Due to rapid development of ecommerce technologies, Internet has become a convenient place for shopping. People are now less hesitant to respond to online marketing spend money online. Competing for clients, store owners care much about fancy product catalog, intuitive checkout procedure, rich shipping and payment methods choice. Are these the only components of successful online sales? Not at all.
Even with unique design and advanced functionality, an online marketplace remains a lifeless set of web pages, an indifferent bunch of buttons, texts and images. This indifference, lack of attention to client needs is the major drawback of Internet shopping. But it can be overcome nowadays. Far-seeing merchants breath new life into their estores by offering live chat support. The benefits can't be overestimated. A poll by Andersen Consulting (now Accenture) reveals that almost 62% of Internet consumers would purchase more products online if live customer support were available.
The benefits of live chat support.
* The customer is pleased about the attention
A Live chat banner (a picture of smiling person, or a button «click and talk to us now») can comfort a client from the very first moment. The visitor no more feels alone in the store. He may not use the chat option, but he's already got the impression of being noticed and supported. And this impression convinces him to continue shopping.
* The customer gets all needed info
No matter how detailed the product description is, additional questions always arise. Most people won't make a purchase until they get answers. And the live chat option becomes the best helping hand. A consultant can tell more about the goods, help to compare different offers, point out the advantages of this or that choice. The customer will definitely appreciate live support at this stage, as sometimes another person's advice is the best argument.
* The customer is more confident to pay
The checkout stage is where we feel the least comfortable. Naturally, here are many details to confuse or scare away. Shipping and tax charges may seem incorrect, the name of payment gateway – unfamiliar, providing personal data and credit card numbers – insecure. Using live chat at this point, customers resolve their doubts, find out about warranties, gain back their confidence. Being reassured by the consultant, they are no more reluctant and do submit their order.
* Support cost is reduced
Since one store consultant can handle multiple chat sessions simultaneously, live chat also allows to reduce support costs. Giga Group concluded that live chat is 10 times less expensive than support calls.
Live chat shortcomings and how to avoid them
Initially customers are very pleased with live support, but may find it irritating during next visits. A simple chat tool can't indicate who is applying for help – a first-time visitor or an old client. Unlike a consultant in brick-n-mortar store, the online operator can't show due recognition – and that's a serious drawback of 'blind' chatting. A frequent customer is likely to get annoyed by telling his name for many times.
This also concerns product information. An online supporter can repeatedly provide the same data to the same client, thus creating negative impression. People get offended by canned messages. And even being told in different words, the old info is no more of any interest. The buyer gets bored and considers live chat useless from now on.
In many stores the operator himself initiates conversation and offers help. But some customers are unwilling to chat. Just imagine their displeasure if a chat window bothers them again and again. Unfortunately simple chat tools don't remember who rejected the invitation the last time. As a result, importunate attention often alienates potential buyers.
The only way out is to have some sort of visitor database. For each visitor there should be a profile containing customer's personal data, list of his interests, log of previous chats, purchase history. Whatever was learnt from talking to a customer can be recorded in the profile. That's how store consultants can avoid above-mentioned mistakes, and drawbacks of live chat will be overcome.
The more advanced solution you use, the more data it gathers. For example, Google Analytics (ex-Urchin) or Sales-n-Stats can record customer IP address (thus his country, city, etc.), referrer URL (whether the customer came from some search engine, or clicked your banner on another website, etc.) and other meaningful information. As a result, you are aware of the buyer's time zone, preferred speaking language, which advertisement attracted him to the store, etc. And what's important, you don't pester the client to obtain all this knowledge.
More and more often live chat is accompanied by real-time visitor monitoring. The sales operator can observe each current guest (marked as a newcomer, or returned visitor), his visit duration, the sequence of visited pages, the page viewed at the moment, etc. The customer's chosen products or typed keywords – everything is indicated. This info helps to choose the right time for contacting the visitor, and guess what kind of help he'd expect at the moment. For convenience, customers can be split by website zones, so one operator can help customers to find the right product in a catalog, another one - provide checkout assistance, etc.
Real-time monitoring isn't the only possible improvement. Sales-n-Stats software, for example, also allows to arrange VoIP conversations. Such communication costs nothing comparing to long-distance calls but significantly increases customer confidence. As time goes by, new technologies appear to make live support more and more beneficial for online business. E.g. Skype is getting more and more popular nowadays.
Long-term benefits of website monitoring and statistics analysis
All info obtained by site monitoring can be stored for further consideration. To simplify the analysis, Sales-n-Stats, OneStat and similar solutions allow to arrange data in various reports.
Such reports as 'sales by search phrase' or 'sales by search-engine' are invaluable forsite monitoring and statistics analysis software allows to build a really efficient strategy for promoting an online store. According to Shop.org, live help tools increase the visitor-to-buyer conversion rate from 2.4 percent up to over 20 percent. So, you can get 8 times more customers – and consequently, more profit.
For more information about marketing your online business, check out our business guide, "Online Advertising Software for Beginners."