Live chat used to mean harried, impersonal responses to customer complaints, or a fruitless time suck for teams that couldn’t spare the firepower to make it effective.
But chat today provides a unique way to recreate the personal connections online that come so quickly when customers shop in-store.
Chat usage has spiked recently, possibly because stores were forced to move their in-store experiences online. From March 16 to July 1, 2020, there was an 85% increase in conversations happening between businesses and shoppers on Shopify Ping, our free messaging app.
The idea that lives chat can only be used to support customers who had something go wrong is narrow. Instead, think of live chat as a way to support customers through all buying cycle stages. That means pre-purchase and during, not just after.
📊 Live chat's true strength is as a conversion tool—and research backs this up:
- Shopify's data shows businesses that respond to a customer's chat within five minutes are 69% more likely to get a sale.
- Shoppers who chat with businesses via Shopify Ping are 70% more likely to convert.
- Forrester reports that shoppers who chat with a brand not only convert three times as often, but their average cart value is 10%–15% higher than other shoppers.
In five chapters, we'll explore how you can pivot live chat from a time suck to a crucial component of your strategy.
What's powerful about live chat is its ability to act against the inertia shoppers might face before purchasing. A helpful rep on the other side of the screen can answer questions specific to the shopper, like, “Will my active dog like this Frisbee?”
Why you should use the live chat
These uber-personalized recommendations can speak to a shopper's actual space, lifestyle, and preferences, which removes that invisible barrier of trust and decision fatigue. It's why 41% of customers feel live chat is the best way to communicate with a business.
Catch prospective customers as they're contemplating a purchase
When you send marketing emails, pay for ads, or even post a billboard, you often interrupt people when they're not thinking about shopping or in the mood to make a purchase. A well-placed bus ad is great for grabbing attention until the person remembers to look you up hours later but has forgotten the name of your business.
Live chat is unique in that it's a contextual marketing method. That means prospective customers intend to purchase something on your site: they're already present and browsing.
Catch them during their decision-making process: send a proactive message letting them know you're available to chat immediately. Instead of closing the tab or minimizing it until they have time to consider their options, they can ask you any outstanding questions.
For example, you could write to the Heatonist Sauce Sommeliers and ask what the best hot sauce for stir fry or burrito night is. They'll get back to you in real time with personalized recommendations they've tested themselves.
Increase conversion: let shoppers talk with you in real-time
Our analysis of Shopify Ping's usage shows businesses that respond to a customer's chat within five minutes are 69% more likely to get a sale from the shopper. Read: prospective customers want your undivided attention when considering purchasing from you.
Brands that respond to a customer’s chat within five minutes are 69% more likely to get a sale.
This gets back to the idea of trust. Shoppers feel more confident in brands that are easy to get a hold of. And if they know, they can live to chat with you; pretty much whenever they see you, they can get in contact should anything go wrong.
Live chat has become an increasingly popular way for businesses to provide customer support and improve their sales. By offering real-time support to customers, businesses can increase customer satisfaction and loyalty. To implement live chat on your website, you can use an API for building chat.
Get better customer engagement.
Engaged customers are people who feel a connection to a business, whether it's because they love the products, the branding, or the mission and values of the company. Having a productive and positive conversation with someone at your company will help shoppers feel more connected to you.
You don't have to go as far as Zappos does, but allowing shoppers to chat with you or your staff can make the entire exchange feel way more similar to the fun and immersive in-store experiences of old. That means you can build relationships with businesses just like you would get to know the baristas of your favorite coffee (or tea) place.
🎯 Key takeaways
- Live chat is unique because it allows businesses to connect with shoppers right as they're considering a purchase. That means they can answer questions that might block someone from checking out.
- Our data shows quick responses can help increase the chance you'll turn a shopper into a customer by 69%.
- Don't underestimate the value of a personal connection. 1:1 conversations can engage customers and help them feel excited about shopping with you.
How Planet Nusa uses live chat to increase conversion and build community
Planet Nusa is an activewear company that makes planet-friendly workout gear from sustainable materials like recycled fish nets pulled out of the ocean. It's using Shopify Chat and Shopify Ping for a live chat on its online store to recreate the brick-and-mortar experience.
We chatted with co-founder Mille Skat to learn more about how Planet Nusa uses live chat to both increase sales and a sense of community among its customers.
“It should be easy and fun getting activewear. Shopify Ping has been our greatest tool for that.”
Live chat removes size ambiguity, which leads to more sales
Planet Nusa found that answering its consumers' questions allows it to transfer those answers into direct sales. That's especially important for online retail, where customers don't get a fitting room to try on the clothes they want—unless they purchase them.
“There's still no perfect solution to size conversion online—especially when you sell to customers with various local sizing,” Mille says. “The traditional measurement charts where the customer needs to measure herself at home just isn't something we want them to have to do! It should be easy and fun getting activewear.”
“Shopify Ping has been our greatest tool for that. When questions arise about sizing, we can advise them on choosing the sizes they already have in their closet or send links to our social media profiles and openly say, ‘I'm a standard size medium in my regular clothing, and I have that in our T1 Power Leggings. Here's my Instagram if you want to check out the sizing. 💕'”
Removing ambiguity about your product is valid even if you sell products outside the retail space. You can apply this thinking to anything: customers might want to know how big a table is, what the color of a velvet pillow looks like in natural light, or the weight of a drinking glass. You can answer all of those questions immediately through live chat.
Live chat builds rapport, which leads to a sense of community
What drives Planet Nusa is the ability to use live chat to make customers feel included in their global community. “We're finding that our customers want to be heard, and why shouldn't they? We're making a great deal out of communicating with them on all platforms, so live chat is a natural must-have,” Mille says.
