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The latest update to our Internet Statistics Compendium is released today and collects another month’s worth of great publicly available data from across the global digital landscape.

Some of the most interesting data this month looks at live chat in the US and the UK. With more consumers being given the option of speaking to customer service employees in real time during the purchase process, are prospective shoppers keen to chat?

How should businesses seek to engage site-visitors in conversation?

The growth of live chat

BoldChat recently set out to answer these key live chat questions. According to their recent report, Live Chat Effectiveness 2012, there is significant growth across the US and UK with more than 65% of American online shoppers having engaged in a live chat, up from 50.4% during 2009. The figure is slightly lower in the UK but still growing at 53%, up from 41% in 2011.

Proportion of shoppers that have and have not engaged in live chat

This initial trend is good news for sellers, with 31% of online shoppers from both the US and UK saying they would be more likely to purchase after a live chat. This increases to 56% for shoppers who prefer live chat over other communication methods.

Do average website visitors like live chat?

The proliferation of social channels means that website customers have an ever-growing number of options for communicating with customer service reps in real time. 

BoldChat found that in the US, 21% of online shoppers prefer live chat, close to the same number as those who favour using the telephone (23%) and ahead of social media (2%). Email remains the most popular method for online shoppers to communicate with customer services, with 54% saying they prefer this method.

Time is a key factor to chat fans. Of those who prefer live chat, 79% said they did so because they get their questions answered quickly and 46% agreed it was the most efficient communication method.

Why live chat is preferred

Live chat best practice

As live chat continues to grow, there is clearly a sizeable group of online shoppers keen to communicate this way. So how do businesses ensure their live chat capabilities are as visible and useful as they need to be?

BoldChat found that a majority of online shoppers (from both the US and UK) find proactive invitations to live chat to be positive, with 66% being either ‘receptive’ or ‘appreciative’ of the customer service team making the first move.

After the initial communication channel is opened, most online shoppers are satisfied with the complete proactive live chat experience, with 94% saying they were either ‘very satisfied’ or ‘somewhat satisfied’.

BoldChat also looked at the incentives that prospective live-chatters need to become engaged. 57% said a proactive invitation would help, while 80% agreed that free shipping (or similar) would be a strong draw to live-chatting there and then.

Ways to encourage online shoppers to chat

In recent years, the potential value of incorporating live chat functionality on e-commerce sites may have been slightly overshadowed by the well-reported opportunities social media channels offer to engage with customers.

BoldChat’s research shows live chat to be more appealing to web-users when it comes to seeking specific information, and sellers will be keen to see that it can be a good channel to help increase the chance of conversions.

Yet, as with offering customer service via social media, it helps to implement it well. Doing so can range from being proactive to offering unique/valuable incentives for visitors to chat, while being careful to not interfere with the purchase process or frustrating the user.

Luke Richards

Published 5 September, 2012 by Luke Richards

Luke Richards is a freelance writer and a guest blogger on Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or check out his blog

57 more posts from this author

Comments (34)

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Jennie

No doubt if website owners are accepting live chat app for their business. This is now growing industry because people deploying it.

Many vendors are available in the market like: Live2Support, boldchat, liveperson etc. Live2Support is the lowest price live chat software provider.

almost 4 years ago

Tom Howlett

Tom Howlett, Digital Marketing Executive at Koozai

I'm not surprised that consumers like this option of contact. It is more instant than making contact through social media and much much quicker than making contact through email etc.

I have used it a few times for services such as hosting, I think it works well if you have easy access to that level of knowledge quickly for these types of products.

The only downside I have seen is when a company appears to be available for live chat and you only find out otherwise once sending the message (which usually is sent as an email instead). If companies were able to make it clearer when they were available to chat - this would be helpful.

almost 4 years ago

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Joe Bush

Interesting article, the bold chat report goes into much greater detail and is very interesting.

Although in my opinion the satisfaction can vary wildly depending on how effectively it has been implemented. It shouldn't be as simple as installing the software and hoping for the best.

almost 4 years ago

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Chris Baker

Personally I like chat to be available (and to be real & helpful as per the other comments), but I really dislike sites where the site attempts to initiate chat with me [Picture of smiling lady pops up: "Hi what can I help you with"] is the same as being jumped by a commission-hungry salesperson at a store, when as yet you just want to browse.

almost 4 years ago

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Paul

My experience of live chat differs from this report.

