In today’s world, eCommerce is one of the most important methods of selling. The online market is vast and seems to be increasing exponentially as more and more people opt for the convenience of online shopping over conventional methods. Online shops offer customers a chance to compare products, look up independent reviews, and make considered purchases, which are all major advantages over high street shopping, but there are a few negative aspects as well.
One of the biggest disadvantages of online shopping is that the customer can’t handle or see the product. Pictures are essential, of course, but they only go so far, and may not show features which are crucial to your customer’s decision.
Another major disadvantage is that an online shop obviously doesn’t have staff members wandering around that customers can call on for help. Your customer might want to know when you’ll replenish your stock, how your fabric is sourced, or they might encounter a technical problem on the website. Without a live chat, they either have to email customer support and wait for a response, or they have to try and phone your company. Even if you have a business phone number at the top of your website, for many people, this is a much bigger commitment than a live chat. If customers can’t get the answers to their questions in a way that suits them, you may lose sales.
There are many reasons why live chats help to boost online sales and improve your business; just a few of them have been listed below. Read on to find out why live chats are possibly the most important feature you can offer on your website, and how you can best utilize them to engage with your customers and streamline your online sales.
1. Answer Customer Queries
As mentioned, this is absolutely crucial for increasing sales figures. Imagine, for example, that you are a clothing retailer. If your customer has chosen a blouse, put it in their cart, and then suddenly realized that they want to know if it has a zip at the back, they are stuck. Unless there is a clear picture of the back or it says in the description, they have no way of knowing this. You cannot photograph every angle of your product, and you cannot describe every inch of it, so you are very likely to end up with customers who want more information about what’s important to them individually.
This person seeking answers about the zip has to go to considerable effort to find out if you don’t provide a live chat. They will have to either open their email app and find your email help address, or they will have to call the store. Both of these are time-consuming and involve a delayed response – particularly the email option. That delay could lead to your potential customer losing interest in the product, or finding it elsewhere, and you are likely to miss out on a sale.
However, if you provide a live chat, a customer can quickly and easily contact a representative who can help with their query almost instantly, ensuring that the process of buying is as seamless as possible, and the customer doesn’t get distracted by other sites while waiting for a response.
2. Increase Sales Completion
This is another essential aspect of live chats – they can help prevent your customer from abandoning their shopping halfway through checkout by analyzing their behavior on the website. If you know approximately how long it should take to check out on your site, you can set the live chat to pop up when a customer is taking an unusual amount of time. The chat can encourage them by asking something like ‘Can I help you with anything today?’ This gives customers an opportunity to ask about anything they are finding difficult and prompts them to complete their purchase in a subtle way.
Using your chat proactively means customers are looked after just as they would be in a store and engages them with your website. Instead of getting a passive experience where they work through the site alone, suddenly they have a connection with you and your company and feel that they are being valued. You should see a dramatic increase in your number of completed sales, and a reduction cart abandonment.
3. Personalize Your Customer Experience
Depending on what you are selling, you may be able to customize your live chats to offer an experience that is similar to the in-store one, whereby you utilize chats like trained staff members who wait on hand. For example, if you are a fashion brand, you might want to offer a technical support chat, but also a chat which advises customers on sizing, trends, etc. Similarly, if you sell tools, you might offer a chat which answers simple D.I.Y. questions or provides advice on tool compatibility.
The more personal you are able to make your customer’s experience, the better. Just as having knowledgeable salespeople scattered throughout a store can help boost customer engagement, so can an online chat. Consider whether having several different chats is appropriate for your website, and put the necessary time and energy into them. They are your point of contact with your customer, so you should make them as helpful as you possibly can.
4. AI Software Saves Time
Some companies are able to use Artificial Intelligence to automate their chat, at least for some areas where human responses are not necessary. If you get a lot of repeat queries that cannot be answered in an FAQ, it’s possible you may be able to automate a chat to deal with them effectively. For example, if you sell paint and your customer wants advice on color schemes, you can ask them to input the relevant data about which colors they want to try matching, and have your automated system output answers.
This sort of chat can save your company vast amounts of time and money. “Instead of needing somebody to man the chat and handle customer questions, you will be able to deal with repeated but individual customer questions efficiently and easily, using a stockpile of answers that are provided depending on the entered combination. This means customers can still ask questions which are relevant and unique to them, but they do not need a human to answer them” explains Mary Mack, a Marketing Manager at Writemyx and Australia2Write.
5. Mobile Functionality
When designing your chat, don’t forget how many millions of people search the internet from their phones. A vast percentage of your customers will be using their mobiles to look at your site, so make absolutely sure your live chat for mobile is as effective and well-integrated as it is on the main website. If it pops up at the wrong times, doesn’t display properly, or takes up half the screen, you will alienate your customers and drive them away from your site, giving them the impression that it’s poorly designed and difficult to use.
People on mobile may be even more likely to avoid email as a means of contacting your store with questions. This means it’s essential to provide a live chat function for the mobile side of your website, but do make sure you take the time to program it carefully, or it becomes a liability rather than an asset.
