April 30, 2007, 12:00 AM

Don’t Call Us...

(Page 2 of 2)

“If I can get a customer on the phone, I can establish rapport and find a solution that’s best,” says Goldbar owner Marc Goldman. He recently has integrated TalkOne into the company’s shopping cart application, used by more than a thousand clients. The company is offering each client a two-month free trial. “Some clients get a couple of calls a day and some a couple hundred,” he says. Goldbar is planning a study to measure how the feature affects shopping cart abandonment.

Jaduka’s Bill Binnig says Click-and-Connect offers several advantages over an 800 number. It saves the customer from having to leave the screen to initiate a contact and from getting caught in a corporate phone tree or being put on hold; and it offers some of the immediate gratification of live chat without the limitations of typing speed, he says.

It’s one more way to connect with customers, but whether it’s an improvement depends on how it’s used, says Greg Galloway, vice president of online marketing and business intelligence at Elevation Inc., an interactive marketing and technology consulting firm.

“If you’re trying to get them to switch to this from another channel, that’s problematic,” he says. “The trick is to always have someone available at the other end.”

However, Binnig says retailers can opt to gray out or eliminate the Click-and-Connect button during periods when a phone isn’t staffed.

Performance Communications Group integrated the technology throughout its e-commerce platform, says Scott Madlener, vice president of interactive strategies. “If they have someone to answer the phone, we try to get our clients to integrate Call Now into banners, microsites and the main web site,” he says. The company has 60 clients and about a quarter of them use the feature. Many are home builders or otherwise involved in real estate; Performance Communications also is rolling out the service this month with E-loan.

Derek Bates, director of advertising sales and strategic partnerships at Performance Communications client Builder Homesite Inc., helps builders sell the highest-consideration purchase of all: houses. Some of the nation’s largest homebuilders are among the company’s 38 investors. The web site, NewHomeSource.com, enables builders to showcase their homes with listings and video, and soon will offer Click-and-Connect.

The feature is common sense for the market, Bates says. “If one community has video with click-to-call, that’s the one people will talk to first.” The buttons will appear within banner ads for the builders, as well as in e-mail newsletters.

A no-brainer?
Jeff Larson, director of marketing at Usedboats.com, has been testing Click-and-Connect since July. He says it works beautifully, but he’s not sure it’s such a no-brainer for his market-individuals and dealers with used boats to sell.

“We’ve found that if you give people too many options you dilute the effect you’re trying to create,” Larson says. Many boat dealers already offer e-mail, a web address, and local and 800 numbers. Initially, Larson is offering the call button to for-sale-by-owner advertisers.

Ed Forteau, a Goldbar customer who sells Internet marketing materials through SuccessRainmaker.com and several other sites, has been testing Click-and-Connect since August. He puts the button on the sales page, where people are close to buying.

“When people call, I make a sale 90% to 95% of the time, and I get a lot of calls because it’s very easy for them,” he says. “People have gotten taken on the Internet and they’re more cautious now about who they’re doing business with. In the past, we would get these close-to-buying people without any interaction, but not anymore. They want a conversation.”

Elizabeth Gardner is a Riverside, Ill.-based freelance business writer.

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