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As people continue to move towards the online environment for communication, entertainment and shopping, it is more important than ever for your brand to stand out from your competitors. Advancements in technology mean that there are opportunities that you can use to better your business’ position in the market.

One of the more recent developments is that of live chat. Also known as “web chat”, it involves the use of real-time, text-based communication via the Internet. It is a viable alternative to long-established practices such as telephone and email support, which can be costly for companies and incur long waiting times for customers.

While live chat is most commonly thought of as a customer support platform, it has some untapped potential that could make it an effective marketing tool, due to the interactivity it provides and its ease of use. Why?

It is interactive: The problem with the online environment is that it lacks the human touch, but live chat provides the interactivity that customers require. The immediacy of connecting to an agent makes the shopping experience easy for customers and enables businesses to deliver a personalized 'in store-like' experience.

It can increase conversions: The key is that customers have someone who can immediately walk them through a sale if they become confused or have a question. Timely and knowledgeable support will help eliminate click-aways from your website and ensure that your customers’ shopping carts make it through to check out.

It is a free market research tool: One of the best sources of information about your customers is from conversations with them. Live chat offers customers the opportunity to give direct feedback on the product, experience or level of service they have received, in confidence. This information can give you valuable insight into areas of improvement for your business.

So what are our tips for successfully integrating live chat into your business?

1.) Make sure you have at least one operator available throughout the working day. If your live chat is more offline than online, it will have a negative influence.

2.) Make sure that your chat agents have enough knowledge to answer customers’ queries. Equip them with sales skills – it will boost your conversion rates and increase sales.

3.) Play the human card – the whole point of having live chat is to humanize the customer’s online experience.

4.) Learn from your customers – analyze and track the most common issues which they face and adapt your business plan as necessary.

By offering instant, customized information to visitors, live chat can shorten the sales process and increase average order amounts. Plus, personal communication creates customer engagement and loyalty – if responded to in a professional and prompt manner; your customers will keep on coming back.

Topics: Marketing Strategy, Customer Service, Live Support, Live Chat

Tim Nichols

Written by Tim Nichols

Tim Nichols is a founding partner at ExactDrive, a digital media buying agency with white label, reseller and managed service options available. ExactDrive plans, manages, and optimizes online advertising campaigns with the objective of delivering measurable value and empowering clients to find precisely targeted audiences. ExactDrive has offices in Minneapolis, MN, Milwaukee, WI and SouthWest Florida.

Tim Nichols is also a contributing author on Forbes.com.

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