Live Chat: The Most Underused Tool in Your Arsenal

Live Chat: The Most Underused Tool in Your Arsenal
The following is a guest contribution by Angela Sokolovska, Marketing Director of

Imagine you’re in Best Buy, contemplating buying that surround sound system you’ve been thinking about for the last 5 months… you stand there… looking at it … fighting off rational thoughts of how that money you’re spending on this “frivolous” purchase could go towards the house, the car, or the kid’s tuition.

Nobody approaches to talk to you…

...but your eyes keep on staring at that sleek wireless subwoofer as you head toward the door, reluctantly ready to leave.

Then a clerk approaches you. He tells you he has the same surround sound system. His friends have it too.

He shares positive reviews on his tablet and reminds you that “Rewards Customers” receive a great discount because of previous purchases.

Can it possibly get better?

You’re at the register imagining how sweet it’ll be to finally have surround sound and a little smug you got such a great discount.

To think, you would have left if that clerk hadn’t helped you make a decision.

It’s easy to think this kind of one-on-one interaction vanishes for online buying, but it doesn’t have to. 

This store clerk is called live chat. It’s easy to acknowledge why live chat in real time is effective: it minimizes efforts that the customers spend in order for their queries to be answered and problems solved.

So why are visitors abandoning the shopping carts? The Baymard Institute recent statistic shows that approximately an average of 68% of online visitors abandon the shopping cart.

According to a survey conducted by IMShopping in 2009, shoppers want real people available to help purchase products, even in a digital setting.

In a 2011 study of Live Chat adoption by Shopify partner: Bold Software, we can see how effective live chat technology is by focusing on a number of elements acquired from the data of around 1000 participant panels.

In the study, Bold found that 50% of the respondents who used live chat before, prefer to continue using live chat as their main method of communication when a problem arises online.

When asked why, they gave two primary reasons:

  • Speed
  • Efficiency

When asked what impact does live chat have on their likelihood to purchase, 61% of people who prefer to use live chat were more likely to purchase.


Interestingly enough, 17% of people who have never used live chat before (non-chatters) also indicated that simply having it available would increase their chances of buying.  

The main reasons they would use live chat were:

  • If the customer would receive a discount or free shipping
  • A proactive invitation coupled with a buying incentive message
  • If the phone system reminded callers of live chat’s availability

The number one reason why people haven’t used live chat is that none of the sites they shop at offers it.

This study also states the main elements of a successful live chat interaction from the stats of people who prefer to chat, which are great to acknowledge:

  • Product/service knowledge of an agent (96%)
  • The ability to chat with a real person (95%)
  • Fast response time (91%)
  • A quick and effective chat (85%)

What to Consider Before Deciding to Use Live Chat For Your Business

Will customers actually use live chat if you were to incorporate it?

It’s impossible to know until you test it, but, a recent Software Advice report suggests  “YES!” 56% of respondents answered that they have used live chat at least once in order to receive an answer from a company.

Live Chat Used to Answer Question


Creating a realistic expectation, however, is important.

In a conversation with Live Chat provider Olark, we discovered that on average about 33% of proactive chats (where the operator starts the conversation with a visitor, instead of the other way around) receive a response from the visitor.

This is a rewarding number for any retailer. Most commonly targeted chats are used to help engage with visitors. Here are some examples where automated decisions can be incorporated: sending a specific message after X seconds to the visitor, hiding or showing the live chat widget on certain pages and messaging visitors when they reach a certain page.

It’s also important to mention that live chat can bring higher sales from just a few customer purchases. Tevita Lesuma of Nosh Detox in the UK has seen purchases 10X the average come in over chat. While a typical sale is £165, they've seen purchases of £400 and £1500 come in over live chat from returning customers.

According to Total Retail, Retailers who chat with visitors have seen up to a 48 percent increase in cart size and three times better retention. Those retailers treat every chat as a potential sale and avoid diverting shoppers to email or phone. Why? Because they believe in delivering fast solutions and have results to prove it.

When going step-by-step throughout your CRO process, it is wise to understand that “collecting data” is one of the most crucial steps. Understanding your customers’ goals and motivations through measurable qualitative data will lead you to learn their behavior thus increase your conversions. As Giles Adam Thomas of showed Olark, live chat transcripts can provide valuable qualitative feedback that can then be used to improve landing pages. In one test, they saw a 176.33% conversion rate increase through this copy change alone.

