Research conducted by D&M Research found that phone words – that is, 13, 1300 or 1800 numbers followed by a word – are at least 5 times more memorable than digit-only numbers.
The study, commissioned by 1300 Australia, tested the claim that a phone word is easier to remember than digits only because it was thought that a person simply dials the name of the company/service they’re looking for using the letters on their telephone keypad e.g. 13 SALVOS instead of 13 72 58.
Although this claim appeared to have face validity, it had never really been tested and quantified in a controlled research environment.
Using an experimental design approach comprising a robust sample of 1,200 participants, D&M Research set out to determine:
- the recall of a phone number when a phone word was used versus digits only
- the preference of phone words over digit-only numbers
The sample was split into two demographically matched groups of 600 participants. To minimise any biases:
- each group saw both phone words and digit-only numbers
- each group was blind to the line of questioning, and only asked questions after being exposed to four “ads” containing phone numbers
- the ads (relating to local services) were rotated to minimise the serial-position effect
Participants were first asked a yes–no question on whether or not they could recall the phone words or digit-only numbers presented. Below are the results for each of the executions.
Across all executions, phone words were claimed to be recalled by 53% versus 23% for digits only. Phone words were most effective in the word-of-mouth execution about flowers, having 2.6 times greater recall than digits only.
When it came to actually typing in the phone numbers, 44% of participants were able to recall and type the phone words exactly, versus 8% when recalling digits only, leading to the conclusion that phone words are 5.5 times more memorable than digits only.
Participants were also asked to recall phone numbers after 48 hours in order to determine retention rates. This question was only asked of those who were able to correctly identify the phone number(s) in the initial survey. When extrapolated to the entire sample, however, nearly 20 times as many people retained the number 48 hours later when a phone word was used, compared to only 1% who could recall digits only!
The preference for phone words over digit-only numbers was also clear, with three-quarters of participants preferring the former when dealing with local services. The top reason given was that they are “easy to remember” (86%), followed by being “connected/related to the business” (10%). Interestingly, among those who preferred digit-only numbers, 11% thought they were “easier/quicker to dial” versus 0% for phone words.
The results above provide compelling evidence of the advantages of phone words over digit-only numbers. Local businesses can confidently use phone words over digit-only numbers as they are:
- Easier to remember: phone words are on average at least 5 times more memorable than digits only, and can be up to 9 times more memorable depending on the execution
- More memorable over time: people are almost 20 times more likely to be able to recall a local business phone name than a digit-only number after 48 hours
- Preferred over digit-only numbers: three in four people are more likely to call a local business with a phone word than a digit-only number because it is easier to remember
A win for 1300 Australia
After incorporating the results into sales presentations, sales conversion rates increased from 8% to over 20%.