In the mid-1990s, companies like Amazon put the “e” in e-commerce by bringing the brick and mortar shopping experience to the Internet. It’s not a coincidence that the resulting dot-com boom aligned perfectly with the rise of the personal computer. As the way we access technology changes, so do our expectations of how we connect with it.
Today, smartphones are as essential to American life as cars. As a result, we view the world through the lens of mobile. The mobile revolution has transformed how consumers buy products and services on their mobile phones. Virtually every purchase decision that a consumer makes today is influenced in some way by a mobile search.
As part of this shift in behavior, consumers are going back to the phone call to connect with businesses. Google has studied this phenomenon and found that consumers are actually more likely to make a phone call after a local mobile business search than any other purchase-oriented activity.
But how big is this really? In a recent study, Marchex and BIA/Kelsey forecasted that consumers will spend more than $1 trillion on “click-to-call commerce” in 2015.(Click-to-call commerce is defined as a consumer purchasing a product or making an appointment over the phone as the result of a mobile business search.) It may surprise you, but click-to-call commerce is triple the size of e-commerce!
There is, however, a big blind spot for marketers, who spend an estimated $4 billion on mobile click-to-call ads on search engines. When a consumer jumps from the online world (a mobile search) to the real world (a phone call), marketers lack the visibility to make optimal budgeting decisions. Marketers generally know how many phone calls connected, but not whether those connected calls became customers.
Enter call analytics, part of the growing world of real world analytics. Call analytics tools change the game by giving businesses a peek behind the curtain to see what’s really going on. This has two key advantages:
First, it shows businesses how to optimize their campaigns to achieve the lowest possible cost-per-sale (CPS). Call analytics can identify which calls are sales calls and then associate that data back to the keyword, impression or campaign that drove the sale. Marketers can experience up to a 50 percent greater return on an investment with this information.
Second, analytics show marketers how to focus on lead pipelines with the most potential for conversions. In a breakdown of calls from a national cable television advertiser in 2014, Marchex calculated that more than 80% of phone calls did not have purchase intent.Businesses also field customer service calls, accidental calls and repeat phone calls. By building campaigns around keywords that trigger the most calls with purchase intent, marketers can cut down on ad spending while optimizing results.
The difference it makes to your bottom line is not a small one – advertisers that successfully use keyword attribution for call extensions in paid search platforms have seen cost-per-acquisition (CPA) decline by as much as 50 percent. You’d be hard pressed to find another blind spot that could be so easily turned into a major competitive advantage with a little basic data.
There’s no doubt that, in competitive industries, early adopters will have a leg up that could be the difference between fighting to stay ahead of the curve and becoming an undisputed industry leader.
So what does that look like? While key learnings vary by industry, one insight is universal: data impacts far more than just advertising. In many cases, data will affect the overall business strategy and future product offerings as well.
Take the auto industry. With the rise of smartphone use, dealerships are experiencing a significant increase in the volume of phone calls from consumers.
Data from a 2014 Marchex study of ad-driven phone calls to dealerships reveals that 77 percent of calls are from new customers, with most of these calls for parts or service.
Call data also shows that, for the average dealership, 16 percent of calls go unanswered. And when they are answered, most of the time, the respondent doesn’t try to schedule an appointment. By addressing these concerns, dealerships could expect a boost in sales.
Cable providers are notorious for poor customer service, long contracts and pricey package deals. But with subscription streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, and HBO NOW, they’ve got competition. To stay afloat, cable companies need to find out what consumers want and respond to it.
Marchex analyzed call data to identify key weaknesses in the current cable business model and propose a solution.
Programming is one of the biggest sticking points. But the data shows that allowing consumers the flexibility to customize content builds brand loyalty and increases perceived value. So, by taking a more flexible a la carte approach, cable providers can better satisfy choosy consumers.
Embracing technology is also essential. In the mobile age, the cable box alone just doesn’t cut it. Five times as many consumers in the study asked for ESPN compared to Fox Sports. Given that ESPN offers a markedly superior online experience for those with a cable plan, the importance of giving consumers access to content anytime, anywhere can’t be ignored.
Flights, Hotels and Rental Cars
Now let’s talk travel. Mobile bookings are the fastest-growing segment in travel today. This year, more than 20 million consumers are expected to book trips on smartphones, according to eMarketer, a 150 percent increase from 2010.
The drastic shift towards mobile booking makes sense when you consider the context. By nature, travel is done on the go. Consumers on desktops are in research mode, but on mobile, they’re in purchase mode – and a greater sense of urgency leads to a greater intent to book. The data supports this, with conversion rates consistently over 25 percent for rental cars and over 20 percent for hotels.
So how can travel companies capitalize on this shift?
It starts with recognizing the importance of over-the-phone bookings and prioritizing accordingly. For a start, companies should employ more staff at call centers and reception areas according to the volume and type of incoming calls. Rental car companies, for example, should staff more heavily in the morning because many callers are looking to drive a car off the lot that day.
Hotels can also boost click-to-call conversions by offering special perks to a few common customer types. Freebies, like breakfast or complimentary spa service will satisfy deal seekers, while a free upgrade will be more enticing for the caller who wants the VIP treatment.
When you have the data in front of you, these recommendations make perfect sense. What’s been stopping companies isn’t that optimization is difficult; it’s that, previously, the information just wasn’t available. But with the advanced analytics tools that are now available, marketers can finally take control.
John Busby is the senior vice president customer insight and marketing at Marchex. He leads the Marchex Institute, the analytics and insights team which publishes findings on advertising campaign performance, consumer data and market trends. Busby oversees all white papers and analyses and is a key strategic advisor to our clients.