive text messengers and increasingly using “messaging apps” – as they graduate and join the workforce I assure you they will use email. Yes, email is changing and I personally use it less frequently as I gravitate towards texting, DMing, Facebook messaging and even just @Tweeting people. But it still is a major force and it ain’t going away. Only naive people believe that but for inexperienced entrepreneurs you can be fooled into the narrative by the press who sometimes write stories without the actual data.


What we’ve heard even more than email is dead is that people don’t make phone calls anymore. In the US alone there are 30 billion inbound sales calls every year. Just. Sales. Calls. Inbound. That number is projected to GROW to 70 billion by 2016 (Source: BIA Kelsey).

As the mobile ecosystem has grown the industrialized world is now carrying a mini computer in their pocket that is connected to a cellular network. The reduction in screen size has made the economic model of Internet advertising totally inefficient. If you thought people didn’t look at banner ads before, you can imagine how little they look at them on their smart phones.

The most obvious mobile Internet ad unit is, in fact, a phone call. Google knows it. They now have massive efforts to sign up local merchants and are sending direct mail (yes, erm, physical mail isn’t deal either!) espousing the ease and benefits of signing up with Google AdWords to drive inbound phone calls. Restaurants, barbershops, gyms – people still want to call. Not everybody. Not all the time. But that’s still the world we’ll live in for the foreseeable future as these smart phones are now in the hands of the “normals.”

The most obvious phone call ad unit is what we call a “considered purchase,” which is high price, complex and requires lots of information or lots of choice. Home alarms. Insurance. Cars. Home gym equipment. Higher education. Real Estate.


1. 77% of online shoppers want live assistance available with their purchases so it’s not surprising that 52% of shoppers re-evaluate or abandon shopping carts because of the lack of live assistance. (source: Harris Interactive IM Shopping Poll (August 2009))
That alone is pretty compelling.

2. 61% of mobile searches in which a customer contacted a vendor, a phone call was generated. I suppose I could have skipped the whole rest of the blog post and just posted that. Why? The quote comes from Google. And while this data is from mid-2011 I can assure you that data is not going down. More recent data I’ve seen suggests it’s now near 70%.

3. Call centers provide conversion rates of 10x to 20x that of online shopping and also 1.5x to 2x the average order value. When you listen to Tony Hsieh talk about his Zappos customer reps in “Delivering Happiness” you get a sense of the effectiveness of call center relationships.

It’s no accident that 1 out of every 25 employees in America work in call centers.

The broader market knows businesses want calls and people want to make them. We’ve just been biased by our narrower view from “people like us” and the tech press who are in our same demographic. If you don’t understand this you’re potentially operating your business at a disadvantage.

The best evidence is just how much higher these merchants will pay for qualified leads. Here are some representative rates that we’re seeing by category:

Phone Calls Aren't Dead

4. 63% of all consumers looking to buy financial services now research online but only 33% actually buy online considered purchase. (Source: Credit Union Times)

5. When you put a phone number in an online ad two unexpected factors go up

• 12% higher click-through rates on the online ad
• 15% higher conversion of online lead forms

Simply, customers trust businesses that are available by phone. Even if they don’t want to always call you.


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