March 18, 2010, 12:00 AM

Big online spenders like to chat it up, survey suggests

53% of web shoppers who have engaged in a chat on a site have spent more than $500 online, versus 43% of all those surveyed and 34% of those who’ve never chatted, says the survey sponsored by Bold Software.


Online shoppers who have engaged in live chats on web sites tend to be wealthier, better educated and more likely to spend large sums online than other web shoppers, according to a survey sponsored by Bold Software LLC. The survey also shows more use of live chat as a selling tool and suggests many consumers are receptive when web sites invite them to chat.

Bold, which provides live chat and click-to-call software to web site operators, plans to release the survey report Monday. The report is based on responses from 1,005 online shoppers, and follows up on a similar survey of 250 web shoppers in January 2009.

The survey shows those who have engaged in live chats-in which consumers type questions and answers in a real-time interaction with a web site’s representative-shop more frequently online and spend more. For instance, 26% of chatters are weekly online shoppers versus 21% of the entire sample, and 53% of chatters have spent more than $500 in a single web purchase, compared with 43% of all those surveyed and 34% of those who have never chatted.

The report emphasizes there’s no evidence that chatting causes consumers to spend more. “It is simply that those who have engaged an online merchant in a live chat interaction tend to be more frequent shoppers and to open their wallets a bit wider,” says the report entitled “The Effectiveness of Live Chat Technology.”

The report also finds:

  • 53.6% of the online shoppers surveyed said they had engaged in a live chat, up from 49.6% in last year’s survey.
  • Those who have chatted are more likely than average to be college educated and to have a household income above $60,000, but, somewhat surprisingly, less likely to be between the ages of 21 and 30. No difference between men and women emerged from the survey data.
  • 56% of all respondents said they would be more likely to purchase if a web site offers live chat, a figure that went up to a high of 73% for consumers aged 41 to 50 who have chatted.
  • Respondents said they were most likely to use live chat if they had a problem during checkout (71%) and least likely to use it to inquire about specials or sales (47%).
  • Among the entire survey sample, e-mail was the most preferred way to ask a retailer questions in several scenarios, such as when the consumer had a question about a product, wanted to ask about return policies or guarantees, or to inquire about an order already placed. But among those who have chatted, live chat was the preferred method in all six scenarios.
  • 52% of the sample said they would not be annoyed by a web site’s invitation to chat. Only 44% of those have never chatted indicated receptivity to proactive chat invitations versus 60% of those who have chatted. The most positive response (72%) came from shoppers whose average web transaction averages more than $150.
  • Among those who have chatted, 66% said their last chat involved a pre-purchase inquiry versus 59% in last year’s survey. That lines up with evidence that e-retailers are using live chat more as a selling tool. In an annual survey of Bold clients, only 31% said this year that they were using live chat solely for customer service, compared with 37% last year and 41% in 2008.


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