eCommerce Insiders

Live Chat: A Winning Solution or a Hassle for a Smaller Store?

Adding a live chat to an ecommerce site can improve the communication with customers and conversions. But is it really a worthwhile solution for smaller stores?

There is a countless advice online about building connections with your customers and how they affect your conversions and store performance.

But how exactly do you do that if you’re not there, right beside your site visitors?

How do you connect with people who potentially might be on the other side of the world?

This has always been my biggest problem with online retail. As a store owner are disconnected from your customers and are unable to answer their questions in real time.

One solution to this problem is to implement a live chat functionality on your site.

Live chat provides you with an ability to offer answers to customers, provide them with information your site might be lacking or the opportunity to talk and get some human interaction with a brand.

There are some sceptics of having live chat widgets popping up on ecommerce sites. Regardless which side you are on, keep on reading. In this post I am going to discuss ways in which live chat could improve your business, how to use it to its maximum potential but also, what potential problems might await you if you provide live chat option to customers.

Benefits Of Having a Live Chat Functionality

1. It’s convenient

Many online consumers need help when they shop online and live chat provides them with instant access to it. Emarketer.com found that when it comes to simpler queries, such as those about order status, promotions, shipping or related to cheaper products or services, live chat was the preferred option of contact.

There is a reason for that. Customers don’t have to dial a phone number and wait in line to talk to somebody. Nor they have to conduct their own research somewhere else to find information they are lacking. All they have to do is type their question into a live chat window and they are already connected with you.

2. It increases conversions

BoldChat discovered that chatters are 7.5x more likely to purchase than visitors who don’t chat. In comparison in 2009 that figure was only 4.1x.

Having somebody at hand who can instantly walk customers through a sale if they became confused by the process, or offer any other form of assistance is crucial in getting them through the entire process. Vel Jones from Vulgar Citizen, who used live Chat on their site since it launched says: “Live Chat has impacted my conversions because customers have ordered after getting a specific question answered. I have been told that it makes visitors feel they are secure and able to find out anything at anytime especially since my website does not have a phone number.

Confused customers make up for a large portion of bounced checkouts and this is what live chat can help to reduce. Similarly it can help turn browsers into buyers.

Moreover, live chat functionality allows for upselling opportunities. The aforementioned BoldChat research discovered that chatters spend around 55% more per purchase than non-chatters. An employee already engaged with a customer and knowing their needs is in a great position to recommend additional purchase items that may fit or compliment their original purchase.

In their report “Selecting the Best Chat Strategy”, a live chat changed “from reactive, service oriented solutions to proactive, sales oriented solutions” and results in conversion rate at about 20% higher.

3. It allows for a human touch

Click2Contact points that buyers are 70% more likely to make a purchase as a direct result of having a live conversation. Increasingly customers expect instant communications with brands. Oftentimes they might not want to send an email or dial a number, they might get redirected or their email ignored. They want a living and breathing person to respond to them, ideally right now.

4. Offers a new avenue for gaining marketing insight

This is often an overlooked aspect of running a live chat. Being able to talk to your customers in real time and gathering various data on them and the types of questions they ask is an invaluable marketing insight many companies only dream about. All this information can not only help you to improve your store, offering and usability of your site but also, promote it better, understand your customers expectations and needs, also relating to customer service and improve on those.

Problems You May Encounter

Nothing is all bed and roses though. Live chat is a powerful tool. It however adds value to your online store only if you implement it well. It is easy to mess things up and lose even more customers in the process. Here are some of the problems and pitfalls you might encounter.

1. Be aware of your audiences shopping hours

The internet opened the doors for selling globally. Unfortunately though, the world is not on the same time zone. You can easily find yourself providing live chat service to people who want to chat with you when you sleep!

2. Live chat is time consuming

Even with approximately only 1.7% of your visitors likely to engage in live chat, once your site grows, live chat may mean a serious time investment to manage. moreover, the average waiting time for a chat to be answered is approx. 20 seconds! That’s very little if you are also working on other tasks while your chat window is opened and you have no other staff to take over the service.

Nadine McCarthy Kahane, the owner of Stone&Strand points: “We have had a mixed experience with live chat (which we used since the site launched in 2013. it serves an important function, but is hard to service as a small business — you literally have to be able to answer in 30 seconds or people leave. If they do it reflects badly on you and you can even lose business that way.”

3.  It can add serious levels of stress to your life

When you wear many hats and juggle a variety of tasks, it is easy for stress to keep building up. Having to keep up with answering chat within few seconds, dealing with customer complaints while you are in a middle of something else can significantly increase that stress. As a result, you may find yourself easily agitated and making a wrong impression on your customers.

What to do if Live Chat if it’s not for you?

Adam Vidovic from HotsyTotsy, a fashion jewellery store he runs with his wife is not using live chat. As he confirms himself, his company is too small to handle such functionality. Instead, they use desk.com to provide customer service.

Traditional channels such as email or phone are still good options and there is nothing wrong with focusing only on them.

Another way out is to outsource live chat management, however as Vidovic points out “I am just not sold on that because the support needs to be personal and someone who is not invested in the company (not employee etc) just really wouldn’t know how to handle the customers properly.

So is live chat a good option for an eCommerce store? 

Definitely. But whether it is for everyone remains debatable. If you’re running your store as a side business, or service clients in another time zone, it will be almost impossible to provide good real time interaction with them. Similarly, even if your store is your full time job, there might be other tasks you will have to focus your attention to instead of a chat window (regardless of how important it may be).

Pawel Grabowski is a SaaS writer, working with B2B SaaS companies primarily.

One thought on “Live Chat: A Winning Solution or a Hassle for a Smaller Store?

  1. Thomas

    Nice article and I totally agree with this, because I have been using eAssistance Pro live chat on my website, it helped me to improve customer support service and increase conversion rate.

    Reply

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