I actually find live chat impersonal and rude for the following reasons; A lot of responses are canned and relate to information already available on the website, so this leads to repeating questions, and also the operator will be chatting with several prospects at the same time, so you can experience long delays between responses, I find this infuriating and rude.

Live chat is a poor substitute for a phone call in my opinion

almost 4 years ago

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adibranch

random popups (or a standard time delay popup) with chat can alienate the visitor to the site, extremely quickly. A well deployed chat popup decided upon by an operator based on the visitors track through the website, is a different matter. However this takes manpower and time of course.

The issue is, is this the new spam popup? Personally, i love live chat on small to medium sized sites where you actually get an educated answer, but I HATE live chat popups, which are there seemingly for no reason.

PS i love these '30% said yes' stats, which actually means 70% said 'no'.

almost 4 years ago

Lucy Holloway

Lucy Holloway, Customer Service Specialist at Synthetix Ltd

Consumers are increasingly using a number on interaction channels to contact a company and live chat is one of those channels showing significant growth. Time is a key factor for consumers, with 79% saying they use live chat because they are looking for a quick answer.

However, as with any form of customer service, customer satisfaction and experience depends on how well it is done. Live chat should not be seen as a stand-alone option but rather as part of an overall multi-channel interaction strategy.

Customer service across all channels, be it phone, e-mail, web, social or retail should be simple, efficient and, above all, consistent. Allowing customers to self-serve answers to their questions, quickly, accurately and consistently across whichever touch-point they choose to use will help improve customer satisfaction levels.

almost 4 years ago

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Matthew Timms, eCommerce Director at Santander

I think that a healthy dose of scepticism should be applied here. Firstly research from a provider of Live Chat tends to be leading!

Note only 15% of respondents indicated that the information provided was better than the phone, and only 38% said once I had used livechat I realised how well it works.

There is no doubting that both the consumer proposition is attractive and consumer demand is there, however the execution of Livechat generally is always less than the perception.

Firstly, this is a one to many interaction meaning that the quality of operator response is lower as you only have part of their attention. In the past I have received answers to other people's questions on livechat!

Secondly, you realise that when using it since you are effectively sharing an operator you will need to wait for a response for some time during busy times - similar to a queue on the phone.

There is definitely an interesting multichannel proposition from livechat allowing human interaction through a customer experience, but the reality of the experience never seems to match the opportunity!

almost 4 years ago

Natalie Foo

Natalie Foo, Director at Susumu

Another advantage of live chat that I find useful is that you can usually have a copy of the chat sent to your email address for your records. This could be useful if you need to make a complaint further down the road. There have been times in the past when I've been on the phone to customer service and wished I had a recording of the conversation!

almost 4 years ago

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James Barber, Head of Ecommerce at BoroughBox Ltd

Very sceptical that there's any truth in this comment:

"BoldChat found that a majority of online shoppers (from both the US and UK) find proactive invitations to live chat to be positive, with 66% being either ‘receptive’ or ‘appreciative’ of the customer service team making the first move."

almost 4 years ago

Luke Richards

Luke Richards, Writer at FreelanceEnterprise

Thanks for the replies.

Tom, I think the downside you mention is maybe one of the reasons live chat sometimes needs to be a proactive thing on the part of the website. Though obviously, it needs to be deployed in such a way that is useful to the site user.

Chris, I agree with your point. For me it all depends on the context. In some stores (a busy shoe shop, for example) I want a salesperson to approach me, and in others I do not!

Paul, there are certainly examples of both good and bad live chat. Again context is important and phone calls are still preferred overall - but I also agree that there may be a group (although a minority) of web-users preferring the live chat option to having to speak to someone.

adibranch, I agree that the best live chat will take proper execution and investment. And I suppose, optimistically speaking, 30% could be a sizeable number of people who may be more likely to convert than the 70% ;), though I don't know which stat your referring to particularly :)

Matthew and James, it's good to be sceptical (and understandable, here). I was intrigued by the data, hence why I decided to blog about it. Terms like 'receptive' are quite vague. However, I feel that the valuable takeaways from the report are those which identify that there is likely a portion of web-users who do like live chat, especially when it is executed well (i.e. real people, transparency, good incentive).

almost 4 years ago

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Raquel Quinones

Live chat has skyrocketed these past 4 years with large organizational deployments. At Talk2Rep, we have multiple deployments for sales, service and technical support. Chat proides a great customer experience, no telecom, multiple chat concurrency and a greater ROI than our clients experience through most call center applications.

