Determining When There's Something To Talk About

As SVP of consumer insights at Marchex, John Busby runs the research and analytics team. He connects phone sales to every media channel — search, display, etc. — in an effort to understand the mobile consumer’s path of purchase from online to offline. Busby maintains that football season is the ideal time for cross-channel marketing, and we talked about why. 

Why are you keen on football for cross-channel?

The top broadcast events in recent weeks were Sunday night and Thursday night football. We’ve been studying this. Live sporting events are things you want to tune in while it’s happening. At the same time, football — and the NFL specifically — are trying to understand how they should engage audiences digitally. In some cases, Twitter is the only way to watch an event through a livestream.

And what is the football connection?

It’s an interesting time for marketers, specifically those trying to figure out their cross-channel and omnichannel strategies. Football is a pretty interesting context to talk about this because the products sold during football games are things like autos, insurance and are all purchases you buy in-person or over the phone, or some combination. With all the cord-cutting going on, football is where these brands are trying to connect. There are so many iconic brand campaigns that occur during football season.



What is your research showing?

Our research tells us that consumers are using multiple touchpoints to make a decision. In the auto industry, digital, mobile and TV are really important on the beginning path to purchase. More than half the dollars spent on new cars are influenced by digital ads. When someone starts to narrow in on a certain brand, they start searching and, before going to a dealership, will contact one by phone to compare pricing and ask about incentives. Most are using their smartphones in some form or another. 

What are you hearing from customers?

Only the most sophisticated organizations are really investing in figuring this out — a phone call in the context of the journey. What’s the call like and what advertising influenced it? Once the consumer makes the call, they’ve moved from consideration to the purchase phase. We won’t pick up the phone to call unless we’re pretty serious. The other thing we’re hearing is that single-channel solutions won’t cut it. They need to relate all the touchpoints leading up to the telephone to understand the consumer journey.

Are there brands where it matters more than others?
One that might surprise you are wireless carriers. It’s the same thing with many types of travel. You don’t really book a cruise. About a third of all hotel reservations are made over the phone — financial services, cable and satellite packages are also big. Any purchase where you’ll be locked into a contract, you want to talk to a human, we’re finding.

What are you seeing in changes of consumer behavior that drives calls?

I don’t think social and display drive direct phone calls. Someone isn’t on Facebook and saying I’m going to stop what I’m doing and click to call. Maybe with the exception of a really good offer. Social and display are influencers of phone calls and offline purchases. It’s just not a direct action.

It’s been really interesting for us to see who makes the call. I had a big question in my mind whether Millennials would call because our perception of this age group is they’re the consumer who prefers to do everything digitally. Yet Millennials — and even the youngest — are most likely to click to call.

A simple explanation could be they are most comfortable with every ad medium that comes out on the phone. Also, this consumer base expects immediacy and when they want an answer, they will call immediately.

How much click-to-call activity occurs directly from display ads?

Not much. A paid-search campaign that uses call extensions may see call-through rates as high as 20%. Our research has shown it can take an average 500,000 impressions from a display ad with a click-to-call functionality to generate a quality phone call (as opposed to an accidental one).

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