October 2, 2001, 12:00 AM

Lands’ End finds that instant messaging creates buyers

Customers who use live help via instant messaging at LandsEnd.com are 67% more likely to make a purchase and buy 8% more than others.

Today’s goal of online retailers is to re-create a real-world shopping experience as closely as possible and that means customer help at the shopper’s fingertips. Dodgeville, Wis.-based Lands’ End Inc. is finding that instant messaging fills that bill and that providing information at the exact moment a customer is seeking it creates buying customers.

Lands’ End Live, the instant messaging feature that lets online shoppers connect with Lands’ End customer service agents via phone or text chat in real time, is producing measurable results, Lands’ End tells Internet Retailer. Shoppers who use the feature are 67% more likely to make a purchase than those who don’t use it, and the average size of their order is 8% higher than that of non-users.

Though the feature has been available on the Lands’ End site since 1999, it’s been a gradual build to the current level of use, which now represents several hundred instant messages per day. Pioneered as a way for online users to communicate instantly with their friends online, instant messaging is now in wide use across the web and most users are familiar with what it is and how to use it. “More people are using it as more people have become web-savvy,” says a company spokeswoman.

But shoppers’ increasing use of instant messaging on the site hasn’t diminished the number of customer e-mails received by the company, now about 231,000 per year. Responses to each live text and e-mail inquiry are written individually by agents who also handle phone communication, as Lands’ End uses no automation in its customer service center, the spokeswoman adds.

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