Any medium-sized (or aspiring medium-sized) multi-channel retailer that does not utilize some basic form of live customer service on its website will not be able to compete on any factor besides price in the near future, whether that fits their intended business model or not. Unless your products are so obviously definitively superior to your competition or you are the only player in your niche, you’re still working from the mindset that your online sales will never amount to much and never compete in importance to any one of your individual brick-and-mortar locations.
To be clear, you don’t need to invest full-boar in a comprehensive live customer care package with custom graphical interface and yadda yadda. But if you haven’t tested a basic version of such a service, you ought to.
Start minimal, go into your web analytics and get a sense of how many people exit your website after, say, 3-5 minutes. If that seems like a reasonable amount of time, hire the appropriate number of dedicated sales people to handle that traffic remotely. If those numbers are too big, figure out how many visitors per month leave your site off of a product page – like, they’ve clicked through to a page with a “Buy Now” button on it. Those are the most likely people to become buyers on your site by virtue of live customer service. Imagine your staff being trained to say things like, “Yes, we can rush it to you for the weekend. Would you like me to set that up for you in your shopping cart?”
Or, “Actually, we do make that in another size. Would you like me to check the availability in our stock?” To further simplify the process – minimize risk, cost, etc. – move over some good sales people from the sales floor of one of your brick-and-mortar retail locations. Somebody wants those extra hours and commissions.
Now that you’ve run a basic test you’ll have to ask, “Was it worth it?” And set some estimates for the value of the service which will be used to guide build-out decisions. I recommend testing for a minimum of 90 days to acquire accurate benchmarks for email capture, sales conversion rates, usage rates, average sales, et cetera.
If you got the thing up and running with only the aid of your existing team and the tech team at your service provider, congratulate yourself momentarily, then confirm that you are indeed tracking sales and attempting to collect customer contact information (email would be a worthwhile minimum conversion goal, “Would you like me to notify you if this product goes on sale at the end of the season? I can notify you by email or text.”). You need to figure out if the program is worth it and to what degree you need to carry the buildout beyond the branded level (read it matches the aesthetic) of your website. This is not all necessary for testing but it’s a good idea to build out the best possible solution that reasonably fits your budget and your needs.
If you need director-level marketing assistance on a project basis, I thank you in advance for reading about me and saving my contact information.