It’s no secret that we at Zero-G are big believers in the power of online chat as a marketing tool. What makes chat a good idea though and how does it increase conversion rates?
Before I answer that question though, I want to stress that online chat is NOT a good fit for every website. Chat works best on sites where:
A) A high percentage of traffic is driven by Google AdWords, search engine optimization (SEO) or other online marketing/advertising media
B) There are a wide variety of products/services being featured and may need assistance in finding exactly what they are looking for
C) Visitors are likely to have a lot of questions about the particular products/services being offered
D) You run an eCommerce site and want to reduce cart abandonment
So if your site meets one or more of these criteria, online chat may be a good way for your to increase your website’s conversion rate. So how/why does it work?
Most websites are like vending machines — visitors show up anytime they like and browse your wares. The problem is that most products/services are more complex than “candy or chips?” or “regular or diet?” When visitors come to your web page and aren’t sure if you have exactly what they’re looking for, they will leave. You have about 10 seconds to answer their questions. If a vistor has a question that your web copy does not clearly answer, like “does this candy bar contain peanuts?” they will leave.
What if, at the exact moment your potential customer was feeling unsure if you were the right fit for them, you could personally ask them if they needed any help, answer their questions or address their concerns? Now you’ve moved beyond the vending machine model and are now serving web visitors the same way you would over the phone, at a client meeting or in a traditional brick-and-mortar setting.
This is what chat does for websites and why — if done well — a chat program can significantly increase conversion rates. In our managed online chat clients, we typically see a 20-25% lift in online leads on a monthly basis. We’re engaging with the people “on the fence” who may be about to leave for the WRONG reasons.
3 tips for a successful online chat program
1. Coverage is crucial. On the surface, a chat program looks like a lot of work. The truth is though that you’re not going to be inundated with requests. We expect that (generally) no more than 5% of site visitors that arrive when your chat operators are online are actually going to engage in chat. This means that you’re probably only looking at a relatively small number of chat requests every week. The hard part about chat is making sure that you’re there when those potential leads show up. Running a chat program means having continuous coverage 50-60 hours a week or more depending on how many time zones, off hours, or weekend hours you’re concerned about. If you’re not going to be there every day during business hours and a little bit beyond you’re better off not doing this at all. You’re going to miss opportunities and send the wrong message to your prospects.
2. Be present. Successful chat is an ACTIVE strategy, not a passive one. That does not mean that you should pester your site visitors like a used car salesman, but rather that you make sure that your customers know that you are there. Choose a chat package that will allow you to proactively engage with customers under the right conditions (and likewise leave them alone if those conditions are not met) and make sure that you ask specific questions in your invitations, like “I see you’re looking at our deluxe Widgets. Can I answer any questions for you?”
3. Service with a ! If you’re going to staff your chat program internally, be sure to staff it with people who understand how to communicate effectively through short, written communications. If you’re not careful, it is very easy to misconstrue the meaning or the sentiment behind these types of communication. Be friendly, be genuine and try to exude friendliness and helpfulness in your chats. Use emoticons where appropriate, remember your pleases and thank you’s, and end with a friendly goodbye (but only after making sure that your customer doesn’t need any additional help).