July 11, 2012, 11:15 AM

Under Armour gains sales via live chat expertise

Under Armour employs live chat agents who love its athletic apparel.

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Retailers that want to increase sales would do well to employ customer service agents who have used the products it sells. That’s what athletic apparel, footwear and accessories retailer and manufacturer Under Armour has learned, and its sports-loving chat agents are closing a lot of sales. About 27% of UnderArmour.com shoppers who chat with agents on product pages make a purchase within 24 hours.

There’s a simple reason behind that high conversion rate: Agents who have used or just like the retailer’s products can talk about them with consumers in a more meaningful way than can call center agents who have only received training about the items, says Dave Demsky, vice president of e-commerce operations for Under Armour Inc., No. 190 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide.

Under Armour works with live chat provider Needle Inc. to find prospective agents from among Under Armour’s 1.7 million Facebook fans and elsewhere—for instance, agents might recommend friends for jobs—who can answer shoppers’ questions via online chat. Those agents, who can work from any place with an Internet connection, receive an hourly wage plus additional pay based on how well they score on metrics besides conversion, such as customer satisfaction; overall, the pay generally matches what Under Armour pays its in-house agents.

Understanding the retailer’s products is particularly important because the brand has an array of similar-sounding products. If a man wants to buy a long-sleeved mock turtleneck, for instance, he has nine options, many of which carry such similar descriptions as “Men's ColdGear Longsleeve Compression Mock,” “Men's ColdGear Fitted Longsleeve Mock” and “Men's UA Gameday ColdGear Longsleeve Compression Mock.” With so many choices, Under Armour’s customers occasionally need a helping hand, says Demsky.

“We want our customers to actually understand how the products feel,” he says. Employing live chat agents who use the brand’s products gives them that type of perspective. “We have a police officer who wears a compression shirt under his bulletproof vest all winter, so he can speak to the comfort of wearing something under his uniform,” says Demsky. “Regardless of whether the customer is a police officer or runner, the agent can tell him how the product actually works.”

Those agents inform consumers about other products that meet their needs, such as a pair of specialized socks for running in hot weather. Those types of upsells help explain why the average order value for consumers who chat with Needle agents stands $15 higher than for other customers, says Demsky. Internet Retailer estimates that the average ticket on UnderArmour.com is $70, which means that the average order value increase represents a 21% jump.

 

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