Life Events Drive Yellow Pages Usage

Print Yellow Pages are a unique medium in that they’re only used when consumers are looking to make a purchase.  There’s no other need to open that Yellow Pages directory other than to pick a business and make a purchase.  That means that Yellow Pages users are highly motivated and ready-to-buy.  While other media waste impressions on users who aren’t actively shopping, you can bet that the consumers who see your Yellow Pages ad are there with a purpose in mind and their wallet ready to be opened.  In fact, 85% of Yellow Pages users end up making a purchase (2011 Yellow Pages Association Local Media Tracking Study).

Often Yellow Pages users are perceived as bargain hunters, but according to CRM Associates’ 2011 Yellow Pages Trends & Opportunities report, that assumption is incorrect.  The Simmons Spring 2011 National Consumer Behavior Study found that Yellow Pages shoppers typically spend nearly 30% more than average consumers.  These findings were consistent with previous years’ findings, which have averaged around 25%.

Yellow Pages users typically spend more for a few reasons, which tend to differ by category.  Sometimes they’re just more frequent shoppers, or they tend to be smart shoppers who choose more expensive, higher quality products.  Often, however, users are buying based on major life events.  Whether these life events are long-anticipated or completely unexpected, the need to buy is usually immediate and the opportunity to bargain hunt is limited.  As a result, these types of consumers often cannot take advantage of sales and must pay full price.

Life events driving Yellow Pages usage typically fall within a handful of general categories: Buying, selling, or renovating a house; a change in financial situation, such as a new or lost job; a change in marital status; starting/finishing school; having a baby.  Parents also tend to use the Yellow Pages when many of these same life events take place in the lives of their children.  When these events happen, certain purchases must be made, and shoppers flood to the Yellow Pages in greater numbers.  CRM Associates’ analysis finds that Yellow Pages usage is 2.3 times higher for those experiencing these life events than those without, and it estimates that 85-90% of all Yellow Pages personal usage is tied to these sorts of life events.

In my last blog post, I mentioned the importance of testing the RCF lines that are part of Yellow Pages and other media placements.  Using that data for one of our clients, we were able to see another life event drive calls in a big way— a natural disaster.  One of our clients is in the waterproofing business (basements, foundations), and they do extensive testing of their Yellow Pages program.  In late August 2011, Hurricane Irene blew up the East Coast and brought heavy rainfall to the entire mid-Atlantic region, including much of the client’s main market area. 

In addition, less than two weeks later, Tropical Storm Lee brought more heavy rain to many of the same areas. In the couple months that followed, as the testing data started rolling in, it was obvious that the storms had prompted people to pick up their Yellow Pages directories and call this client.  In August 2011, the client saw a 65% increase in calls from the previous August, despite tracking 22% fewer lines.  In September the results were even more dramatic—a 220% increase in calls despite tracking 25% fewer lines than a year earlier!  Keep in mind that these test lines were all exclusively used in Yellow Pages directories, so we know that’s where the calls came from.

The results are dramatic, but they support what all of the research is saying—much of Yellow Pages’ usage is driven by life-changing events.  The set of consumers experiencing these events is always changing, and more than half of the users of the top headings are new customers (CRM Associates 2011).  This provides advertisers a prime opportunity to expand their customer base and reach ready-to-buy customers at a time they need it most.  No other medium works quite the same way, and it is why Yellow Pages should still be considered a must-have advertising medium for categories that specialize in event-driven purchases.

Amy Rybczynski, Marketing Research Analyst

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