Online Chat and Click-to-Call: Impact on Conversion Rate (Forrester Case Study)

From the beginning, ecommerce changed the fundamental math of business. With a website, any merchant can scale rapidly without investing in bricks and mortar. He can ship anywhere, he can thinly (or virtually) stock an infinite inventory -- and he can receive orders 24/7.

But online retailers long ago discovered that the passive and massively-scalable nature of the web carries disadvantages, too. Chief among them is low conversion rate. Tens of thousands of shoppers anonymously hit your site day and night, but self-service shopping doesn't work for everyone. Estimates of average ecommerce
conversion rates vary widely, but let's call it 3%.


Two other channels -- telephone and online chat -- offer much higher conversion rates. Telephone call centers, for instance, can convert 50% or more of callers to customers.

Can adding these features to your website help you close more sales?

To answer that question, Forrester research and ATG recently teamed up to measure the impact of adding Click-to-Call and Online Chat features to a website.

The 24-page study, entitled "The Total Economic Impact Of Click to Call And Click to Chat", aggregates the results of six large online companies (three retailers and three leading airlines), to measure the cost and ROI of these contact methods.

Among the findings:

  • Orders associated with these two contact methods showed 19% to 23% higher average order value than self-service web orders, thanks to call-center and chat agents suggesting accessories and
    cross-sell items.
  • 88% of customers using these methods would have given up on their orders without help from an agent. 12% were "cannibalized," i.e. they would have completed their orders online without help from an agent.


Click to Call

  • 0.4% of all visitors accept (proactive) or initiate (reactive) Click to Call.
  • 80% initiate the chats by clicking, while 20% accept a proactive invitation
  • Web conversion rate was 3%
  • Proactive click to call conversion rate was 27%
  • Reactive click to call conversion rate was 19%
  • Average order value increased 23%

Online Chat


  • 1% of all visitors accept (proactive) or initiate (reactive) Online Chat.
  • 70% initiate the calls by clicking, while 30% accept a proactive invitation
  • Web conversion rate was 3%
  • Proactive click to chat conversion rate was 40%
  • Reactive click to chat conversion rate was 22%
  • About 4% abandoned an online chat
  • Average order value increased 19%

For any organization considering these services, the Forrester/ATG report also does a nice job of modeling the start-up and ongoing costs, both for technology and staffing. Forrester projected an ROI of 334%, and a payback period of 1.1 years.

And it's worthwhile to note that Forrester's numbers are based on enterprise-class technology scaled for big companies. At Timberline, we know that small to mid-sized companies can speedily deploy affordable chat and call platforms like Instant Service and Live Person with little more effort than pasting some well-placed lines of Javascript. Our friends at The Scooter Store Online, for example, use Instant Service to great effect, to help convert leads for power mobility scooters and other mobility aids.

The cost of these customer-contact channels is attractively low, and now the ROI has been compellingly shown.

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Tags: call, chat, click, forrester, instant, to

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Comment by Tracy on September 30, 2010 at 11:20pm
We're looking to do Click-to-chat via Facebook. I wonder if anyone has success with this? Another tool we're looking to implement is "Get Satisfaction" support tool to Facebook (used by Nike, Livescribe). I think both are great ideas for immediate responsiveness to increase customer-relations excellence.
Comment by Raji on September 29, 2010 at 11:19am
Tom, this is a terrific point! I think that person touch adds a lot to a customer's experience thereby leading to more purchases.
Comment by Robin on September 29, 2010 at 9:55am
Another great one!!! I live by the chat and call b/c it gets my answers immediately and then it puts me in the "buy" mode. If you look at it from a company standpoint, it's also an opportunity to upsell or suggest a complimentary product b/c it puts the customer in a position to listen at that point. Nice!

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