almost 4 years ago

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David Freund

In our org we did a test to learn our customers’ preferences in regards to support channels. We gave ‎the customer on our “contact us” page all 3 options - Phone, Chat and web form (sends email to our ‎team). We found out that 95% (yes, no kidding) prefer chat rather than the others support channels. ‎It is important to note that we are an e-commerce subscription based business and having chat ‎support is one of our major loyalty tools. With the chat presence the user has the notion that ‎whenever/whatever he needs us for we are there for him/her. Additionally , they appreciate the chat ‎presence but also how the chat is taken care of. We are not using canned messages and queues. We ‎found that straight forward chat conversation between the agent and the customer gave us the best ‎results in first call resolution and other KPIs. ‎

almost 4 years ago

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Josh @GotLiveChat

The effectiveness of live chat software can vary across the various vertical markets. But only individual web site owners can judge how well it works for them. Some will find it useful; others, not so much.

Since many providers offer 'free trials' of live chat, there's no reason not to evaluate the service to see if it fits into your business model.

almost 4 years ago

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Nancy

Our organization has used live chat effectively to get great results. We almost doubled sales after implementing live chat (ClickDesk) on our website.

I think the important part is three aspects,
1. choosing the right software
2. Implementing it the right way
3. Training agents

If you're able to manage these three aspects, live chat is a great tool.

almost 4 years ago

Andy Killworth

Andy Killworth, Digital Marketing Executive at Koozai

I'm surprised the feedback from customers is so positive - a pet hate of mine is any type of pop-up when I'm browsing a site - it's intrusive and the automated 'hi can I help' type messages just seem contrived.

A good quality, well designed ecommerce site should be intuitive enough not to need to offer assistance.

almost 4 years ago

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Kerry Baverstock

Hi, read this post with interest, have live chat on our own site and it is very popular. But that's not the best bit, we are currently offering Live Chat for Free for 12mths to all new customers. Check out our deal at www.fatfroghosting.com.
ENJOY

almost 4 years ago

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Ben Goodwin, Email marketing manager at Personal

On the pop up side of things, quite a few sites now have their live chat pop up in the bottm right of your screen in a similar fashion to google chat. I think that's probably the best solution, it lets the customer know it's available if they want it, it follows them around the site so it's always easy to find and it doesn't get in the way.

almost 4 years ago

Annalaise Gibbons

Annalaise Gibbons, Head of Product Marketing at Experian

Agree with previous comments re the leading research. For me, getting live chat right not only means getting the right software, but also getting the following right too:

1) Timing - if using proactive live chat, make sure the pop-up appears after an appropriate length of time to avoid annoying or distracting the user. If your page has lots of content to digest, the user may appear 'inactive' to the software, but the majority are just reading / watching / listening, rather than getting lost or confused.

2) Two Way Engagement with Your Agents - if they aren't fully trained on your website (particularly if you don't use shared browsing technology) and pages are updated regularly or you're using MVT, they won't be able to help the user with their problem if they've never seen it before themselves. Keep them fully briefed, and also converse with them regularly to help improve your site. It's a fantastic medium for getting user feedback, so if the agents notice a pattern in the questions they are being asked, ask yourself why such information isn't within your website already. Then add it in!

almost 4 years ago

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Alexia McCormick

I have used live chat on occasion. I think sometimes it can be a little too aggressive, but if done right can make a consumer feel comfortable with their purchase. It also leads to a feeling of security that the website you are about to buy from isn't a fraud.

I think any website can benefit from live chat, regardless of how well it is designed. It's sometimes easier to ask a knowledgeable person than it is to search a whole site.

almost 4 years ago

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Nick DAlleva

Nice piece! At our center, we are seeing requests for live chat growing. In fact, clients who are requesting live chat be integrated into their account are up 22% just from this time last year. The interesting fact is that customers who are requesting live chat versus the number of visitors to sites that we monitor has gone up just a few % points in the last year. I think businesses recognize they need multiple methods of contact to stay competitive & get an edge.

over 3 years ago

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Bert Leen

Online live chat software provide you a good communication between seller and customer to solve our problem and gain knowledge about your product. eAssistance Pro live chat software is create to improve all problem of users.

over 3 years ago

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Keen

Thanks for the good article.

