Call centre leakage has been an issue since the dawn of affiliate marketing, however before decrying the use of phone numbers onsite it’s important to understand the rationale for this leakage of affiliate traffic offline and the impact that this has on an affiliate programme for both affiliates and advertisers.
What Is Site Leakage And What Causes It?
Site leakage refers to a loss of affiliate commission due to a customer performing an action from the advertiser’s site that is either non-commissionable or cannot be tracked.
Having call centre numbers on an advertiser’s site is the biggest culprit of site leakage. This begs the question why do advertisers use their call centre numbers so prominently?
Sometimes it’s because customers feel more comfortable transacting over the phone, especially as they may have certain questions and queries, which advertisers cannot predict or address across their website copy. For example, advertisers targeting an older demographic tend to have a higher percentage of sales converting through the call centres. Some demographics will also be more hesitant to provide sensitive information online, such as credit card details and personal addresses. Indeed, Forrester UK eCommerce have estimated that 48% of the UK population do not purchase online.
Some products by their very nature are complicated to purchase, such as financial services and utilities which lend themselves to be an easier purchase over the telephone with human interaction rather than online. In the case of B2B this is prevalent.
In some instances, the user experience of a website is not optimized which leads to customers preferring to purchase through the call centre. For example, some websites have slow page render, bad purchasing journey, and an incomprehensive transaction guide.
In all cases, having a call centre number onsite can result in a better overall user experience and ultimately optimise the sales funnel.
Why Is Site Leakage Bad For An Affiliate Program?
For the affiliates, any customer who purchases through an untracked call centre is a loss in revenue which reduces their EPC. This misattribution of sales away from the affiliate channel can dramatically affect the ROI for the affiliate program and can dramatically reduce its perceived attractiveness.
For an advertiser, this type of leakage is a bit of a dilemma. Call centres allow for a better user journey and allow advertisers to up sell and cross sell to their customers through their trained call centre staff. However, it can be very difficult for advertisers to attribute those sales to particular online acquisition channels and therefore are unable to fully understand their true ROI. This is not only the case for the affiliate channel but all online acquisition channels. For the affiliate channel, this may result in the advertiser unknowingly underselling its actual value.
For many advertisers it’s obvious that call centre numbers are an important tool and therefore hiding, removing or making them less obvious could result in a poorer user experience and a potential loss in sales. A better option would be to maintain the user journey but track the call to optimize the customer journey while rewarding affiliates and allowing advertisers to up sell and cross sell.
What Is Call Tracking?
Call tracking is a pay-per-call service that enables publishers to get paid for driving qualified calls to an advertiser’s existing call centre. A unique phone number is provided to the affiliates which seamlessly redirects the customer to the advertiser’s call centre. The Advertiser only pays out for a qualified call.
This technology has plenty of benefits for both advertisers and affiliates. Each affiliate has a unique telephone number which can be dynamically passed through from the affiliate site to the advertiser’s site and throughout the user journey. The unique telephone number can also be used in all offline activity and publication and also provides a powerful tool in mobile advertising. Mobile internet users are more likely to use the phone to complete a purchase and therefore unique telephone numbers can be used in affiliate’s Mobile PPC advertising.
TradeDoubler launched TD Talk in 2007, which is a pay-per-call service that enables publishers to get paid for driving qualified calls to an Advertisers existing call centre. TD Talk is now active across 5 European markets (UK, Spain, Belgium, Sweden and Germany) and is tracking tens of thousands calls to advertisers a month.
One partner that we have been working very closely with on TD Talk is BT Business Broadband which is very much suited to call centre conversion.
Massimo Mazzeo, BT Business Broadband Affiliate Manager:
"Because of the type of customers that we have and their complex business requirements, call centres tend to be the preferred purchasing option. It was vital for us to be able to incorporate this in the affiliate program. As such being able to track those calls is core to the program and has allowed us to develop strategic partnerships with key affiliates by rewarding them for offline activity while maintaining the optimized sales journey."
Leakage has always been an issue in the affiliate industry, however removing telephone numbers off an advertiser’s website is not the best decision strategically.
Implementing a call tracking solution is a viable alternative maintaining the optimal customer journey, maximizing revenue for affiliates and giving advertisers a truer representation of the ROI from their affiliate channel.
By George Henshaw, Account Manager at TradeDoubler