BIA/Kelsey Bytes are excerpts from research reports. This is the latest installment from the recently launched report, Call Commerce: A $1 Trillion Economic Engine. The report can be downloaded for free here.
The Base Ingredient
The telephone is 140 years old, yet it’s only recently been truly reinvented. The smartphone places voice communication at the center of a ubiquitous and portable search and discovery device. This has empowered the phone call to remain a central mode of human communication.
But beyond this fortunate positioning, voice calls are compelled by a deeper and more sociological factor: Humans are social animals, conditioned through thousands of years of societal advancement to communicate by voice. This isn’t going away anytime soon.
The irony is that though we live in a highly automated age, with looming glimpses of artificial intelligence (AI), the need to communicate by voice persists. And it not only applies in social contexts. Voice communication is compelled in complex communication, such as commerce.
Google supports this claim with several data points that indicate consumers’ propensity to call businesses to conduct commerce. For example, 69 percent of search users report likeliness to use a call button to contact a local business from within mobile search results.
The On-Demand Age
Beyond a universal human imperative for voice communication, calls are boosted by an on-demand culture. The rise of the smartphone has conditioned us to expect everything at the push of a button. Increasingly buying-empowered millennials are likewise immediacy-driven.
Many of these technological and cultural factors have been mistakenly identified as threats to the phone call (explored in later sections). But they could do just the opposite: The biological need to interact through voice persists, but an on-demand sentiment now simply gives it greater urgency.
Supporting this theory are several data points indicating that the biggest reasons to pick up the phone are immediacy-driven. Google reports that the top three reasons for calling businesses are desire for speed, a need to talk to a real person and complex queries a website can’t answer.
Closely related to immediacy is location. Here, call commerce merges with BIA/Kelsey’s core focus on all things local. As seen in many other media (especially mobile-oriented channels) location can greatly boost contextual relevance, and thus performance and engagement.
Calls are no exception. Among the business categories where search-driven phone calls happen most (listed above), four out of seven involve purely local transactions. Those include retail, restaurants, autos and home services. The remaining three are at least partly local.
Location also plays into a key part of the call commerce value chain explored below: call analytics. Knowing where someone is calling from and their spatial tracking history can inform ongoing marketing strategies and other key functions, such as optimal call routing.