Moving From Chat To Guided Digital Commerce

August 28, 20199min

In the not too distant past, a few brave companies adapted their chat products for use within a sales context and produced some startling results against some marquis ecommerce KPIs.

The conversion rate of customers who engage in a chat has increased. In addition, the revenue per engaged customer has seen 5x – 10x growth. With numbers like these, it wasn’t long before many other companies were moving chat from the back office, where it was used primarily in a service context (to save money over phone calls), into the front of the store in hopes of driving sales gold.

While some have realised their chat gold rush dreams, several companies ran into a few economic stumbling blocks along the way, and have been skittish to reattempt widespread ecommerce engagement.

1. Chatting during a sale eats into precious sales margin and can erase profits for many retailers and travel companies, and increases the cost of acquiring new customers for all verticals.

Many etailers and travel companies – that compete on price and service – don’t make a lot of money per transaction as it is. Adding the cost of a chat to a transaction can negate the gains realised from the conversion and order value boost. In short, when you chat you may sell more, but you’re making less or nothing at all in profit (siting feedback from Newegg, United Airlines,, and Expedia). Companies that have been successful with sales chat typically are lifestyle brands – companies that hold exclusivity over their goods, and control all of the means production, distribution, and marketing – and can command higher sales margin.

2. Chatting in a sales context drives up chat volumes and the related supporting costs.

Sales chat volumes often rise to levels that rival or eclipse the amount of service chats that an organisation receives. This puts significant operational pressure on these companies to hire and train significant numbers of additional agents. Some companies are able to endure this and become successful, but may have resisted doing this because of the lack of profit realised in the exercise. 

3. Reach is a challenge.

Even the companies that engage in Sales chat and realise the often incredible boosts to conversion and revenue, are only able to scale up to engage about one to two percent [1-800-flowers engages 0.81 percent of their sales traffic) of pre-sales visitors. Since every chat requires a live agent, the average busy retailer would need many hundreds if not thousands of agents live an available at all times to engage a more significant number of customers.

This is just not feasible for many online companies. In addition, more and more studies show that many customers – particularly those in the ever-growing mobile demographic, don’t start ecommerce journeys expecting to talk to you on the phone or on chat! They want to self-serve. 

So this conundrum exists where the many customers don’t want to engage, and companies are not incented to talk to their customers. Was the whole promise of customer engagement merely fool’s gold? Or is there another way to turn digital engagement into real profits by overcoming many of the key limitations of the format?

There is another way, and the solution is Guided Digital Commerce.

Digging into the challenges a bit more, it turns out that if you can address two key realities, you can pump profit back into digital engagement, reduce costs like never before, increase customer satisfaction and retention, and reach customers that never would have engaged with you previously.

Reality 1: Repetitive Contacts are a huge problem. It turns out that as customers we’re not as unique as we’d like to think – at least in terms of our shopping and engagement patterns online. The customers who do engage companies via the phone, email, or chat tend to be asking about the same four or five things relative to where they are in the customer journey.

Go ask a contact centre agent. They know the top five reasons why someone gets in contact with them like the back of their hand. And these repetitive topics can sometimes make up the overwhelming majority of the total contacts. In financial services, password lock out issues alone can make up 70 percent of total contacts.

In retail, “Where is my order” (known by it’s nickname, WISMO) can make up more than half of all contacts. However, our phone, chat, and email solutions do absolutely nothing to deflect contacts on these topics. Not only do these contacts drive up costs, but they increase the wait time for everyone, and lower customer satisfaction.

Reality 2: Just because large segments of customers don’t want to talk to you during a sales or service journey, that doesn’t mean that they don’t need help. It just means that customers want to self-serve.

They want to find the answers to their questions on their own, but often the answers to the most common questions are tucked away on some FAQ page, or are hidden away under some tab – in short, the keys to overcoming the most common struggles and hesitations are not easily available to the customer where and when they need them.

Guided Digital Commerce takes the answers to the most common questions and puts them in front of the customers when and where they need these questions most. This is achieved by understanding where the customer is in the journey and offering a timely contextual and proactive solution to what they are struggling over. As in: “I see you’re struggling with that expired coupon code, here is one that works.”

This also means giving the customers who do like to or feel the need to live engage, an opportunity to find the answer to their question faster than they could with a live engagement. This can mean intercepting chat requests with common solutions first, as in: “Checking on your order? Give us your order number and we’ll give you the latest information.”

The key to Guided Digital Commerce is proactive automation for the majority of contacts and preserving your live channels for your more unique and complex inquires. If you can give the customer the right answer to their concern the overwhelming majority of time, you can deploy a profitable engagement solution that can reach all of your customers instead of just a few.

This doesn’t mean that chat and email completely fall by the wayside, but it means that while automation is handling the majority of contacts, your chat and email practice can focus on the more unique customer use cases, escalating profit, reducing costs, increasing satisfaction and reaching more customer than ever before.

Brian Strauss

Brian Strauss

Brian Strauss is VP of Worldwide Field Engineering at goMoxie.

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