The Many Benefits of Live Chat for Ecommerce

Live chat may be one of the best ways to answer questions, overcome the barriers to an online sale, and even discover where your website needs improvement. And these are just some of the benefits.

Live chat is often implemented with a single line of JavaScript in the head section of a website. This script allows your business’ customer service representatives (or, in the case of a small business, you) to connect instantly with online shoppers.

Earlier this year, a brick-and-click retailer of which I’m aware turned on live chat. The company specializes in farm and ranch products ranging from work apparel and power tools to livestock feed and baby chicks.

One of the retailer’s first chat interactions was odd. A site visitor, first known as “Visitor 73202205,” fired off a volley of questions.

Visitor 73202205: Do you sell squirrels? I need a bag of squirrels if you sell them. How many squirrels come in a bag? What color are the squirrels? And about what size are they? I’m hoping they are not too large. I guess a box of squirrels would work, too. I think a barrel of squirrels would be too many for my property.

Chat Is Comfortable

You can probably guess Visitor 73202205 is a prankster. His rapid-fire squirrel banter is meant to be funny. But it also demonstrates one of the many benefits of live chat. Visitors are comfortable using it.

Your potential customers chat, text, and message all of the time. And while customer service inquiries are still more likely to arrive via a phone call or an email, 43 percent of consumers have used live chat, according to a 2018 study from customer service firm Gladly.

While phone and email inquiries are still the norms for customer service, they may not be preferred. There are some anecdotal indications that customers would rather chat.

If live chat makes Visitor 73202205 comfortable enough to play a prank, it can also encourage serious shoppers to ask a question.

Chat Is Fast

When Visitor 73202205 initiated his chat, a loud alert sounded and a pop-up notification informed the company’s internet store manager, Andy, that a shopper had a question or concern.

*** Andy S joined the chat ***

Andy S: Good morning.

At this point, Visitor 73202205 filled in the name and email information at the top of the chat window.

*** Visitor 73202205 is now known as Mr. Bo Squirrels. ***

Mr. Bo Squirrels: Hello.

Andy S: Hello, how are you this morning?

Mr. Bo Squirrels: Really good, thank you. Did you see my other messages about if you carry squirrels? I see you sell chickens and rabbits.

If you had any doubts about Visitor 73202205’s intentions, his made-up name, Mr. Bo Squirrels, should put them to rest. But even a less-than-serious site visitor, such as Mr. Bo Squirrels, receives a fast response with live chat.

In the best of scenarios, when one of your company’s customer service representatives is online, a shopper can ask a question and get an immediate answer. That can be important for ecommerce. If a customer has a question about a product or is having an issue checking out, chat could save the sale.

Chat Is Effective

Andy, the internet store manager and chat agent of the hour, knew Mr. Bo Squirrels was probably not a serious shopper, but he still had the opportunity to ask a couple of questions.

Andy S: Yes I did. Tell me more about the squirrels you are looking for.

Mr. Bo Squirrels: I would like gray squirrels with the big bushy tails, but the red ones would do, too.

Andy S: Just curious, what do you want these varmints for?

Mr. Bo Squirrels: They are great to have around the garden.

Andy S: They are? I have a dog that enjoys chasing them.

Mr. Bo Squirrels: They are much fun to watch.

Andy S: Do you want mixed sexes and ages?

Mr. Bo Squirrels: That is a really good question, I would need 12. Less than a year old. 6 males and 6 females, so I can start my own colony of squirrels.

For a real shopper, Andy would have been able to answer a question about, say, product selection and availability, and even make recommendations. In many ways, live chat is similar to an in-store shopping experience. This makes it effective.

Chat Begins a Relationship

Mr. Bo Squirrels was ready to leave the chat, but because he had provided an email address (Gmail), it was possible for Andy to begin a relationship that could extend beyond a single chat session.

Andy S: Very smart indeed. Unfortunately, I don’t have a current squirrel supplier, but I can look into it for you.

Mr. Bo Squirrels: No rush. Just need to know within the next month or two. You can reach me at [email address was given].

Andy S: I will definitely check out the squirrel market and get back to you. Thank you.

Mr. Bo Squirrels: Thank you for your help kind sir. Have a fabulous rest of your day.

Andy S: You as well, I will be in contact.

*** Mr. Bo Squirrels left the chat ***

*** Andy S left the chat ***

At this point, Andy became convinced that Mr. Bo Squirrels might be an insider. He suspected someone at his own company had used the chat to poke some fun at him. Since the chat had captured an email address, he was able to continue the conversation. Andy sent the following email message.

Good afternoon Bo, after reaching out to our animal suppliers I came across the following information.

Squirrels are wild animals not traded on the traditional pet market. It’s not legal to own a squirrel as a pet in all municipalities. Also, you may need to get a permit to keep a squirrel legally.

Maybe we can find the perfect mix of seeds to help you attract the colony of squirrels naturally? Thank you.

Andy S.

Mr. Bo Squirrels was quick to reply with his own email message.

Hello Andy,

Thank you for your response. Do you sell traps? Maybe we could plan a trip to the forest and trap some squirrels to start our colony.

The email signature line restated Mr. Bo Squirrels’ Gmail address.

Once again, our example is not a serious ecommerce customer service inquiry. But it serves to show us one of the benefits of chat. It can capture customer contact information and begin a long-term conversation. Here was Andy’s reply:

Good morning Bo, that is a great idea. We do carry several versions of humane live animal traps. I have a few fat-and-happy squirrels that live at my place. They love to torment my dog. You are more than welcome to start with this little family, keep the genetics diverse.

Additional Data

In addition to capturing Mr. Bo Squirrels’ email address, this retailer’s chat service also took note of the visitor’s IP address, browser information, and session data. It then compared this information with the company’s order management system. In spite of the fact that Mr. Bo Squirrel’s email address had never been used on the site before, the IP and other information matched a user perfectly.

The prankster was one of the company’s senior developers on the ecommerce team.

Live chat software can easily connect to other ecommerce-related systems and services, giving customer service agents information about previous orders, previous chats, and similar. All of this customer information may help your business provide a good customer experience.

Mr. Bo Squirrels

A simple (and odd) chat with Mr. Bo Squirrels demonstrated five of the benefits of using live chat for ecommerce:

  • Shoppers are comfortable using chat.
  • Chat is fast.
  • Chat is effective.
  • Chat begins a relationship.
  • Chat captures additional data, too.

But there are more. For some ecommerce businesses, live chat can be:

  • A competitive advantage, since relative few online stores use it.
  • A cost savings compared to other forms of customer service.
  • A conversion booster, closing sales that might otherwise be missed.
Armando Roggio
Armando Roggio
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