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Can location data solve click-to-call?s attribution problem?

The rise of location and sophisticated data may be just what brands need to justify click-to-call mobile ads that continue to promise marketers the ability to link ads with real-world sales, but fail to deliver.

As more marketers look to leverage sophisticated types of location and data to make mobile advertising more contextual, there are a growing number of marketing services that promise brands better insight into mobile?s in-store impact. However, the accuracy of these services is questionable without the solid tracking cookie mechanism that follow consumers' online behavior, leaving many marketers to rely on click-to-call and other forms of simple lead generation.

?Tying location awareness to attribution has been a big advancement,? said Michael Boland, senior analyst and vice president of content at BIA/Kelsey, Chantilly, VA.

?In some cases, this ties into things like purchase data to close the loop on ad attribution and effectiveness,? he said. ?This will get even more interesting with the developments in in-store technologies like beacons.?

Calling for mobile success
Click-to-call has been viewed as a key part in bridging mobile and real-world transactions for quite some time.

While the promise of click-to-call remains largely untapped, it seems that cross-channel attribution may be becoming a bit more of a reality with new types of location and data targeting.

According to a new BIA/Kelsey report, 66 percent of small to medium-sized businesses rate phone calls as a good source for leads.

Roughly 58 percent of small to medium-sized businesses rated online forms as effective and 54 percent rated in-person marketing as effective in generating leads. Email was seen as successful by 43.7 percent of small to medium-sized businesses. 

In particular, the study signals out automotive and home services as effective mobile investments since both verticals have a strong local focus.

Indeed, big automotive brands are known for pouring significant amounts of money into click-to-call mobile ads to drive traffic into dealerships at the local level.

These investments are now being taken to the next level with rich media and location layered on top of click-to-call ads.

For example, Scion ran a location-based campaign last year with mobile ads that were served to consumers who had either recently visited a Scion dealership or a competitor?s dealership (see story). 

What is interesting about Scion?s mobile campaign is that the click-to-call feature is triggered by a landing page instead of directly from the ad, signaling a bigger marketing trend that may help marketers run more effective campaigns.

?Marketers generally try to include the fewest steps possible for the consumer to take an action,? said Shuli Lowy, New York-based marketing director at Ping Mobile.

?In this case, however, the added step of bringing the consumer to a landing page before the call is included because accidental clicks lead to inadvertent calls,? she said. ?The extra step ensures that the call only connects when the consumer intends for it to.?

Nailing the basics
The move to more location-based attribution models underscores the fact that mobile commerce may not be paying off as much as retailers initially expected.

Forrester predicts that ecommerce sales within the United States will bring in $370 billion by 2017, representing 10 percent of retail sales (see story). 

Although on-device mobile sales will continue to grow, the bigger opportunity in mobile will continue to be fueled by influencing in-store transactions.

As marketers get a better understanding of mobile?s role in commerce, many may be hunkering down on click-to-call mobile ads to tap into this bigger offline opportunity.

?There?s a growing realization that most commerce takes place offline,? BIA/Kelsey?s Mr. Boland said.

?But it?s increasingly influenced online, including mobile,? he said. ?This gap between online and offline causes a lack of clear causality between clicks and impressions and conversions, thus lowering perceived ROI.? 

?So as a result, there?s been a movement towards more tangible and simple lead sources such as foot traffic and phone calls.? 

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Marketer, New York