October 24, 2013, 1:28 PM

Grainger’s app combines photo sharing with live chat

Chat reps identify parts based on photos sent by iPhone shoppers.

Lead Photo

The retailer's iPhone app, with a tab for Live Chat front and center.

W.W. Grainger Inc., a retailer of maintenance, repair and other products for businesses, recently launched a new feature for its iPhone mobile commerce app, Live Chat with Photo. Through technology from its e-commerce site live chat provider, LivePerson, customers with iPhones now can chat with trained Grainger customer service representatives and send reps photos of products for the reps to identify.

“Grainger is focused on industry-leading service, which includes getting our customers the products they need, when they need them,” says Geoffrey Robertson, vice president of e-commerce strategy and planning. “We offer more than 1 million products, so Live Chat with Photo helps answer customer product questions more efficiently and effectively.”

The Live Chat with Photo feature appears in the Menu section of the Grainger iPhone app once customers sign in to their Grainger account. The live chat display and the customer service representative identify the user by first name because the user is signed in; Grainger says it is important to personalize the live chat process.

Users can touch the icon to begin a live chat with a customer service representative, as well as attach one or more product photos taken with their iPhone to the conversation. Photos help the representative locate the product in question and then provide the customer with a direct link to the product, which then can be used to check availability and make a purchase. The app enables a user to access a chat history, eliminating the need for the customer to take notes during the chat, Robertson adds.

LivePerson’s mobile chat system integrates with Apple Inc. iOS apps as well as with mobile web sites. LivePerson’s mobile system can be integrated within a company’s existing LivePerson chat infrastructure. Live chat representatives can identify and prioritize mobile customers, who often have more urgent needs and expect faster response times, LivePerson says. LivePerson says mobile chat is included in its LiveEngage package for small businesses, which ranges in price from $99 to $279 per month, depending on volume. The vendor negotiates prices with larger customers.

In addition to Live Chat with Photo, Grainger’s mobile app allows customers to:

  • Search for products using bar code scanning, voice-activated search or browse.
  • Use real-time product availability based on current location via the smartphone’s GPS to learn when a product will ship or if it is available for pickup at a nearby Grainger branch.
  • Get driving directions to the nearest Grainger branch.
  • Manage purchase order workflow; accept, reject or forward pending orders made by multiple staff members.
  • Receive push notifications when orders ship or are pending approval.
  • Get prompt access to frequently purchased items through lists.
  • Access order history.
  • Check out using existing shipping addresses and payment preferences from Grainger.com.

Grainger is No. 92 in the newly published 2014 Internet Retailer Mobile 500. It will reach $35.0 million in mobile sales this year, up 109% from $16.7 million in 2012, according to Mobile 500 estimates.

Grainger says its mobile traffic more than doubled in the first six months of 2013, and that 30% of mobile orders are picked up at a local branch.

LivePerson is the No. 2 live chat vendor in Internet Retailer’s “Leading Vendors to the Top 1000 E-Retailers” guide. 140 of Internet Retailer’s top 1,000 e-retailers use LivePerson technology. These 140 retailers racked up a combined $11.6 billion in 2012 web sales.

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