E-commerce is 20 yrs old, loves mobile and wants to chat with you right now!

live engagementE-commerce as we know it today is a mere twenty years old, but in the last two decades internet retail has been in a state of perpetual revolution, driven by the constant fight for competitive advantage.

At first glance it might seem that very little has changed. It’s open to discussion, but the industry consensus suggests that the first secure online purchase took place in 1994 when a pioneering music fan bought the CD 10 by Sting via NetMarket. Amazon launched in the same year. That was in the US. Britain had to wait another year for the sale of a book from WH Smith’s online store on the largely-forgotten Compuserve platform.

After that things began to look very familiar. Amazingly eBay was up and running by 1995 and by the end of the decade, we had personalisation and at least some major retailers getting to grips with the realities and practicalities of multi-channel retail. And truth to tell, on a superficial level, today’s retail websites don’t look that different from their counterparts in the 1990s or early noughties.

But behind the scenes a huge amount has happened. Initially sceptical high street retailers morphed into multi-channel players offering seamless services. Since then we’ve seen the emergence of the omni-channel universe characterised by customers browsing in the high street, checking prices on a smart phone and ordering via a tablet from the bus or in front of the TV. And all too often, the final order is placed with another retailer. This is a truly challenging environment. Continue reading

5 ways to cut call abandonment

live engagementIt’s an experience that most of us have probably had at one time or another.

We ring a call centre – perhaps on a matter of some urgency – and hear a recorded message telling us that our enquiry can’t be dealt with immediately. Sometimes our friendly robotic voice will give a specific reason. “All the agents are busy.” “All the agents are engaged.” “The call centre is experiencing unusually high amounts of traffic and you have been put in a queue.”

None of this particularly impresses the customer and many will simply abandon the call at that point, perhaps ringing back later or opting to send an e-mail. This is not only bad news for the customer, it’s also terribly damaging to the company’s reputation.

But here’s the good news of sorts. A great many customers will persevere. After all, if they’ve already worked their way through a series of menus, it probably makes more sense to sit indefinitely in a queue rather than hanging up and starting the whole process over again.

But for some there will be a double whammy. For some reason, the call simply times out or disconnects leaving nothing but a dead line. Frustration now turns to anger and the reputation of the brand takes another downward plunge. Continue reading

How EE is benefiting from the switch to Live Chat in their call centres

live engagementAny business adopting live engagement as a means to boost conversion rates and incremental sales rightly expects to see not only a measurable but also a significant boost in performance.

And the truth is that live engagement delivers. For instance, UK telecoms company EE rolled out live chat on its contract sales operation in 2013. Today the chat assisted sales run at five times the level of self-serve conversions.

But in any chat implementation, the agents themselves are a key component of success. From sales through to customer service, the agent is the front-line representative of the company. Good, well trained agents optimise sales and boost customer satisfaction. So how do you get the most from these key people?

1. Create a dedicated team of chat agents

If possible, we would recommend the creation of a dedicated team of chat agents. In other words, rather than moving people interchangeably between the traditional phone hotline in response to the peaks and troughs of incoming calls or chat requests, it’s generally better to have a group of people who are focused on the chat channel. This may not always be possible but we find that it produces optimal results. Continue reading

The growing importance of CSAT & Net Promoter scores and how to boost yours!

Selling via the web can be a strangely impersonal business. Yes, you personalise the experience for each individual customer – most commonly by serving content based on transactional records – but for the most part, the road to the check-out offers little and usually no opportunity for interaction. No surprises there – it is after all, a self-serve medium.

But think about what happens after a purchase has been made. Once the credit card details have been processed and delivery is in train, the customer has time to reflect on the experience and consider whether he or she will buy there again and perhaps also whether the site warrants recommending to a friend.

And this is where things begin to get interesting. By and large, people want to share both their good and bad experiences and today that often means posting on social media. That post could run something along the lines of: “I’ve just got a great deal from….”. Equally, though it could read: “There was an error with my order and when I rang to complain, I was kept hanging on the phone for 15 minutes.”

In other words, the customer experience matters not simply because you want repeat business from that customer but also because the power of social media has added and amplified the power of “word of mouth” to an unprecedented degree. Continue reading

How to grow your overseas customer base online using Live Chat

online retailIncreasing numbers of UK online retailers are targeting an overseas market, or at the very least offering an international delivery option in order not to miss out on potential orders from foreign buyers. At least that’s the finding of the latest International Ecommerce Delivery Report as carried out by point of sale software company Micros.

To gather information for the report, the company recruited a panel of buyers based overseas and used them to test the international capabilities of 112 British retailers. The survey found an increased enthusiasm for selling abroad. Not only did 67% of the retailers in question offer to deliver internationally, 31% offered a range of options such as standard and express while 34% offered free shipment above a certain threshold.

Perhaps this shouldn’t be surprising. E-commerce in the UK is now just 20 years old and from the get go, one of the advantages offered by web sales was the ability of companies of all sizes to break free of their geography. Small local firms could sell nationally while larger businesses with strong brands could address a global marketplace.

In reality it was never quite that simple. In addition to getting the delivery options right, selling internationally may also a require a commitment to localising the website in terms of language, pricing and product description while also providing the same level of service enjoyed by customers in the domestic market. Continue reading

Why do your customers really shop online? – 5 questions to ask

online retailJust how well is your website performing?

