Bridging the Cross-Channel Gap With Live Chat
Congrats online retailers, you're having the best and busiest holiday shopping season ever. Ever. It starts on Cyber Monday and doesn't let up until December is over. And consumers aren't just buying, they're coming to you for answers, too.
Companies like Bonobos were ready for the rush. In the waning hours of Cyber Monday, Bonobos CEO Andy Dunn tweeted, "Cyber Monday absolutely cranking this year @bonobos Story of this year is how big chat is." Sure enough, a Bonobos customer followed up Dunn's tweet an hour later: "@dunn - A very happy Cyber Monday customer checking in. Yes, the clothes are great, but your Ninjas stole the show tonight." Bonobos calls its customer service representatives who handle chat operations ninjas.
That blows me away. On the busiest online shopping day of the year, it wasn't the deals or the ads that were the focal point, it was live chat. So why chat? Why now?
The changing expectations of online shoppers have a lot to do with it. Ryan Vesler, co-founder of Homage, an omnichannel retailer of vintage T-shirts, suggests, "Today's online shopper craves instant gratification. A brand that is able to provide quick and easy solutions to customer questions via tools like social media and live chat is delivering on what is expected in today's e-commerce world."
Successful online retailers use chat to meet those expectations instead of trying to deflect shoppers to phone or email support. Those retailers understand that every online conversation is a potential sale, and we've found that they get results — up to a 48 percent increase in cart size and three times better retention.
Assume every chat is a potential sale and you'll understand that, unlike phone or email, the magic of chat is answering customers immediately. Even a quick "Hello" to begin the conversation can keep a customer engaged and interested in buying, especially if you treat your online customers with the same care you show in your brick-and-mortar locations. And through chat, your operators can handle multiple conversations, making your team even more effective and increasing the likelihood of a sale.
If visitors are interested in browsing your website, chat with them as they shop. Chat can provide real-time data on each shopper, so you can see what pages they've viewed, what page they're currently viewing, their account information, even their current shopping cart contents. Armed with context, you can quickly start a sales conversation that works or help them if they have questions. There's no better way to upsell a customer than knowing they're looking at downhill skis and reminding them to check out the new boots, bindings and poles you have in stock.
You don't need to wait for a visitor to ask you a question. Unlike phone or email, chat lets you talk immediately with visitors on your website while they're still there. Use insight from customer data to be proactive and reach out to them. I recommend waiting about 30 seconds before initiating a chat, but when you do, start with something specific so you can lead them toward a purchasing decision — e.g., "Hi there! Are you an expert skier or just starting out?"
Chat can be just like a sales conversation you would have in-store. Unlike email, chat is immediate and truly two-way, and being at a computer doesn't mean you have to act like a robot. Be friendly, personable and don't stress if you make a few mistakes typing. Above all else, have fun! You're using chat to make people happy, so enjoy the experience.
Ben Congleton is the CEO and co-founder of Olark, a live chat software provider.