BIA/Kelsey Bytes: Call Commerce, What is it?

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BIA/Kelsey Bytes are excerpts from research reports. This is the first installment from the recently launched report, Call Commerce: A $1 Trillion Economic Engine. The report can be downloaded for free here

CALL COMMERCE: WHAT IS IT?

One of the most important and under-recognized areas of the media and advertising worlds is what BIA/Kelsey refers to as “call commerce.” Formerly known as “call monetization,” it involves driving, tracking and optimizing inbound phone calls as a form of business leads.

The short history of the sector begins with its origins in print media. Designated metered phone numbers were used in Yellow Pages advertising and could be tracked and attributed to specific campaigns. Relatively simple metrics like call volume and duration measured effectiveness.

With the advent of the commercial Internet, digital formats enabled more sophisticated analytics. The search engine grew into a primary local business discovery tool, and call commerce migrated with it. Search engines like Google correspondingly positioned phone numbers as ad components.

But there was still a large gap in the form factor: consumers weren’t set up to make phone calls from their computers. Companies like Google engineered workarounds such as call buttons that rang your landline phone then that of the business. But it still didn’t reach meaningful scale.

Then came the iPhone in 2007. For the first time there was a portable search and discovery device that also happened to be… a phone. It created a natural handoff from search, content discovery and app engagement to phone calls, and it launched the current era of call commerce.

Google has sunk its teeth into this natural progression by making click-to-call buttons a primary component of search results, both organic and paid. The latter happens via AdWords extensions, and Google continues to develop ways to drive, track and optimize phone calls.

Though search is the primary call driver — due mostly to its high-intent use case — call commerce doesn’t end there. There are several developing channels that correspond to mobile’s varied points of entry, including everything from social and messaging apps to display ads.

These user touch points increasingly incorporate click-to-call buttons. But click-to-call is really just the first step of call commerce. Where it all comes together is call analytics, the growing subsector that tracks calls to discern return on investment and maximize revenues.

We will expand on the components and subsectors of call commerce in the sections that follow. BIA/Kelsey’s Local Commerce Universe database also lists the key players in call analytics, which can be seen in this report’s appendix.

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