On the face of it, that’s a fairly simple question to answer as you doubtless have the crop of ‘stats and key metrics to hand. So you’ll know how many unique visitors you have (and whether the numbers are going up or down), the conversion rate, the bounce rate, the exit points, the top ten or twenty favourite pages and doubtless a whole lot more.

But sometimes the stats pose more questions than they solve. You might for example know the point on the customer journey where the majority of exits occur but that’s not quite the same as knowing why. And do you really know what’s driving the conversion rate or why your site has a higher or lower bounce rate than its rivals?

Or to put it another way, the key web metrics are incredibly useful in terms of telling you what your customers are doing but they don’t necessarily tell you why. That’s why it’s important to also collect qualitative data. The traditional way to do this has been through surveys but increasingly businesses are finding that the insights gathered when chat agents talk to customers provide a highly effective means to tap into customer opinion and motivation. Here are some of the things you should know about your customers:

Continue reading

6 boxes to tick before your business is 100% digital

digital engagement

You could argue that in the second decade of the twenty-first century the vast majority of businesses are ‘digital’. After all, we live in an era when even my local window cleaner accepts payments via his website and you don’t have to scramble very much further up the tree that leads from a micro-business to a FTSE-100 market leader to find widespread adoption of digital technology. These days, networks facilitate everything from procurement and supply chain management to sales and customer service.

But using digital technology isn’t quite the same as being a ‘digital company’. On the customer-facing side, the truly ‘digital’ company puts the web, mobile, data collection and analysis, absolutely at the heart of its strategy to deliver the best possible level of service. To a digital company, a website or mobile app is not simply ‘another channel’, it is the most effective means to sell and deliver products and services while building a long-term relationship with the customer based on a two way flow of information. See our case studies here.

So what distinguishes a digital company from one that simply uses digital tools? Here are six questions you should be asking.

1. Is your digital strategy ‘joined up’?

At the risk of stating the obvious, a digital company must have an over-arching digital strategy – or to put it another way, a long-term plan that unites the various silos that exist even within small and medium sized businesses.

Think of it this way. Your marketing department may have a digital strategy involving search engine optimisation, an affiliate scheme, display advertising all linked to broader campaigns and a commitment to rolling out mobile apps. Meanwhile the other silos, such as customer service and sales/fulfilment also have their digital strategies. And they are not necessarily connected. Continue reading

5 signs that your online customers really don’t like you

live engagementIn an ideal world a customer with a genuine intention to buy should arrive at a website and embark on a short journey that ends in transaction. The reality is, of course, that the road from home or landing page to checkout is a rocky one. Only a very small percentage of website visitors – typically 1% or 2% – will make a purchase and the rest will simply browse for a while before moving on to another site.

But that’s not the whole story. Among that silent majority are customers who arrived with a predisposition to make a purchase but, somewhere on the journey, decided to drop out. It may be that they simply changed their minds but equally there could be a problem with the site itself that you need to identify and rectify.

Here are some of the clues that improvements to the site might be necessary.

1. High Bounce Rates

The bounce rate measures the percentage of visitors who arrive at a site and don’t progress any further than the home or landing page. A high bounce rate often indicates a disconnect between a marketing campaign and the sales offering of the site itself. For instance, a consumer may click through from a search engine on the promise of a cheap deal on a particular make and model of laptop but on arriving at the homepage find no direct reference to the product. Rather than taking the trouble to explore further, your potential customer simply goes elsewhere. Higher than expected bounce rates indicate a problem.

Continue reading

Why Live Chat is as game-changing as WhatsApp

live engagementThe preferences and practices of internet and mobile users are in a constant state of evolution. Consider messaging. Not so long ago we used e-mail to communicate one-to-one while ‘broadcasting’ to groups of friends and followers via Facebook and Twitter. Indeed, that one-to-many model was the defining characteristic of social media.

And then along came WhatsApp, turning the social media model on its head by providing a social media messaging service that is mainly designed for one-to-one communication. The success of WhatsApp – now owned by Facebook and putting on something in the region of one million users a day – is a reminder that while we enjoy broadcasting messages to friendship groups, personal messaging remains hugely important.

And perhaps it’s also a reminder that the internet is no longer solely about PCs and laptops. Much of the messaging we do – and an increasing amount of our internet browsing – is enabled by those always-on smartphones. Continue reading

How Snapfish reduced customer service enquiries by 60% with live chat [Video Case Study]

Snapfish live engagementWith around 90 million customers across 12 countries, HP Snapfish is one of the world’s leading online photographic services companies. It’s a relatively complex online business. Through a range of online tools, Snapfish enables its users to make the most of their digital photographs. They can, for instance, put together photobooks, create wall art and collages, design personalised cards as well as simply print their pictures. As such, Snapfish provides the means for anyone with a digital camera to execute a design project.

By and large customers self-serve by using the tools available but inevitably some will require help to master the functionality. To assist with sales and customer service, Snapfish uses live chat delivered by LivePerson.

Chat has proved to be a highly effective sales channel, driving conversion rates of 40%. But interestingly chat is actually reducing the need to engage directly with customers.

Since deploying LivePerson chat, Snapfish has seen a massive 60% reduction in customer enquiries relating to orders thanks to intelligence generated by live engagement. Continue reading

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