Practical Ecommerce

Live Chat Can Improve Service, Sales

Live chat can be an effective ecommerce conversion tool, providing customers with answers and help just when they’re making a buying decision, and for support questions.

For example, “Laura” wanted to buy a shirt for her husband, but did not understand how the color and size options worked on the retailer’s site. She liked the price and was pretty motivated, so she called an 800 number listed on the web page, a customer service representative helped her pick out a couple of nice plaids. A sale was saved.

Laura took some extra steps that some customers would not have — finding and calling a phone number. Otherwise she might have just gone back to Google or Bing and found another online retailer that carried the shirts she was want to buy for her husband.

Some online retailers address just this sort of scenario with live chat.

“Callie” purchased a Radio Flyer bouncing horse toy from an online store. When the toy arrived via FedEx, the horse was, well, headless. Callie, thinking that the toy was broken, visited the retailer’s site and started a live chat. The horse’s head, oddly, is packed inside the horse’s body for shipping.

Callie’s horse was an example of how live chat can quickly resolve customer support questions.

Live Chat Boosts Conversions

The scenarios described above are examples of how using live chat on an ecommerce site might make sense. Taking the first scenario, it is clear that offering live chat help close sales, too. Eric Houtkooper, who is the director of ecommerce for business supply retailer SupplyGeeks.com said in June 2012 that adding a live customer chat service boosted his company’s ecommerce conversions some 17 percent.

SupplyGeeks.com increased conversions by 17 percent using live chat — seen at the lower right in the home page image above.

SupplyGeeks.com increased conversions by 17 percent using live chat — seen at the lower right in the home page image above.

Separately, published reports state that conversion rates on appliance and electronics retailer Abt’s site rose between 10 and 20 percent when customers chatted with an associate.

Improve Customer Service

The second scenario above described a concerned customer with a genuine question about a product or service.

Many marketers believe that questions, concerns, and even problems are an excellent opportunity to “wow” shoppers successfully converting those shoppers into make loyal fans. Resolving the issue quickly and fairly builds trust and makes the customer feel better about making another purchase in the future or telling friends about the retailer.

Offering live chat can help. It gives customers another way to contact the company. It works in the context of the website so that representatives can easily guide customers to particular pages, and it allows for other features, like generating screen captures from the customer’s computer.

Which Retailers Should Consider Live Chat?

Live chat is, perhaps, best suited for online retailers that frequently have more than 20 customers on site at once, get more than 10 customer emails or phone calls daily, and have enough staff and resources to effectively manage a live chat.

This means that small retailers probably have some room to grow before looking at one of these solutions, while mid-sized retailers with, say, $100,000 or more in annual sales could benefit from at least considering some of these solutions. Larger retailers selling more than $1 million annually probably want to look at live chat pretty seriously.

A lot of factors may go into choosing the best chat solution for a particular merchant. Functionality is important and so it ease of integration — if an integration for a particular ecommerce platform already exists it can be a huge help and cost savings.

Summing Up

Live chat solutions may boost conversion rates and provide an additional channel for customer support. There are many excellent live chat solutions on the market, which medium and large retailers will almost certainly want to consider.


Armando Roggio
Armando Roggio
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Comments ( 2 )

  1. Elizabeth Ball September 11, 2012 Reply

    If you’re a smaller retailer, you may want to try such live chat systems as Woopra which have basic chat and you can upgrade as your requirements change.
    I would disagree that you need 20 customers at once – you may just have one customer at that moment who needs help and your real-time assistance at the right time may help secure the sale and put their mind at rest.

  2. Steve Mommaerts September 17, 2012 Reply

    Live chat is essential for any online retailer in todays smartphone driven marketplace. You have to offer alternative communication channels and the people to monitor them. I have use live chat in my business everyday and it is effective at converting customers. I use a service based offshore to help cut down on the expense of provideing the service as well. http://www.mlmservicedesk.com works very well and I cant hire anyone in house for even close to it. They are very professional.

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