When considering live chat, it’s important to narrow down your average customer’s age. Would live chat work for you if the majority of your customers are 55 years old and up?

Software Advice report also found that people 55 or older have never used live chat, or when they’ve tried to, they usually were left confused and the session ended unsuccessfully.

Live chat was mostly used between the ages of 18-34. So, consider taking the time to do your research in order to make such a decision. No one knows your environment better than you.

The Ability to Answer a Customer’s Every Question

Depending on the nature of the question, a simple one can easily be answered through live chat.

But what about complicated questions? This is the part where email and phone calls may be more effective.

Online furniture store, Wicker Central, was asked more detailed questions by customers, mainly about information that wasn’t provided on their product page.

Online gem retailer, Diamond Envy, says that it responded to its customers through live chat about most questions, but applied its email assistance services to answer queries concerning additional photos to be sent in order to clarify the stone’s color, appearance and etc. as per customer’s request.

How Live Chat Holds the Potential to Raise Conversion Rates

Research already mentioned in this piece has shown proactive chat alone holds the potential to raise conversion rates.

Just look at how Intuit increased theirs. They used Live Person chat which has a functional multiple button and invitation design.

After incorporating the Live Person chat during the checkout process, the average order value raised up by 43% compared to when live chat wasn’t provided.

Conversion rates also raised by 20%.

They also used live chat on their lead gen page which unfolded unpredictable results…

Their conversion rates increased by 190%!

Try to interact with your customers, speak to them, and hold their hand throughout their shopping experience. By providing relevant information, your support will encourage them make up their minds and bring increased conversion rates.

Just guide them by taking simple baby-steps through the online shopping journey, and watch how great things can happen.

What to Look For in Live Chat

  • Strong Analytics
  • Most live chat software solutions offer an analytical approach.

    For instance, they have the capability to follow and learn which pages are being visited, count the time of the pages that customers are staying on and also understand how they got there in the first place.

    This is a great opportunity to understand the behavior of your leads and is equally vital to understand your customer base while maintaining to initiate a live chat session with them.

    Here’s Sam’s Furniture Company, which basically follows these examples to initiate live chat session with customers.

    Many customers have difficulties purchasing more expensive products such as furniture, so this live chat option not only helps them, but also engages them.

    Sam’s furniture website reports to be acquiring $50,000 monthly also. Making the live chat option available was worth it, they added.

    Effective page tracking

    Page tracking can be very helpful to understand on what page your customers are on and how long they’ve been there.

    By determining how much time a visitor is on a certain page, your support agent can initiate a live chat session to ask them if they have any questions.

    Maybe you’re selling more expensive products? Using this page traffic technique with live chat can help every one of your visitors make a decision.

    Repeat to yourself “My customer’s voice will be heard.”

    Check out Blue Soda Promo who use Bold Chat live chat software to initiate sessions with customers and focus to answer their customer’s questions before they order, which has resulted to a 60% increase in sales.

  • Using live chat for upselling

  • The way you use live chat is up to you.

  • Figure out what works best and what you are trying to sell to your customers. It can be tricky, but by testing you can determine whether to use live chat, and if yes; determine how your customer approach is going to be. Keep in mind, live chat doesn’t have to be used for customer support.

  • For instance, Virgin Atlantic Airways uses live chat only for upselling, and their results are envious. Their conversion rates increased by 23% and sales soared.

    They also reported that one chat usually replaced around 15 emails, which is more time efficient. Not to mention cheaper than phone calling.


    Is live chat the cure-all solution for your business? No, of course not, but it can connect you with prospects in a timely and effective manner.

    When considering live chat, ask questions such as “What’s the average age of my customers?” and “Will people use this?”

    If the answers to both of these questions are “yes”, then you should definitely test live chat to see if it will work for you.

    Research implies that 89% of customers will not do business with a company if they have a bad experience with their customer support.

    It’s significant to add that it’s how you execute live chat. Website visitors can be annoyed by constant proactive chat invites, so take your time in testing after you choose to implement it. Successful execution depends on choosing the right time setting to initialize a chat session.

    After all, you wouldn’t want your visitor to leave the store without that surround sound system… or would you?

     About The Author

    Angela Sokolovska is the director of marketing for and editor of