6. Business Insights
Your live chat can also provide you with a goldmine of information about your customers. It will show you details about their habits and their thought-processes, it will give you an idea of what they like and dislike about your products, and it will allow you to identify regularly recurring questions.
If you notice a question is being asked, again and again, it’s probably something which you should add to the item description, or include in your FAQ. If the information is already on your site but customers are still asking for it, that indicates it’s hard to find or unclear, and you need to address the problem, streamlining your process and improving your customer experience.
7. Improve Customer Relations
This one is a very important long-term strategy, which allows you to increase the chance of customers returning to your site again and again, so it’s important to seriously consider it. If you have customers who come back from time to time, think about building a customer “profile” for them, based on their habits and behavior on your site, and then personalize their chatting experience.
You can gift unique offers surrounding things they have clicked on in the past, or using their past purchases as a guide. You can express your appreciation for their loyalty, making them feel acknowledged and recognized. Think about how “Thanks for coming back to us again. We really appreciate it, so here’s a code for free shipping on your next order” will make your customer respond. Valuing them is one of the best ways to connect with them and make them feel loyal to your business.
Having an opportunity to identify repeat customers and single them out for offers is an amazing perk of the data which eCommerce provides you with, so make sure you take full advantage of it whenever you can.
8. Personalized Voice
Another amazing advantage of live chats is that they allow you to express your voice directly to your customers. Instead of depending on your product descriptions and “About Us” pages – though it’s absolutely essential you polish these to the highest possible standard – you can utilize live chats to express your ethos. Live chats are often less formal than product descriptions, so they’re a great place to let your brand’s voice take over.
This is particularly true of companies that already have an established tone and energy, especially if that has been conveyed via a retail outlet. Using the live chat in this way allows a brand to translate its established rapport with customers onto the online space with minimal effort, and will ensure that customers feel safe and connected to the retail outlets.
9. Financial Savings
Having a live chat function can save you the need to have a call center to field customer inquiries. Even if you aren’t able to automate the chat, it is still vastly more efficient as a representative can deal with more than one customer at once, and can get on with other tasks when they aren’t engaging with customers. If you can automate your chat or elements of it, this is obviously even better for cost reduction.
Of course, there are ways in which live chats can hamper rather than help your business. The last thing you want is for a feature which you have worked hard on to be driving customers away rather than drawing them in. So make sure you have considered the user experience thoroughly and tested the chat on sample audiences.
1. Bad Technology
The first negative can obviously be – poor implementation. If your chat doesn’t work well, customers will become frustrated and leave the site. This is particularly important to pay attention to if you utilize AI functionalities – make sure the chat’s automation works properly and test it very thoroughly. If it keeps repeating the same things or fails to answer simple questions, it’s going to annoy customers rather than engage with them.
“Similarly, if your chat pops up too often, or covers the majority of the page, preventing the customer from viewing the product and disrupting their chain of thought, they are likely to feel irritated or pressured, and may leave your site. Work hard on your implementation and be sure to listen to user feedback as much as possible to make the chat as good as it can be” says Fred Linn, a Project Manager at Brit student and Next Cousework.
2. Language and Image Use
You need to make sure that the language and presentation of your live chat reflect your brand. If users don’t like how it responds to queries, they will be very quick to leave the site without making any purchases. There can be a fine line between lighthearted, friendly responses and silly, annoying ones. You can avoid the negative repercussions of having a poor chat experience by getting to know your users well. Understand whether they are likely to respond positively to the use of emojis and slang, and decide whether these things represent your brand as you would like it to be represented.
3. Offline Hours
The third problem of live chats relates to how they are perceived. Users expect them to work 24/7; their entire point, after all, is to offer quick access to information and to be more intuitive and simple than sending off an email. This, however, can be expensive to provide, but it’s essential you don’t end up in a situation where your user is sitting, waiting for a response, and receiving nothing from your chat. If you are unable to run a 24/7 service, make sure you implement a “We are currently offline, we will get back to you in XX hours” message, but bear in mind that even this may frustrate and alienate users who want and expect a quick response to their query.
Think carefully before you implement a chat function, and decide whether you are going to be able to meet user expectations, and how you are going to deal with the frustrations of downtime. With worldwide shipping meaning your customers may be in different time zones, and the onslaught of insomnia leading to lots of midnight shopping, you will have to balance this carefully, and not expect your customers to stick to predictable hours when they’re looking to make purchases. Decide whether a live chat is more likely to alienate than help your customers, and think about the practicalities of having a 24/7 service.
Obviously, live chats have an enormous value to offer for both website owners and for customers. They provide a more streamlined, efficient, quick service for your customers, allowing them to access information and tailored advice without having to switch to another app. They also allow the website owner to reduce their costs and more effectively engage with their customers, ensuring their brand has a strong online voice and image.
They need to be utilized with care and dedication, and shouldn’t be implemented in a rush or with poor technology. Test user experiences thoroughly, and ensure that your live chat is unobtrusive, helpful, and targets the customer at the right moments. Providing a live chat can boost your eCommerce sales exponentially, so spend some time thinking about how you can use it to engage with your customer and ensure the best possible online experience.