All in all, 2018 was a happy holiday for retailers across the US. According to Mastercard SpendingPulse, retail spending from November 1 through December 24 increased 5% from 2017, its best growth in six years. Online shopping in particular increased 19% compared to 2017. Overall, shoppers spent more than $850 billion during the holidays.

On the heels of this impressive holiday shopping season, we’ve put together some call-related marketing tips to help retailers continue their momentum into 2019.

Consumer Calls Are Important to Many Customer Journeys

Most retailers are working to create seamless consumer experiences online and in-store, but there’s a third conversion channel that should not be ignored — one that helps drive revenue for both — consumer phone calls. According to a study by DialogTech and 4C, 2018’s substantial Black Friday and Cyber Monday gains were accompanied by an upsurge in phone calls. Retailers received an increase in inbound call volume of 27% and 14% on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, compared to previous weeks.

Calls are a common way for retail shoppers to ask questions, check store hours/inventory/pricing, and, in many cases, order products. They call while at home, at work, traveling near a store, and even from inside a competitor’s location.

To optimize SEO and digital advertising ROI and drive revenue, retail marketers are now taking a data-driven approach to driving these valuable call conversions. Below are 5 strategies you can follow to generate more calls and create a seamless online-to-offline consumer experience that results in more loyal customers and sales.

1: Track Each Caller from Marketing Source to Sale

It’s easy for retail marketers to track the results of their digital advertising campaigns when interactions happened online. However, offline interactions — like calls — are often a blind spot. To measure and optimize SEO performance and media spend, it’s important to attribute call conversions to understand how your search (paid ads and organic listings), digital advertising, and website drive calls and the role those phone conversations play in driving revenue (either on your website, over the phone, or at your retail locations).

You should track calls and capture information on the caller and the marketing channel, ad, keyword search, or other marketing source that drove it. If the lead called from your website, you should also capture the path they took that led to the call. And you should connect that data — along with what was said on the call — to any resulting store visits, sales, and revenue.

2: Use Call Analytics to Personalize the Caller Experience

When a shopper calls your store location or contact center, the experience matters. Retailers need to not only answer these calls promptly, but also offer callers the right experience to convert them to customers. Expectations for today’s consumer journey have never been higher, and the call channel experience is often lacking — 32% of consumers say phone calls are the most frustrating customer service channel.

Most frustrating customer service channel survey

Source: Aspect

To provide seamless experiences when online shoppers call, retail marketers can use the data they capture on each caller to personalize the on-call experience in real time. When you provide a frictionless transition from online research to offline conversation, you increase the chances of winning that caller’s business significantly.

Retail customer experience preferences

Sources: Salesforce, RetailNext, RightNow Technologies, Digiday

One strategy to personalize the caller experience is to connect each caller quickly in conversation with the right retail location and agent so they can get the right assistance right away. To do it, marketers are using call analytics data — including the keyword and webpage the person called from, their location and history, and day and time of the call — to automatically route each caller to the location or agent for the best result.

Another strategy is to prioritize the specific ads, search keywords, or pages on your website with a proven track record of generating sales make sure those caller get answered right away. Have those callers “jump the line” by sending them to a priority queue where an agent can assist them immediately. A best practice retailers often use is to prioritize calls consumers place from a shopping cart. This minimizes lost revenue, since quickly speaking to a representative can be the difference-maker between a sale and abandonment.

Finally, when calls come in, many retailers are now passing information on the caller and marketing source that drove the call (channel, ad, keyword, etc.) to their agents. By knowing a caller’s online activity before a call, agents can better anticipate caller needs, deliver a seamless online-to-offline experience, and tailor the conversation to win the sale.

3: Analyze Conversations to Score Leads, Assess Agent Performance, and Track Conversions

Tracking what marketing sources are driving calls to your store locations and contact centers is a great start, but it’s also important to gain insights into the quality of those calls, as well as how they were handled. These insights include:

  • Which of your inbound calls are qualified sales leads
  • The quality of each phone lead
  • Which ads, keywords, website pages, and programs drive the best sales calls
  • Which locations are receiving the most qualified sales calls
  • Common keywords or questions consumers are voicing on their calls
  • Why callers did or did not convert to customers
  • Which agents are best and worst at converting callers to customers
  • Which locations are best and worst at converting callers to customers
  • What percentage of calls go unanswered by each agent or location

Marketers are capturing conversation analytics data by leveraging call analytics solutions with AI and machine-learning algorithms. With this full view of the call channel, you can make the right digital marketing optimizations to drive high-quality calls and the right adjustments at your locations or contact center to improve the caller experience to improve your ROI from those calls.

4: Integrate Call Data with Your CRM and Digital Advertising Tools

Once you’re capturing the right call data, you should put it to use to drive better business results. To accomplish this, you should integrate your call data into your marketing stack — including your CRM, bid management, web analytics, and other tools — to get a holistic view of the consumer journey and know exactly how to allocate budget and optimize campaigns to generate the greatest return for your business.

Integrate retail call data with Google Ads

5: Target Past Callers and Lookalikes with the Right Ads

After someone calls your business — whether it’s to a contact center or store location — marketers need to know what the next best action is for that caller. Knowing not just that a caller is a quality sales lead, but where they are in the customer journey after the call, is the only way to accurately determine what to do next with that consumer. For example:

  • Should you retarget them with a particular search, Facebook, or display campaign?
  • Should you add them to a particular email campaign?
  • Should you use them to improve your lookalike campaigns?
  • Should you spend budget remarketing to them at all?

If you don’t know what product the consumer called about and whether or where they ended up in the customer journey after the call, you can’t answer those questions. You then risk wasting budget retargeting customers with ads for products they’re not interested in. Or you risk targeting customers who have already converted over the phone. Finally, you risk missing out on new or repeat business by failing to target callers that are ready to buy. By capturing calls from each marketing source — and their outcomes — you can drive better remarketing results.

Refine Your Approach

Once you start getting attribution and analytics on calls, you should measure performance and optimize for what is driving the best results. You can then scale your effort for what’s bringing in the most customers — online, over the phone, and in stores — while correcting issues that hurt your ROI. It’s a learning loop that can have a powerful impact on conversion quality, sales, and customer loyalty.