Practical Ecommerce

Implementing Live Chat: Dos and Don’ts

Many online merchants who use live chat on their stores have seen significant increases in sales.

This includes Bloom Nation, an online florist. According its founder, Gregg Weisstein, shoppers are 11 times more likely to convert when engaged in live chat. Similarly, David Handmaker of Next Day Flyers, an online printing company, told me that live chat has boosted his site’s conversion rates. “We’ve run split tests and seen a lift of 47 percent when using live chat versus when we haven’t had live chat turned on.”

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Live chat boosted Bloom Nation's sales.

Live chat boosted Bloom Nation’s sales.

There are a number of reasons behind these conversion increases. For one, live chat facilitates instant answers to shoppers, who frequently leave a store without buying anything because they are either unsure about a purchase or have unanswered questions. Live chat can therefore be an effective tool in lowering your site’s bounce rate and shopping cart abandonments. You can use it to convince undecided consumers who have questions but don’t want to call on the telephone.

Additionally, live chat can be used for upselling or cross selling. If you find out why the shopper is purchasing a particular product, you can then use the live chat to quickly recommend similar or complementary items.

“Live chat is instrumental in cross selling other services to our merchants,” said Bloom Nation’s Weisstein.

Live Chat Offers a Personalized Customer Experience

Live chat gives you the ability to personalize the shopping experience to each visitor by providing tailored answers and recommendations.

Moreover, live chat can help you understand visitors’ intentions as they’re browsing your site. What’s the purpose of their visit? What are they looking for? Are they finding everything? These insights can help suggest the most relevant products and otherwise help shoppers make more informed decisions.

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Live chat can give you insight into what your customers are thinking.

Live chat can give you insight into what your customers are thinking.

Live Chat Helps Customer Service

Live chat also saves time. It eliminates extended email conversations and provides quick answers to questions and follow-ups.

It also makes your team more efficient. Instead of taking just one phone call at a time, live chat reps can respond to two or three shoppers at once.

Moreover, you can use your live chat logs to train your representatives for better service. Reading through past conversations is much easier than listening or transcribing phone call recordings.

Live Chat Dos and Don’ts

Below are a few dos and don’ts before implementing live chat with your shoppers.

Do indicate the times when you are available. Are your live chat reps only available during regular business hours? Be sure state that on the chat box. You don’t want your shoppers to send live chat messages if there isn’t anyone on the other end to respond.

Don’t immediately open up the chat client. Don’t approach customers with a live chat box the instant they click on your site. Give your shoppers time to click on a few things before asking them if they need assistance. One merchant told me that practice of instantly chatting a site visitor was “as annoying as a sales person pestering you in a brick-and-mortar store when you step through the door.”

Do personalize your encounters. Having a live chat application on your site helps with personalization. Consider personalizing even more by sending chat messages based on shoppers’ behavior on your site. For instance, if you see that a shopper is spending time in the men’s shoes section, send a chat message offering help with finding the right pair of shoes.

Don’t creep out your customers. You’ll be able to see a lot of information about your site visitors — such as where they’re located. However, you should not use all the information when chatting with visitors because it might cause them to feel uncomfortable.

Do run some tests. As effective as live chat may be, don’t implement it without testing. Before entering a long-term agreement with a chat provider, test a live chat app for a couple of months and observe its effect on your conversion rate. If you decide to keep it on your site, then you may also want to test the details associated with it, such as your welcome messages, the amount of time before the chat box appears, or the appearance and behavior of the chat window. This helps you optimize your live chat application for maximum conversions, engagement, and personalization.

Jerry Jao

Jerry Jao

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  1. Elizabeth Ball July 1, 2013 Reply

    Live chat really does help convert but is a struggle for solo retailers as you cannot always be available! Live chat is a great, free source of insights into how customers understand your product offerings and thanks to it, I updated my descriptions and FAQs from their queries.

    • Ian H November 20, 2014 Reply

      Hi Elizabeth, I would implore you to check out Syncro at! We developed our software to combat this very problem. Rather than being at the mercy of sitting in front of your computer all day waiting for live chats, Syncro sends live chats to your mobile phone via text message, where you can simply respond back like you would in a normal text conversation.

      Syncro has tons of great metrics in the account dashboard, no need to install special software, no need for a special phone, and we also have a wordpress plugin to ease installation!

  2. Derek Bacharach July 2, 2013 Reply

    One way I’ve avoided late-night live-chat requests from customers is by placing my time zone next to my contact phone number on the top of my website.

  3. Jerry Jao July 2, 2013 Reply

    Thank you Elizabeth for your feedback – that is such a great practice to update your FAQs based on the questions you received to save time in the long-term. Appreciate you reading and commenting!

  4. Jerry Jao July 2, 2013 Reply

    Derek, agreed. It’s important to list your time zone so you can help manage your customers expectations as they should not expect us to be answering 24 hours / day or during non-business hours. Great tip.

  5. Zoey Richardson May 21, 2014 Reply

    Great article! Talking about live chat, I accidentally came across inside, and after looking through their site, it morphs a business website into a virtual storefront so business personnel can see and help their site visitors in real-time using chat.

  6. Sophia P. Smith December 8, 2014 Reply

    Thanks for sharing! I agree with Elizabeth that, if you are a solo retailer, using Live Chat can be sometimes time consuming but I think the pros definitely outweigh the cons. I have been using Live Chat on my site for 3 months now, and my personal experience is very positive, the drop rate of my shop has decrease dramatically.
    In case you are interested, the solution I use is I really like the fact that it’s not only limited to chat, but also has some interesting extra features that I have been using a lot, for example the Co-Browsing.