Turning The Phone Call Into The New Click

Editor’s note: Jason Spievak is the CEO of Invoca

Remember when you had to pull out a phone book when you needed to contact a business for more information? Today, those yellow phone books get a quizzical look from my kids as we lug them directly to the recycle bin. These days, a few keystrokes and clicks allow us to conduct detailed research on a product and even complete our transactions online. This evolution has defined the information economy and turned Google into the money-making giant it is today.

But despite the power of the click, the phone call has been getting a lot of attention lately. Case in point, Google recently announced one of the most meaningful advances in search since AdWords launched over a decade ago — Website Call Conversions. This new tool lets advertisers get the kind of attribution data for calls that Google has long provided for clicks.

Given that the largest Internet company in the world is investing in product innovation for calls, it’s inevitable that marketers are taking notice that voice is still highly relevant — and growing. In fact, the growth of mobile search is driving tens of billions of phone calls from consumers to businesses. So, call tracking in AdWords is a great start. But is it enough?

Google isn’t the only one focusing on calls. Twitter began beta-testing click-to-call earlier this year, and Facebook is rumored to add the function soon, enabling users to connect with businesses in the easiest way — directly over the phone. Twitter and Facebook are proving the value of advertising on their platforms by helping advertisers generate quantifiable results in the form of leads and sales, not just brand awareness and engagement. But why the resurgence in the seemingly “old-school” action of making a phone call?

We all know that mobile is big. We use our phones for everything. In fact, next year it’s expected that local search queries on mobile will outpace those on desktop. And Facebook just reported that more than half of its daily users connect exclusively on mobile, the channel where Facebook is experiencing nearly all of its revenue growth.

But despite our addiction to mobile devices for getting our information and finding merchants, none of us like to click through multiple mobile web pages, thumb in our billing info, or fill out forms on a tiny screen. For significant or considered purchases — like insurance, credit cards, cars, trips, satellite TV, plumbers, restaurants, etc. — people want answers before pulling the purchase trigger. That’s why we call businesses tens of billions of times each year.

Google says that 70 percent of mobile searchers have already connected directly with businesses from the search engine page using click-to-call. And according to BIA/Kelsey, mobile search will generate more than 70 billion calls from consumers to businesses in 2018.

So why should businesses care? While clicks to a website convert into customers about 1 to 2 percent of the time, inbound calls convert into customers 30 to 50 percent of the time, and typically at a higher average order value. The bottom line is that people are more likely to call when they’re further along the purchase path — when they have questions or are ready to make a big purchase and want to complete the process with a human.

Google’s move to connect clicks and calls is arguably one of the most disruptive innovations in search because it’s forcing marketers to re-think their playbooks. Attribution is no longer just about online channels. Offline matters, too. And as Facebook and Twitter build out their click-to-call solutions, the need for actionable intelligence around those calls will only continue to intensify (think marketing automation five years ago). It’s time for marketers to think beyond the click.