With the growth in e-commerce and online comparison shopping, retailers are seeking new ways to deliver the in-store experience online. Access to information needs to be clear and easy to find. Questions need to be quickly answered. Regardless of what innovative tools or stunning design a website offers, even a little confusion makes users run to a competitor. On the other side of the equation, those running a business need to make sure they are listening for feedback. Happy customers means growth. So what is one method of opening the communication loop that you may not be utilizing? Welcome to the resurgence of live chat.
Instant messaging has been around for a while - some peer-to-peer interfaces even pre-date the Internet itself. However, the initial tools were clunky, required downloads, and were often more work than simply calling. Those days are over. The resurgence of live chat is based on easy-to-use interfaces that are real time, often providing context to your web experience. For marketers looking to push conversion even further, explore the benefits of live chat.
B2B, B2C, and On-the-Go
For both the company and the consumer, the appeal of using live chat is simple: it's easy and it's fast. Talking with an expert is often no more than a single click away - removing the need to search around for a FAQ or a phone number to call. While it's great to have a Twitter account or a Facebook page where consumers or other businesses can inquire or leave feedback, live chatting encourages people to stay on the company website avoiding page redirects or new windows.
Both B2B and B2C companies are finding benefits to chat. Business sites are targeting chat in more complicated areas like customer support, helping guide both current customers and prospects through a complex weave of products and documentation. B2C sites are finding success in providing quick answers that reduce a call to a call center, improving satisfaction and reducing costs.
The biggest issue with implementing live chatting to your website is making sure there is someone available to answer questions. A small company with a small staff might not have the option for full-time dedicated operators. Fortunately, live chat program providers have thought of this. Apps are available for mobile devices that alert users to activity on the company website. Even sitting in a cab or on a plane, live chat app users can answer consumer questions.
Targeting and Conversions
The most comprehensive live chat study was done by BoldChat. Findings revealed the biggest benefit of live chat occurs in e-commerce - specifically helping with sales conversions. In fact, the 2012 study concluded that the majority of a group of 2,000 U.S. and U.K. shoppers were receptive to a proactive live chat invite and over 90 percent of those chats ended positively. Also from that year, more than 65 percent of online shoppers used chat, a number up from roughly 50 percent just two years prior. The most appreciated time for the ability to live chat was during the checkout process - when difficulties often prevented the customer from following through with a purchase and operators could address concerns right away.
An effective live chat strategy contains three elements:
The bottom line is that chat can get you to a conversion quicker. Getting questions answered or having purchasing reservations overcome quickly keeps consumers from moving on. The key for your business is understanding what areas of the customer experience could benefit most from a direct conversation.
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Andrea Fishman, VP of strategy and a partner at BGT Partners, leads BGT's Chicago office and has extensive experience in marketing and management consulting. She and her team drive value to BGT's clients through the development of behavioral marketing programs, web analytics, measurement programs, industry benchmarking, competitive assessments, and the design of integrated marketing programs.
Andrea has been with BGT since 2003 and is credited with strengthening partnerships with such clients as ADT, Sony, ADP, and Avaya. Prior to joining BGT, she served as global vice president at divine, inc. She's also held strategic positions within marchFIRST, The Lewin Group, and the office of U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy.
A graduate of Brandeis University, Fishman was awarded the Wasserman Scholarship for academic achievement and was named a 2010 Stevie Awards Finalist as Best Executive in a Service Business. She is a frequent judge for the eHealthcare Leadership Awards and is involved with the Special Olympics and Chicago Cares, a community service organization.
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