What Every Retailer Needs to Know About Live Chat in 2020 (and Beyond)

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While brick-and-mortar retail has taken a hammering during the 2020 pandemic, e-commerce is booming. Americans spent $88 billion more shopping online in the first six months of 2020 compared to 2019. Five million people who had avoided shopping online before were forced to come online for the first time—including older, less-tech-savvy consumers. 

While shopping online traditionally was a digital-only experience with no direct human interaction, things are now changing. In a world full of instant gratification, if customers on your website have any questions or concerns, they don’t want to have to wait for an email response—they want to be able to instantly connect with a human to get their answers. 

But paying for a full time staff of humans to offer real-time customer support is expensive, particularly when only 17 percent of consumers on any website have any serious intent to buy. That can be a lot of wasted time and money. Furthermore, consumers today have a wide variety of communication channels through which to connect with retailers to ask questions—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram—and they expect instant answers. 

However, with the latest advancements in technology, artificial intelligence and machine learning, the live chat tool has come on in leaps and bounds in the past few years to become a very powerful tool for increasing conversion, average order value, and customer satisfaction and bringing back repeat customers. 

Live Chat by the Numbers 

Live chat is one of the most effective tools you can have on your website to help increase conversion. Forty-four percent of online shoppers said that having questions answered in real time during a purchase activity is the most important feature a website can offer. 

Adding a live chat feature on a website will typically lead to a 20 percent increase in conversion rates. If a visitor engages with a live chat agent, they’re 2.8 times more likely to end up purchasing a product and typically spend 60 percent more per purchase

How consumers want to instantly connect with a retailer online is constantly changing, so in turn, live chat systems are also constantly evolving. But the messaging experiences that retailers offer can vary dramatically in quality and experience. Those that have mastered the live chat game are reaping the rewards above their competition. 

Behind the scenes of the “Live Chat” button 

So many communication channels, so little time. 

We now live in a world where people use multiple channels to communicate with each other and in turn expect to be able to connect with retailers through Facebook Messenger, Instagram, WhatsApp, Twitter, email, live chat, and so on. Today’s more advanced live chat systems integrate the most popular communication apps into their system so customers who send messages through any channel can instantly text or chat with a real human representative. 

However, actually setting up a system to ensure there is always a human to answer questions from any channel at any time can be challenging. If your customers make it all the way to the live chat system only to be told no one is currently available and instead to email a question they will have to wait some time to get an answer to, you can expect them to be annoyed. Live chat means live right now—not tomorrow. However, some live chat support systems now offer the ability for store associates to be able to respond to customer queries via an app on their smartphones or home computers to ensure a human is always available to answer customer questions quickly. 

While stores have dedicated opening hours, the internet never sleeps and e-commerce customers can want to instantly speak to an online store associate 24/7. Having to hire and manage online assistants to be available 24/7 can be expensive and demand for online support can constantly fluctuate. 

This is why many retailers are now integrating independent freelance product experts into their live chat system. These freelancers operate in a gig economy environment similar to Uber’s, where they can choose their own hours to jump online to help a retailer’s customers find the right product and are paid a commission of any sales they help the retailer get. 

These freelancers are pre-vetted in their expertise and can be located anywhere around the world, ensuring someone is nearly always available to respond. This freelancer system is more suited to some industries than others—electronics, home improvement, sports, health and wellness, hobbies, and photography are all good fits. Professional drone website www.getfpv.com has a team of freelance former pilots to assist their customers via the live chat to determine the best drone for their needs. 

Live Chat, AI, and Machine Learning

Live chat has come a long way since the technology was first launched in 2002. Now in 2020, artificial intelligence and machine learning have taken the technology to new heights. Live chat systems can use AI to analyze millions of records of a retailer’s live chat sessions and website customer activity to identify shoppers’ intent. Are they just browsing or are they a serious shopper? If the system detects someone is a serious shopper, a live chat can open and ask them if they would like to live-chat with a sales associate or independent brand expert who can help finalize the sale or upsell more products. This not only dramatically increases conversions but also adds the human touch to your digital experience and offers the best customer experience possible. 


Online shopping is only set to increase along with consumers’ expectations. The latest developments in live chat mean retailers can re-create the in-store personalized sales associate experience as closely as possible to not only offer the best CX but also maximize conversions and average order value. The human touch also creates such a memorable shopping experience that your customers will remember you and choose over the competition.

Terrence Fox is head of innovation at iAdvize, a leading conversational platform that is used by major retailers across the globe, including Lowes, L’Oreal, Disney, and Best Western.

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