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2018 Online Holiday Shoppers Are Calling Retailers at Record Rates

Louise Thompson Content Marketing Manager, DialogTech

2018 holiday shopping is well underway, and if the remainder of the shopping season resembles its traditional kick-off days, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, retailers are in for a highly successful end-of-year.

According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), more than 165 million Americans shopped in stores and online from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday, with the average shopper spending $313 on gifts and holiday items. While in-store sales figures are still being tallied, the online spending figures have been impressive. Consumers spent a record $6.22 billion online on Black Friday—a 23.6% increase from 2017. Cyber Monday saw spend of $7.9 billion, resulting in the single largest online shopping day in US history.

DialogTech and 4C Study Uncovers Deeper Online-Offline Connections

With each holiday shopping season, marketers see the increased merging of online and offline channels: According to the NRF, nearly 90 million people shopped both online and in stores, up nearly 40% from 2017. The multichannel shopper also outspent the single-channel shopper by up to $93 on average.

This connection between online and offline is further detailed in a new report by DialogTech and 4C. Called the Cyber Week Impact Report, it shows the rise in online social ad spend this holiday season, how offline TV ads impact online social engagement, and how online shopping drove an increase in offline consumer calls. It’s this last piece—the connection between online shopping and consumer calls and what marketers should do about it —that we will explore here in more detail.

DialogTech: Black Friday and Cyber Monday Drive Consumer Calls

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are well known as big in-store and online sales days, respectively, but consumer calls to retailers also play a big part in holiday shopping success.

To illustrate, the DialogTech analytics team examined millions of consumer calls from holiday shoppers placed to retailers over the past two years that were tracked, routed, and analyzed with the DialogTech call analytics platform.

They found that both Black Friday and Cyber Monday are huge drivers of consumer phone calls, and those calls play a big role in many holiday shopping journeys. In 2018, DialogTech’s retail customers saw an increase in call volume of 27% and 14% on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, compared to previous weeks.

Search and Direct Website Traffic Drive Calls and Sales

Attribution data on calls to businesses captured by DialogTech shows how Black Friday 2018 saw a bump in call volume from paid search ads. On that day, 55% of calls came from paid search ads—a 5% increase compared to the rest of November. Cyber Monday on the other hand, saw increased call volume from direct traffic and SEO traffic to retailers’ websites. Those calls from direct and SEO traffic were 12% higher the average of the other days in November.

These findings from DialogTech match a recent study by Adobe, which found that direct web traffic, paid search traffic, and organic search traffic were the top three drivers of sales so far this holiday season:

  • Direct web traffic – 27.0%
  • Paid search – 24.4%
  • Organic search – 20.7%
  • Email – 20.3%
  • Social media – 1.5%

Holiday Shoppers Are Talking Longer

Based on DialogTech’s data, consumers are not only placing more calls, but also speaking with brands for longer. This is indicative of a more engaged and high-quality sales lead.

  • In 2018, the average Black Friday call duration was 3 minutes and 9 seconds—a 22% increase when compared to calls throughout the month of November 2018.
  • In 2017, the average Black Friday call duration was 4 minutes and 20 seconds. This shows an increase of 24% when compared to overall average call duration for the month of November that year.
  • There was a 5% YOY increase in call duration from November 2017 to November 2018.

Callers Are Interested in Financing, Delivery Options, and Sales

Equally as important to retail marketers to understanding the volume of consumer calls is understanding what is said on each call. DialogTech’s AI technology analyzes conversations to provide marketers with insights on lead quality, which product the caller was interested in, the questions asked by caller, and whether or not the call ended with a sale.

Leading into the 2018 holiday shopping season, DialogTech’s retail customers are already seeing shifts in caller behavior. Since November 1, consumers calls have increased compared to previous months this year for the following topics:

  • Questions concerning financing options, including rebates and down payments, have increased by 17%.
  • Questions about the delivery date of an already purchased item have increased by 74%. This can be expected to keep rising between now and December 25.
  • Calls inquiring about Black Friday specials and store hours increased 344% between November 1 and 22.

Unanswered Calls Decreased

DialogTech’s analytics data on abandoned calls and voicemail rates shows how retailers made answering consumer calls a priority during Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Unanswered call rates declined by 19% from the prior month. This shows that retailers understand the value of consumer calls and the importance of providing the best experience. They are making it a priority to answer calls from holiday shoppers.

Incorporate the Right Marketing Strategies for Consumer Calls

The online, in-store, and call channels are all important parts of the overall consumer journey. Many retail brands measure and optimize the online journey, and some may even connect online advertising and website activity to store visits. But any understanding of the impact of search and online advertising on customer acquisition is incomplete without calls.

Taking a data-driven strategy for calls enables marketers to drive more high-quality leads to store locations and contact centers at a lower cost, build a seamless customer journey, and generate more sales and revenue over the holiday season (and throughout the year).

8 Retail Marketing Strategies to Drive More Calls, Customers, and Revenue

    1. Make it easy for consumers to call with call extensions in search ads, phone numbers in Google My Business listings, and phone numbers or call buttons across your website.
    2. Track each caller from marketing source (channel, ad, keyword search, website interaction) to sale.
    3. Personalize the caller experience using data captured on each caller to provide a frictionless transition from online to offline.
    4. Analyze conversations to measure lead quality, call outcome, product interest, and unanswered call rates.
    5. Answer caller questions on your website to improve SEO and boost conversions.
    6. Integrate call data with your CRM and digital advertising tools to see a holistic view of the consumer journey.
    7. Target past callers and lookalikes with the right ads across search, social, and display using insights from their conversations.
    8. Optimize, analyze, and repeat — keep measuring performance and repeating what works best.

To learn more about how retailers can use DialogTech to attribute, route, and analyze calls for optimal business results, download our ebook, The Secret to Retail Marketing ROI: Inbound Calls.

Learn how retail marketers are optimizing their digital advertising to drive more calls and customers with our free eBook.

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