Planet Nusa uses its multi-channel presence to create an online community for its customers that goes beyond a good shopping experience. Its goal is to foster a sense of empowerment and inclusion for women across the globe through sustainable clothing and connection. Live chat helps them accomplish that. As Mille says, “The best thing about talking to your customers in real-time is that they get to feel part of the community we're trying to build, both online and offline.”
“The best thing about talking to your customers in real time is that they get to feel part of the community we’re trying to build, both online and offline.”
The Planet Nusa team's conversations with its worldwide customers span from styling advice to their favorite reality shows. And that personal connection they can create leads to a stellar, unique experience for those customers. Mille says, “The most important thing is that they've had a good experience on our site and hopefully feel even more included in our community.”
Live chat 101: the nuances of a great live chat strategy
Know your inventory better than anyone
The team member who handles live chat, whether you or one of your trusty employees, needs to know enough about each product you sell so they can recommend the one that will be perfect for a customer's cousin's girlfriend's cat's birthday party. This also means understanding your best-selling products so you can use that information to upsell or cross-sell.
Offer thoughtful recommendations
Take the time to ask a few follow-up questions to ensure you have enough information about what the customer is looking for so you can pick out a few things they'll love. This is your chance to get to know a customer—make sure you take this opportunity to start a conversation.
Keep chats organized
Having a live chat set up can be daunting if you don't have an excellent way to organize incoming conversations. A tool like Shopify Ping will contain all your discussions so you can respond in real time. Ping lets you see talks with your team and shoppers in one place, letting you collaborate to get customers what they need. Whatever tool you pick will make the live chat process more seamless for you and your customers.
Build stronger relationships with Shopify Ping.
Shopify Ping connects to the messaging apps you already use to bring all your conversations into a single mobile location, making it easier to respond to questions and build relationships with customers—even when you're on the go.
Unless using a bot to triage live chat requests is part of your strategy, customers expect to get a human on the other end. Your chat should feel like a great in-store experience, similar to a conversation with your favorite coffee shop barista. Don't be afraid to share your favorite products and why you love them. Your shoppers will appreciate that you've tried (and love) all your products.
Honesty should always be your policy when you can't be online. For example, when the Planet Nusa team misses a conversation or replies late, they tell customers, “We're a small brand, and we were just headed home on our bikes. But we're back and would love to help you out. 💕”
Sharing that level of detail—that they were biking home—gives customers insight into how the team operates. And it's also a lovely tidbit of information that makes the brand feel more personal and honest, rather than just a logo on a website.
Make sure your live chat option is easy to find
Don't limit access to live to chat to your Contact Us page. Your live chat messenger should be visible on every product page, so long as it's not constantly interrupting your shoppers while they're browsing. For example, Shopify Chat and Apple Business Chat are available on every page of a business's online store until checkout.
If a customer spends a while on a page, consider adding an automated, proactive pop-up to see if they need help.
🎯 Key takeaways
- Know your inventory and bestselling products like you know your Chipotle order so you can give better recommendations.
- Make it easy for customers to find your live chat messenger so they know they can talk to you in real time.
- Keep it personal! Prospective customers enjoy hearing about the products you love most and why.
Actionable tasks: how to get started now
How to set up Shopify Ping and Chat
Getting started with a live chat tool is a pretty quick process. First, decide on a device for live chat. Shopify Chat, Apple Business Chat, Heyday, and Facebook Messenger are popular options, and they all integrate with Shopify Ping.
Then, you'll need to set up Shopify Ping. You only need to download the Shopify Ping mobile app and log in to your Shopify account. Or, if working on a desktop is your jam, visit shopifyping.com and do the same.
Shopify Chat is free and will integrate seamlessly with your store and Shopify Ping. Here's how to get it set up:
Figure out what hours you and your staff can be online
Whatever hours you decide on, make sure you communicate it. Just remember: online shoppers don't necessarily browse during retail store opening hours, so you should aim to be online in the mornings and evenings if possible. If you miss a chat (it happens!), follow up with the customer next time you're online so they feel heard and get the help they need.
Create templated replies
Templated replies are prewritten replies to commonly asked questions. They're great tools because they are a jumping-off point for you and your team. They're also a huge timesaver when multiple chats come in at once. Look at your frequently asked questions that can't be answered on an FAQ page. This could be things like “Why hasn't my order shipped yet?” or “When will you get more of this item in stock?”
How to measure success and see if it's working
Figure out what your customers respond to
Chances are, some of your live chat conversations will culminate in a sale, while others won't. And while that could be entirely dependent on elements outside your control, you can look at what language, tone, response time, and recommendations have gotten a customer to convert.
Do you see any trends? Take notes and implement those practices into future conversations. This observation will give you a solid idea of how you're doing and if your live chat offering is performing at its full potential.
Live chat metrics to measure
When you report on how your live chat offering performs, here are a few metrics to look at:
- Average chat length
- The time it takes customers who chat to purchase
- How many chats do you get per day
- Percentage of customers you chat with versus how many of those customers make a purchase
Use live chat as a customer feedback loop.
Chat is an excellent opportunity to conduct unofficial user testing. Where are customers consistently getting stuck?
The pre-sale questions someone asks over live chat can be used to fix the root cause of an issue that may prevent other potential customers from purchasing, e.g., an unclear product page.
If you find that customers are getting stuck, the best thing you can do is ask them pointed questions so you know how to help them and fix the issue for other visitors to your site.
Live chat is a solid addition to your business.
Like providing a fantastic in-store shopping experience, live chat builds the foundation of trust between your customers and your business. Though paid ads and other acquisition efforts can drive traffic, converting traffic into sales relies on a customer's confidence in your brand and the products you sell.
Live chat is the window to building stronger connections with prospective customers—just as conversation builds trust between two new friends.