The Hidden Persuader: Email Drives Consumers To The Phone

A new Forrester study shows that customers who initiate a phone call spend more, convert faster and have a higher retention rate than those who don’t. It’s a great argument for having an inbound calling program.   

But as often happens in these studies, the hidden story is that it takes email to get there.

Of those who use email to drive customers to the phone, 85% say it’s effective. In contrast, 80% report the same about their website. And 76% cite mobile websites, TV and online chat, according to the study commissioned by Marchex. 

Even 77% of those who don’t prompt customers to make a call think email is effective.

What’s more, email and search are technically tied as the two top channels. Of the 213 marketers polled, 71% are using or expanding their email use, and an equal percentage say the same about search. 

However, 19% say they are currently piloting email, compared with 12% for search. So email is the leader.



In contrast, 70% offer inbound calls, and 14% are piloting this capability.

Why is email so productive?

“There are tons of ways to encourage someone to pick up their phone and call your company — you can buy media, you can run social ads, and email is a great way to target large groups of people with personalized messaging,” says  Guy Weismantel, EVP of marketing at Marchex.

He adds: “We found that regardless of how they were contacted, customers who picked up the phone to call the brand ultimately converted faster, bought more and churned less than those who contacted the company through other channels.”

According to the study, the respondents deploy an average of 7.7 channels apiece. Social media are used by 68%, and websites by the same percentage. And 65% make outbound phone calls. Direct mail is the bottom, used by 55%.

In addition, 62% say their ads ask consumers to enter an email address or other contact information. And 61% prompt online purchases. 

In contrast, only 56% invite them to make a phone call. This is the fourth choice, just behind offering access to content on a landing page (used by 60%). Finally, 54% offer a mobile app.

As for effectiveness, email and the other channels listed above are followed by point-of-sale systems (75%), print (74%) and video (72%).

Email aside, these marketers are facing serious challenges:

  • Acquiring new customers — 63%
  • Increasing customer loyalty — 62%
  • Increasing long-term customer engagement — 61% 
  • Maximizing customer relationships — 60%
  • Increasing conversion rates — 58% 
  • Retaining customers — 58% 

These challenges align closely with their goals:

  • Increasing customer loyalty — 80% 
  • Capturing new customers — 79%
  • Maximizing customer relationships — 78%
  • Retaining customers — 77%
  • Increasing long-term customer engagement — 71%
  • Increasing conversion rates — 68%

Given all that, there seems to be value in inbound calling: Forrester reports.

  • 60% say that people who make a call convert at a 30% faster rate than those who don’t.
  • 60% report that callers spend an average of 28% more.
  • 54% claim that consumers who call have a 28% higher retention rate. 
  • Customers who initiate a call at some point contribute an average of 27% of overall sales.

Do the inbound call results reflect all phone interactions, or only purchase transactions?

“It can be service and support as well,” says Weismantel. “Customers don’t buy t-shirts or book hotel rooms, but they book appointments to change the oil in their car or set up their cable."

Here are Forrester’s recommendations, and our interpretations: 

Use a wide range of channels — You have to interact with customers at the time and place of their choosing. Email is perhaps the best way, but don’t neglect search and the other channels. .

Offer lots of different actions for a customer to take — It’s not just about calling. Sometimes you can make the sale during the first contact. Customers want variety. But you have to have a good attribution system in place. As Forrester notes, “the majority of marketers are still using last-click attribution, and the gap between connecting online activity to offline sales has still not been solved.”  

We would add that you just can’t list your phone number by rote along with your website url. Whether it’s email or social, you need a strong call to action.



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