5 Reasons Why Every Ecommerce Store Needs Live Chat

Illustration by Liz Meyer
Illustration by Liz Meyer

Imagine you’re shopping at your favorite shoe store, looking for your size in a pair of boots that caught your eye — but you can’t find it. You wonder: Are they out of stock? Do these boots not come in half-sizes?

You look around for a helpful staff member, but there’s no one around. There’s just a plaque on the wall that tells you to call a phone number to reach a representative. You could do that, but it seems like a lot of effort to just ask a quick question.

So you start to wonder: “Do I really want these boots?”

Ultimately, you decide it wasn’t meant to be and leave without purchasing anything.

This is exactly what happens on your ecommerce website when you don’t have live chat. Most customers aren’t going to wait around for an email response or in a phone queue to ask a question about the product they’re considering. When customers can’t get an answer quickly, they’ll leave your store and look elsewhere.

The 5 big benefits of live chat for ecommerce stores

If you’re not yet convinced that your ecommerce site needs live chat, take a look at these five ways that live chat helps drive sales for your store.

1. Live chat saves time for both your customers and your company

73% of customers say that a company valuing their time is the most important part of good customer service. That’s right: it’s not about free shipping, easy returns, or even being nice — good customer service is about not wasting customers’ time.

Offering live chat support is the most effective way to respect your customers’ time. It doesn’t require your customers to leave their shopping experiences to get answers, and they don’t have to get on the phone or to wait for someone to respond to an email.

Live chat saves your company time, too. It enables customer service representatives to serve more than one customer at a time, making their work more efficient.

And if you use live chat software like Help Scout’s Beacon, you can save everyone even more time by providing customers with instant answers from your knowledge base so that — in some cases — they don’t even have to chat with a support agent to get the answers they’re looking for.

2. Live chat answers customers’ questions before they become hesitations

When a customer has a question and can’t find the answer right away, they’re likely to hesitate before making a purchase. Those questions quickly turn into doubts.

Say a customer has a question about shipping costs to their city, but there’s no place to get an answer while they’re on your website. The shopper might not feel confident that the shipping cost will be reasonable and may start to doubt if buying the product is worth it.

Justin Blase of Ted’s Vintage Art says some of the common questions they get through their online store (and answer via live chat) are things like:

  • If I order an item today, when will it be delivered?
  • Can I get a special deal if I buy more than one item at a time?
  • Do you offer free samples?

Other common types of questions that can be addressed via live chat are:

  • Will my credit card information be secure?
  • How true to size is this item?
  • Will I be able to return this product easily if it doesn’t work for me?

Even if a team member answers an email query within a few hours, the customer has already lost momentum within the purchasing journey. It’ll take a lot more effort to get that shopper to return to your store than it would have if those questions could’ve been answered in real-time.

Live chat gives customers an opportunity to get answers right away so they can keep shopping confidently.

3. Live chat keeps customer communications on brand

Embedding live chat right into your ecommerce website means the support experience is seamless for customers.

Because live chat is written communication, it continues the conversation your website started without any mindset adjustment required for customers. Live chat representatives can be instructed to respond in the same tone of voice as the rest of your website.

Other forms of service require customers to make a phone call or email your store from a separate “contact us” page, which takes them out of the careful customer experience you’ve designed through your website.

4. Live chat gives you valuable insights into your customers’ behaviors

With live chat, you can ask customers for feedback right after you’ve solved their problem within the chat — which is easier for them than a follow-up phone call or email survey.

Plus, because it happens in real-time, there’s no delay — wherein the positive feelings from a helpful phone or email support interaction can fade away. Instead, you’re capitalizing on the momentum of a solid interaction that just took place.

Additionally, live chat gives you access to analytics you wouldn’t have with phone or email support. With live chat, you can track customer behaviors as they happen on your website. This includes insights about when visitors opt for chat, which reveals common points of friction within your site’s customer experience and user interface.

Case study

Threadless is an ecommerce store that sells designed products created by their online community of artists. That means that Threadless has two very different sets of customers: their artists and the people who buy from them online.

They used Help Scout Mailboxes to organize their customer conversations (including live chats) by the type of customer and query so that every interaction is tailored to that person.

Not only does live chat provide a way for Threadless to keep their conversations on-brand and seamless within their website, but it also stores customer information in a way that makes it easy to know which type of customer that representatives are speaking with.

To get the whole story about how Threadless used ecommerce live chat to improve their operations, read the full case study.

5. Live chat humanizes your ecommerce store

A friendly chat box offers instant support from a real person, which feels more like a traditional store experience than just having a phone number customers can call or an email address to contact.

In addition, live chat can be programmed to pop up with a friendly “How can I help?” query, mimicking the experience in traditional stores. (Bonus tip: Take advantage of the opportunity to be human by instructing representatives to have genuine conversations — in other words, don’t sound like a robot.)

Driving ecommerce sales with Beacon

Help Scout’s Beacon is a live chat tool that offers features and functionality you won’t find in many live chat options:

  • Beacon integrates with Docs — our knowledge base tool — to make it easy for your customers to find their own answers. You can even customize content suggestions in Beacon for the specific page a customer is on so that the answer they need is even easier to find.
  • Modes allow you to choose how to guide customers through your live chat for an experience that’s optimized for your workflow and typical queries: Self-Service (prompt customers to search in Docs database first), Ask First (prompt customers to use live chat first), or Neutral (allow customers to choose Docs or live chat).

You don’t need to be a developer to set up Beacon, and it’s a standard feature of all Help Scout plans, which means an easy, quick, and affordable setup for your store.

Next Chapter: 8 Live Chat Best Practices and Common Mistakes

Kaleigh Moore
Kaleigh Moore

Kaleigh Moore is a freelance writer for e-commerce platforms and the software that integrates with them.

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