Some retailers launched online deals well in advance of Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Average order values are up 67% through live chat customer service sessions.
At diamond jewelry retailer Whiteflash.com, customer service is a core part of its market strategy, e-commerce director Ashley Bailey says. And live chat is core to its customer service.
When customers need help making a purchase decision, nothing seems to top live chat sessions with diamond experts, she says. “Live chat is probably the biggest sales tool we have, more so than phone or e-mail,” Bailey says.
Among customers who seek assistance through live chat sessions, 65% complete a purchase, she says.
Whiteflash, No. 489 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, uses the BoldChat Pro live chat application from LogMeIn Inc. Live chat helps to build consumer confidence in buying items that can run into the thousands of dollars by connecting customers with sales and service professionals trained as gemologists, Bailey says.
So far this year, the average value of orders placed through live chat sessions on the site is up 67% year over year, to about $2,500 from roughly $1,500, she adds.
As part of its customer service team, Whiteflash has three professional gemologists dedicated to live chat who handle about 1,200 to 1,500 chats per month. Each chat runs an average of about one and a half minutes.
Shoppers often prefer to use the live chat interface over the telephone, particularly during off hours, Bailey says. This year, about 23% more shoppers on Whiteflash.com are using live chat compared with last year, she adds.
That’s partly because Whiteflash makes the live chat option prominent—last year it added live chat buttons on every page on its site. But it is also because consumers are becoming more comfortable with live chat, she says.
“It can be two in the morning. They might not want to call, but they’ll chat with us,” Bailey says, adding: “People are becoming more accepting of live chat, realizing that there’s someone on the other end of the line who knows the product well.”
The BoldChat Pro application, which is hosted on the Internet by LogMeIn, has an annual cost of just over $2,000 under a plan that allows for four concurrent live chat reps using the system at any one time, Bailey says.
The BoldChat Pro application, which is integrated with the retailer’s GoldMine customer relationship management system from FrontRange Solutions, enables live chat reps to view on their computer screens information on a customer’s past shopping behavior, including prior interactions with customer service.
One live chat feature that has proven to be particularly helpful is the ability of reps to simultaneously view the same page a customer is viewing, Bailey says. If a customer wants more specifications about a particular diamond or ring appearing in an image on that page, the live chat rep can see the same product image and provide the customer with a link to a page with more details on the product.
Whiteflash, which operates on a home-grown web site, is also working on ways to further enhance live chat. The retailer accepts online orders from more than 30 international markets and its customer service team can converse in several languages, including Spanish, German, Russian, Hebrew and Mandarin. To improve both shopping and customer service for foreign language shoppers, its in-house I.T. team is working this year to automatically render web pages in the language of a customer based on her IP address. “After we implement these pages, we plan on routing customers coming from these pages to a particular rep who speaks that specific language,” Bailey says.
Lauren Freedman, president of consulting firm the E-tailing Group Inc. will speak during a session entitled “What shoppers want: Listening in on the consumer voice” at the 2012 Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition in Chicago in June.