The latest update to our Internet Statistics Compendium is released today and collects another month’s worth of great publicly available data from across the global digital landscape.

Some of the most interesting data this month looks at live chat in the US and the UK. With more consumers being given the option of speaking to customer service employees in real time during the purchase process, are prospective shoppers keen to chat?

How should businesses seek to engage site-visitors in conversation?

The growth of live chat

BoldChat recently set out to answer these key live chat questions. According to their recent report, Live Chat Effectiveness 2012, there is significant growth across the US and UK with more than 65% of American online shoppers having engaged in a live chat, up from 50.4% during 2009. The figure is slightly lower in the UK but still growing at 53%, up from 41% in 2011.

Proportion of shoppers that have and have not engaged in live chat

This initial trend is good news for sellers, with 31% of online shoppers from both the US and UK saying they would be more likely to purchase after a live chat. This increases to 56% for shoppers who prefer live chat over other communication methods.

Do average website visitors like live chat?

The proliferation of social channels means that website customers have an ever-growing number of options for communicating with customer service reps in real time. 

BoldChat found that in the US, 21% of online shoppers prefer live chat, close to the same number as those who favour using the telephone (23%) and ahead of social media (2%). Email remains the most popular method for online shoppers to communicate with customer services, with 54% saying they prefer this method.

Time is a key factor to chat fans. Of those who prefer live chat, 79% said they did so because they get their questions answered quickly and 46% agreed it was the most efficient communication method.

Why live chat is preferred

Live chat best practice

As live chat continues to grow, there is clearly a sizeable group of online shoppers keen to communicate this way. So how do businesses ensure their live chat capabilities are as visible and useful as they need to be?

BoldChat found that a majority of online shoppers (from both the US and UK) find proactive invitations to live chat to be positive, with 66% being either ‘receptive’ or ‘appreciative’ of the customer service team making the first move.

After the initial communication channel is opened, most online shoppers are satisfied with the complete proactive live chat experience, with 94% saying they were either ‘very satisfied’ or ‘somewhat satisfied’.

BoldChat also looked at the incentives that prospective live-chatters need to become engaged. 57% said a proactive invitation would help, while 80% agreed that free shipping (or similar) would be a strong draw to live-chatting there and then.

Ways to encourage online shoppers to chat

In recent years, the potential value of incorporating live chat functionality on e-commerce sites may have been slightly overshadowed by the well-reported opportunities social media channels offer to engage with customers.

BoldChat’s research shows live chat to be more appealing to web-users when it comes to seeking specific information, and sellers will be keen to see that it can be a good channel to help increase the chance of conversions.

Yet, as with offering customer service via social media, it helps to implement it well. Doing so can range from being proactive to offering unique/valuable incentives for visitors to chat, while being careful to not interfere with the purchase process or frustrating the user.