Practical Ecommerce

Live Chat Is Best Tool for Conversing with Shoppers

When it comes to helping shoppers, there is no better tool than live chat. It can increase trust, keep visitors on the website, and close sales. Live chat supersedes conversions via social media, email, and telephone. Even with mobile use on the rise, most shoppers prefer website-based chat to text messaging.

While social media profiles and telephone assistance are important parts of customer acquisition and retention, live chat has many benefits.

11 Benefits of Live Chat

Keeps shoppers on the website. Whenever someone leaves an online store to research or obtain support, the likeliness of him returning to make a purchase decreases. Onsite chat minimizes distractions from other content.

Works on all devices. Live chat functions whether the shopper is at home or work, or on the go.

Doesn’t require a phone line or cell plan. Unlike telephone and SMS support, live chat works over Wi-Fi. That means any Wi-Fi-enabled tablet, or even an iPod, can be used to increase conversions.

Allows shoppers to multitask. According to a study by Econsultancy, the second most popular reason online shoppers prefer live chat is because they can do other things — such as onsite browsing or visiting other sites — while waiting for an operator or a response. This alone helps minimize a shopper’s perceived wait time.

The ability for a shopper to multitask is the second most popular reason why live chat is preferred. <em>Source: Econsultancy.</em>

The ability for a shopper to multitask is the second most popular reason why live chat is preferred. Source: Econsultancy.

Personalizes the shopping experience. Live chat takes place between people, not a person and a computer, such as chatbots.

Makes recommendations the shopper would otherwise miss. Say a shopper is looking at a new stereo for his car, and during live chat realizes it won’t fit in the dash. The representative can direct him to stereos that will fit the car’s make and model.

Helps sell related items. When a shopper contacts the store to find out when an out-of-stock product will return, there may be similar, or even better, items ready to ship. With live chat, you can direct the shopper to adequate alternatives. Similarly, live chat can help with cross-sells and upsells.

Saves sales by facilitating incentives. When problems arise, representatives can save sales by offering special discount codes or free shipping.

Reduces returns and exchanges. The ability of a shopper to chat with a representative prior to making a purchase minimizes the chance of ordering the wrong item, or the incorrect size.

Provides anonymity. By not requiring a phone number or email address, users can ask questions without concern about being added to call and email lists.

Conversations are logged. Most online chat tools allow the shopper to receive a transcript via email. This can be used to finalize sales, especially if the transcript includes links to preferred products. Logs can also help managers fix internal problems and build FAQs and a knowledge base.

How to Use Live Chat

For live chat to work well, it needs to function smoothly. Keep the following pointers in mind.

  • Employ knowledgeable and friendly staff. Live chat is the next best thing to speaking with someone in person. This starts with knowledgeable and friendly representatives being available beyond standard work hours — 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in most areas. This isn’t always feasible with small business, but offering live support during prime shopping hours is key.
  • Configure live chat so shoppers can continue browsing. Since some questions may require research, you don’t want to commit the shopper to a single product page.
ShoeStores.com uses a live chat overlay.

ShoeStores.com uses a live chat overlay so the shopper can move about the website while waiting for answers.

  • Disclose information that may be stored. This includes the customer’s name and email address.
  • Use a live chat tool that’s tested across all types of browsers and devices. Connection and usability issues can cost you business.
  • Track live chat usage, conversion rates, order values, and abandonment. You want to know what percentage of shoppers use the feature, and if it helps boost both conversions and average order values. If live chat is increasing the store’s abandonment rate, it’s likely attributed to one of two things: the implementation of the tool, or the lack of knowledge or professionalism of the representatives.
  • Promote the use of live chat. In the long run, live chat could not only save money, but it can increase average order values. Promote, on social channels and via telephone support, the use of live chat.
  • Discreetly invite shoppers to chat and only after a certain amount of time. Don’t obstruct the entire page. It may cause the shopper to close the browser window completely.
Don't obstruct the entire page with a live chat invitation.

Don’t obstruct the entire page with a live chat invitation. Source: ShoeStores.com.

Pamela Hazelton

Pamela Hazelton

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  1. Alex August 23, 2017 Reply

    Nice overview.

    Additionally, I would add that live chats provide immediate access to customers’ pain points. When customers use live chat, they’ll try to ensure that a product will perform as advertised or that a promotion will provide the discount they want. In addition, as live chat representatives talk to customers, they can find out ways to improve a company’s products and services.

  2. Yoel August 24, 2017 Reply

    Great Article, Pamela. Very useful education to eCommerce players who haven’t adopt live chat yet.

    Overseeing several hundred chat agents we gathered some further feedback from our people and chat team leaders, hope this server the readers:

    To agents:
    Always know if your chat customer is shopping, or just browsing. Adopt and leverage the different steps on the conversion funnel.
    Never over-promise, but always over deliver, offer the customer to come back later for further information.
    Don’t lead with the discount, test several guiding questions to get personal with the customer .
    Get ready to make mistakes, read your transcripts to learn how you do better.

    For eCommerce merchant/marketers:
    Differentiate between pre and post sale chat interactions when processing metrics and data.
    Use smart rules to initiate chat conversations with high-value sessions, it can impact ROI.
    Connect on-site event data to chat panel, it will help agents to understand context of visit.
    Build native chat teams & training (and not full stack CS rep that does phone, crm/email AND chat)

  3. Keith August 24, 2017 Reply

    I’ve tried a couple of live chat programs and the best one’s been http://www.tawk.to which has a number of options & features. It’s free with a few extra features they charge for. You can even setup chats for multiple agents for free.

  4. Elizabeth Hollingsworth August 30, 2017 Reply

    I use Lucky Orange which doubles as live chat and live tracking so I can see where they are on the website.
    Using the tracking means I know already before they finish typing hello what product they want to know about so I’m prepared.
    It also lets me multi-task by being able to text or call a client in real time to get an answer for them which often closes the sale!