According to new research by Bold Software, a live-chat software vendor, 77% of e-retailers that use live chat considered it a critical communication method during the recent holiday shopping season, up from 69% of e-retailers who said the same thing in 2009.

In addition, 23% of the e-commerce sites surveyed said that of those customers that engaged with them in a live chat, more than 40% converted to an active lead or sale, while 54% reported a conversion rate of 20% or more. And for those who used proactive chat over the holidays (where an e-retailer invites a chat with a customer based on his on-site behavior), 55% said that it yielded higher conversion rates than chats initiated by the website visitor.

“The surveys we conduct annually continue to validate the increasing benefits that live chat delivers to businesses and their customers and prospects,” said Steve Castro-Miller, president and CEO of Bold Software. “These results further demonstrate that live chat is a highly effective communication channel that facilitates meaningful engagements between people, bolstering both sales and service efforts as a result.”

ADDITIONAL RESEARCH HIGHLIGHTS

Conducted in January 2011, Bold Software queried more than 200 customers about their experiences with live chat during the recent holiday shopping season.

  • 77 % cited live chat as critical (up 8 percentage points from 2010), with 34% saying it was “very critical” or “extremely critical.”
  • For larger implementations (10 licenses or more), 84% said live chat was “critical,” and 44% cited live chat as “very critical” or “extremely critical.”
  • 58% of respondents said that live chat was more critical to their business in 2010 than the year prior, with 63% of larger customers noting that. In addition, 68% of e-commerce businesses stated that live chat was more critical to their business in 2010 than in 2009.
  • Of the e-commerce sites surveyed, 23% said that they experienced a conversion rate among chatters of 40% or greater while 54% reported a conversion rate of 20% or more.
  • 69% of respondents noted that live chat enabled them to deliver quality service in a cost-effective manner, up five percentage points from last year.
  • The majority (60%) cited live chat as a competitive advantage for them.

Respondents also ranked the activities that their companies are engaging in following the shopping season, and number one was reviewing chat transcripts to identify possible website improvements. This was followed by running reports to investigate key performance metrics and reviewing canned messages for accuracy/cleanup.

“We feel these initiatives are critically important as companies begin planning for the 2011 holiday shopping season,” continued Castro-Miller. “They enable businesses to be more effective in their communication with customers and prospects via their website.”

[Source:  “Fourth Annual Post-Holiday Research.”  Bold Software.  14 Feb. 2011.  Web.  24 Feb. 2011.]