I'm totally agree that nowadays Live Chat is a 'must-have' feature.
We've used Nero Chat and very satisfied with the SW packages they provide. Price is also reasonable for our site.

over 3 years ago

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Justin Fiery, Internet Marketing Head at Lepide Software

Thanks to such informative post.

I agree with that mentioned 'Keen' today, we can't think a website without live chat feature. So, we using eAssistance Pro live chat tool on our website which is leading brand that provide live chat service. It's secure & reliable and have some advanced features compare than other chat software. I'm happy to using this chat app and it's totally value for money software.

about 3 years ago

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YING YING, Student at BNU

Generally speaking, more and more people prefer live chat software nowadays.Live chat software can let you communicate with customers in an easy and low-price way.Also,through live chat widget,businessman can gain more profit and save lots of money on traditional contact method (mobile phone,fax,email,etc).I like Chat4support,which is also a livechat software on website,it provides multiple features and it had help me increase sales revenue .
www.chat4support.com

almost 3 years ago

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Zoey Richardson, Information Technologist at Private

I accidentally came across inside , and after looking through their site [www].inside.tm/magento-chat, it morphs a business website into a virtual storefront so business personnel can see and help their site visitors in real-time using chat.

over 2 years ago

Live2 Support

Live2 Support, Online Marketing Manager at Live2Support

Live chat tool is a smart way of customer support and lead generation. Entrepreneurs are adopting chat tool for better enhancement of customer support. Many small and mid size companies are using Live2Support live chat tool. Live2Support is available at the most affordable price. http://www.live2support.com

over 2 years ago

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wu xiuming, Ooperator at codingbest

Live chat software should be the hallmark of any online business. Without good live chat tools, unhappy customers will take their business elsewhere. E-businesses can resolve various customer service support problems with live chat software. I am using Chat4Support for long time. It is a free live chat&visitor tracking solution for websites. If you'd like to know more about it, check out their website: http://www.livechat4website.com/

over 2 years ago

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Adam Methew, Social Media Coordinator at WebGreeter

Live chat software and support really important for your website. For example when visitor visit your website. Live chat support team answers all visitor questions and satisfy him/her. Also tell him/her about your services. Webgreeter provide best live chat software and support services. Click here and visit: www.webgreeter.com

over 2 years ago

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Ian Hoyte, Developer at Atomic55 at Syncro

Interesting stats about the rise of livechat on the web. I'd love to see an updated article, perhaps touching on the move away from desktop computing to mobile and how that affects live chat.

Touching on the vein, check out SYNCRO, a tool that focuses on live chat for the mobile experience. The visitor can interact with the responsive tool and the chat is forwarded directly to your mobile phone via text. No need for a special app or phone, and its free to sign up! check it out, http://www.syncrowebchat.com

over 1 year ago

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Christian Walder, online Business at Christian Walder

First of all I would like you thanks to all for sharing your views. Live live chat on websites plays an important role to attract clients and website visitors. It is best way to interact with clients, customers, consumers and they appreciate to interact directly. I am also using Visitlead live chat on my website which is really helpful for me, Easy to use, instant customer support service, and some other main features are co-browsing, tracking, website widgets, advance features and no chat limit.
Highly Recommend go for it. https://visitlead.com/

over 1 year ago

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harry lee, owner at abcd

visitlead fake live chat software very bad experience with visitlead, So please stay away from such type of fake live chat software.

over 1 year ago

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Piper Fitzgerald, Marketing specialist at CalHor S.L.

Great article. I would recommend Live chat to every business. Personally, I think it is the best customer service tool available at the moment.
However, I think that nowadays there are better and more technological advanced chat providers than, for example, the creator of the report, Boldchat. The one I use, Visitlead, includes more extra features at a better price. Definitely a better alternative: https://visitlead.com/alternative/boldchat/

over 1 year ago

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Gemma Baker, Marketing Executive at Click4Assistance Limited

Interesting article, as the leading UK provider of business chat solutions we have experienced the rapid increase in demand for live chat software. 77% of consumers have indicated that they would like some kind of assistance or human interaction prior to purchasing online.

Just to expand on some of the previous comments above: live chat software has advantages over phone calls as it gives the option for those in sensitive conditions to be able to reach out and receive help, or even those who are at work and don’t want their co-workers earwigging. Proactive Invitations take some tweaking to be done correctly, the best implemented proactives will also have an exception rule so if you have decline the invitation to chat, it will not show up again during your visit on the site.

For more information visit http://www.click4assistance.co.uk

over 1 year ago

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