The first article in our After the Click series talked about how mobile accounts for a majority of time spent online and is an important platform for consumers — not only for research and online purchasing, but also as part of a broader path to purchase that includes calls and visits to local businesses. Pay-per-call advertising, especially programs that optimize call tracking and attribution, can increase those online-to-offline transactions and improve campaign conversions — especially because most commerce still takes place offline.
The 2014 xAd/Telmetrics Path-to-Purchase study found that shoppers who place calls to businesses are more likely to make purchases — so call campaigns are a natural step for ROI-focused local marketers. This is an important consideration for companies looking to implement advertising solutions for their national or SMB clients that deliver solid ROI “after the click.” In considering these types of campaigns, it’s important for companies to understand the wider context and the relative efficacy of different methods.
Call Campaign Contexts and Conversion Rates
When buying on a per-call basis, advertisers are often willing to pay more for inbound phone leads vs. clicks. Pay-per-call programs are especially effective for verticals where consumers are looking to make a reservation or appointment, have questions about more complex products or services, or require an emergency response — these can include businesses and services like restaurants, travel, health and wellness, beauty services, finance, insurance, legal services, home services, and automotive.
Call tracking and analytics can be implemented across any media channel — although online search, directories and context-based marketing, discussed below, are especially important avenues. The key is to include a tracking component to measure and capture post-call, offline information and behavior in order to identify real advertising value.
Search: A primary reason that consumers conduct searches on mobile apps and websites is to find a business’s phone number. The Path-to-Purchase study revealed that the percentage varies per category, and that, for retail, 38% of smartphone owners and 32% of tablet owners then called the store for more information.
Mobile search also really drives offline purchases. According to the study, nearly 2/3 of mobile shoppers looking for store information on their device ultimately make a purchase, and another 16% of those shoppers plan to make a purchase in the near future. Restaurants have the highest conversion rate, with 80% of mobile searches for restaurants ultimately result in a purchase — usually within a day of the search.
Directories: A generation ago, the print yellow pages was the big directory in town. Today, it’s hard to keep up with all the online listing sites available for local businesses, which include business listings sites on search engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing), YP, Yellowbook, Superpages.com, and Local.com. Some depend on user reviews (Yelp) or social networking (Foursquare). Others target niche markets, such as Angie’s List for service providers (e.g., plumbers, locksmiths, cleaning services), or Kudzu for home-improvement services. There are even companies like Yext and UBL to manage your information across multiple directories.
These sites generate high call volume — and conversions. Take YP for example. The company released research in December that revealed that 77% of searchers using YP properties contact a merchant, with 66% making a purchase. Timing is key: 55% contact a merchant within 24 hours of conducting their search, with 42% making a call. Although the following percentages include all types of contact — calls, visits and emails — within 24 hours of a search, 38% purchased a product or service or made a reservation, and 36% booked a service.
Content/context-based advertising: This type of advertising targets automated ads for websites and mobile browsers by scanning a web page for keywords or taking a geo-location into account to match the ad. It’s also used by search engines to display ads on results pages based on keywords included in a searchers’ queries. Clearly, the more relevant an ad, the more likely a consumer will click on it and take a secondary action. According to the Path-to-Purchase study, 57% of those who clicked on mobile ads and 61% of those who took secondary actions prefer ads that provide a direct phone number for the business.
Search and social sites understand the value in calls. Twitter announced a year ago that it is testing a click-to-call ad feature that will allow direct-response marketers to target Twitter users with specific pay-per-call offers. And over the past year, Google has introduced Website Call Conversions in an effort to capture cross-device shopping and online-to-offline conversions. However, these services don’t report actual sales or transactions from website calls, which is an advantage for third-party call tracking solutions.
Tips to Identify the Right Channel
A mere decade ago, mobile and social channels barely existed. Today, they’re integral parts of the marketing mix, but more mature web-based methods (e.g., search, display ads) are still important. Here are some tips for identifying the right channel for your marketing campaign.
- Use both online and offline call analytics for advertising, engagement and purchase insights. Call elements such as volume of calls, call durations and calls that went unanswered can help track the impact of an ad andalso capture what happens between the ad impact and the purchase point.
- Understand consumer mobile motivation and intent before choosing where and how to engage them. Study the demographics, location, online usage and purchase behavior of your target audience.
- Determine the target market that works best for the advertiser. For example, if household income per desired customer is important, a pay-per-call ad unit on WSJ.com will target a higher net worth consumer than a print ad in USA Today.
- Choose a solution that can track every marketing channel for not just volume, but also impact on the path to purchase for the consumer. For example, low online conversion rates but high phone conversion rates could indicate that a campaign should be optimized to target mobile users.
- Use A/B testing before finalizing a program to see which avenue better meets lead-generation goals.
- Use dynamic number insertion to highlight which ads, distribution partners or creative helped drive quality calls on subsequent landing page and website visits, then optimize the program based on which channel generates the best leads.
These two examples show how companies leveraged calls to increase their online-to-offline attribution.
A national hotel chain knew that a good portion of its reservations were researched by consumers online but converted offline via phone calls. The company had been using mobile click-to-call, so measurement meant counting clicks on a call button — but it wasn’t receiving any visibility about which ad placements, partners or creatives were drawing the higher-quality phone leads that were translating to actual bookings.
After implementing call tracking technology, which put trackable numbers in each local mobile ad, the hotel was able to gain insights into the calls tied back to specific ad placements. This enabled the company to determine the distribution partners and ad placements that generated the highest quality leads. The hotel leveraged these insights to optimize its programs for greater lead generation and saw a 33% increase in campaign ROI.
A local search directory publisher used call tracking numbers to measure calls placed to their advertiser clients from their online directory ads, but directory attribution was lost when searchers placed calls after following a link from the ads to the clients’ websites. To capture this lost attribution, the publisher launched a DNI solution, but lacking direct access to manage the SMB websites, it chose a reverse proxy implementation method.
Results showed that 37% of those consumers linking through to the SMB websites subsequently placed a call to the advertisers. The publisher not only now presented stronger advertising ROI results — which led to increased advertiser retention — but also identified additional monetization opportunities for its pay-per-call program.
Future posts in the “After the Click” series will cover understanding call quality and tracking consumer behavior.