For online shoppers, live chat has finally reached a tipping point of adoption, new research shows. By next year, three-quarters of the online shopping population will have engaged in a live chat with a retailer, researchers predict. For Internet retailers, live chat is now becoming a must-have feature
More than 2,000 people in the U.S. and the U.K. were asked about their experiences with live chat last year in a survey conducted online by eMarketer researchers in partnership with the retail consultants at the e-tailing group. The survey revealed significant growth over previous years for both chats initiated by visitors and for chats resulting from proactive invitations from retailers.
One in five shoppers said they preferred live chat as their communication method of choice for contacting a retailer regardless of the circumstances, the research found. And in five out of eight key shopping scenarios — including having trouble finding an item, checkout errors and questions about promotional codes — live chat was chosen as the method preferred over email and phone, leading research analysts to say that chat is becoming a must-have feature for online retailers.
Live chat fans are also highly desirable customers, the survey found. They are more likely to have higher household income, more likely to shop more frequently, spend more, be college educated and within that sweet-spot demographic of shoppers between age 31 and 50. In addition to being an attractive demographic for retailers, live chat fans are the most influenced by live chat in the purchase cycle.
But shoppers who live chat frequently (defined as those who have chatted four or more times in the last few months) show these attributes in an amplified way and may be even more desirable for retailers—such shoppers are even more likely to be college graduates, spend $750 or more a year online, shop weekly and have household incomes of $50,000 or more than less-chatty shoppers. But the chatty shoppers will expect more from the technology and retailers as well.
But those shoppers will expect more from the technology and retailers as well.
For online merchants to get the most from chat, they have to treat it as a distinct communication channel, the research showed.
"Based on the growth of chat being seen, we're approaching a time when 75 percent or more of regular shoppers will have engaged in a live chat with a retailer," they wrote. "That, in and of itself, should be a revelation for ecommerce websites — if three-quarters of the regular shoppers on your site have engaged in a live chat before, shouldn't this technology be taken seriously?"