How Web Chat Helps Prevent Shopping-Cart Abandonment

By Matt Rocco

It seems to happen for no apparent reason, and it appears that there’s no way to prevent it – or stop it once it’s started. Any retail business with an online shopping website fears it, yet very few know how to deal with it. What is it? Shopping-cart abandonment – when a customer buying from a retail website fills their cart with items to purchase but never completes the transaction. While some revisit the site to purchase items later, the majority never returns.

The scale of this issue can be fully realized simply by the sheer numbers and a little imagination. According to a recent Listrak marketing article, the rate of cart abandonment rose 71 to 74 percent during the first six months of 2011. Internet World Stats determined that over two billion are people using the Internet worldwide. If, according to recent recordings, nearly three-fourths of the users currently shopping don’t follow through with their purchases, the amount of potential revenue never earned is staggering.

Shopping-cart abandonment is one of the most important metrics for businesses to maintain, second only to conversion. Advertising and maintaining a website becomes practically pointless if the site itself is ineffective in generating revenue. This loss of business can be halted and reversed, but the reasons why it happens must be brought to light first.

Reasons for Abandoned Shopping Carts: Online shopping seems simple enough, and it’s often more convenient than driving to the nearest retail store. But just as in a physical retail store, problems arise for customers that result in leaving the business without making a transaction. Customers on an e-commerce site typically expect to find an indicator that the site is credible (such as an SSL certificate). Even if the website is credible, customers will exit if they can’t successfully navigate the pages or the links don’t take them to the pages they expected. Sometimes shoppers leave due to high or unexpected shipping costs that haven’t been clearly stated during the shopping process.

Most online shoppers want to know how much they’re paying while they are still shopping, not when they check out. Some patrons that leave a site without making a transaction typically may have read a negative customer review before they proceeded to the checkout, and others decide to comparison-shop on competitors’ websites. Questions that cannot be answered by “FAQ” pages can also result in visitors exiting the site. This problem, along with most of the others, can be alleviated by online Web chat – something that 33 percent of shoppers look for when making a purchase, according to a study conducted by OneupWeb.

The Benefits of Web Chat: Businesses and their clients alike can greatly profit from a Web chat experience. When a retail website provides chat options, customer service ratings tend to go up. Studies show that Generations X and Y prefer chat as a method of communicating with the companies they purchase from. A Web chat is essentially like being assisted by a sales associate at a retail store. Strangely enough, Web chat almost seems to benefit the business more than it does the paying customer.

Not only do Web chat services improve sales and lower operational costs, they’re also one of the most valuable ways for a modern firm to learn about its practices. Chat conversations can supply an unbiased look into a company, potentially leading to changes in product development, marketing, IT issues, and general business-related actions. Information obtained from chats can even serve to adjust prices, promotions, and company policy.

Two Types of Chat: Web chat can be broken down into two basic categories: live chat and proactive chat. Live Web chat is a relatively simple tool to use, where the visitor only needs to click a link to begin the process – no downloads or plug-ins required. Live chat is convenient because the customer can take a break from the pop-up window to find information or follow an operator’s troubleshooting instructions.

Proactive (or “rules board invite”) chat is a program that automatically opens up when certain online customer behavior patterns are followed or when certain pages fail to load. The settings for inviting customers to chat are easily customizable and interchangeable. Customers that are nervous or unfamiliar with a website often benefit greatly from this software, especially if they’re nervous to initiate a chat with an associate or don’t know how to find the information on their own.

Implementation Options: One of the greatest obstacles to a company’s establishment of a Web chat option is the method in which they implement the service. Typically, these two basic options are 1) the purchase, installation, and implementation of the Web chat software to operators within the company itself, and 2) outsourcing to a business that specializes in chat services. Each method has different components that benefit different types and sizes of companies. Even if the description of a Web chat type seems to fit a certain company, either approach can be put to use to fit a company based on their unique needs.

Plenty of websites offer easy-to-install chat software that can be put to use immediately. Some websites don’t even require a download to utilize the software. All that is necessary is creating an account on the Web chat company’s site. The software is often tested and updated by the company providing it, making the process much simpler than creating and customizing the software internally. These programs include everything needed to begin using a Web chat option except the employees to maintain the chat program. However, despite its simple installation, a few issues can come up. The chat programs may require the webmaster, as well as visitors to the site, to have certain software and special firewall settings in place in order to allow the chat window to appear.

Chat Outsourcing: Using the services of a company with extensive knowledge of Web chat often results in less overall work and time for a business. Representatives with an outsourced firm are highly specialized, which means they can likely handle many more simultaneous chat conversations – often sustaining up to ten at a time – than a beginner within the company. In addition, an outside company’s focus is on providing superior chat services and customer service, while an internal employee may have an alternate agenda or other tasks to distract their attention.

There are many outsourced companies with an emphasis on first-rate Web chat experiences, and they are surprisingly simple to find. These companies have departments that conduct chat conversations with an emphasis on efficiency, cost-effectiveness, productivity, and gaining customer loyalty and satisfaction. They work closely with their clients to determine software metric needs as well as the company’s overall goals. The most credible companies are ATA-SRO accredited, which means that they strictly follow call compliancy measures in order to improve a customer’s experience while continuing to successfully close sales. These firms also serve to raise sales numbers without incurring costs, something which an internal business without Web chat services would have difficulty accomplishing.  

Conclusion: Online shopping-cart abandonment is an important issue that should not be overlooked. It can cost companies thousands of dollars in potential revenue and bad sales metrics. Luckily, there are varieties of solutions that can help companies to improve and grow their online revenue. Either of the two options – implementing Web chat software internally or hiring a company to handle the execution and operation of software and employees – can alleviate situations that provoke customers to leave a site without making a purchase. Once shopping-cart abandonment has been minimized, clients can stop being limited by a loss of online revenue and move on to accomplishing goals to expand and improve their company.

Matt Rocco is president and CEO of Etech Global Services. Etech Global Services is a provider of intelligent sales and service solutions utilizing inbound and outbound voice and Web chat. To learn more, email

[From Connection Magazine May 2012]

Leave a Reply