Drive More E-commerce Sales with Live Chat Without Being Trapped at Your Desk

If you’re running a small e-commerce operation, you know how important it is to turn every visitor into a repeat customer. In the brick and mortar world, you’d accomplish that in large part through personal touches that make every visitor feel like a VIP: a greeting at the door, real-time expert opinions on style and fit, and so on.

You can deliver similar personal touches online by using a real-time communication tool like live chat. According to MarTech, 51% of customers are more likely to purchase from a site that offers live chat, and almost half saying they’re more likely to return to a website with a live chat option.

But if you’re running a small business, you’re probably not going to be able to staff a chat channel for more than a few hours per week. Is that enough to make a difference?

Fortunately, the answer is yes, as long as you choose those few hours carefully and use them wisely. Adding live chat doesn’t have to mean opening the floodgates. Here are 4 ways you can target your efforts.

1. Staff your peak traffic windows

Just as a brick-and-mortar store would bring in extra sales clerks for weekends and holidays, you want to be available on chat when your online store is busiest. You can get a detailed look at your traffic patterns by adding Google Analytics to your store website; most e-commerce platforms, including Shopify, also come with some built-in analytics tools that will give you a good overview of the peaks and valleys.

When you’re ready to start chatting, choose a 1-2 hour shift during one of your peak traffic times. Be sure to pay attention to how many chats you receive, and how many of those are productive (did you provide useful information that moved a visitor closer to purchase?) Over the course of a month or two, experiment with chatting during different high-traffic windows. Eventually, you’ll hone in on a few prime times to be available on chat.

From there, you can make your chat shifts even more effective by coordinating them with your other marketing activities. For example, if you’re sending a customer email newsletter that you expect to drive significant traffic to your website, plan to hop on chat as soon as you hit “Send”. Customers who click on your email have already demonstrated an interest in making a purchase, so answering their questions on chat is definitely a good use of your time!

2. Control who sees your chatbox

Your live chat software should give you significant control over when and how the “click to chat” button and chat window are displayed on your website. Make sure you can show and hide the chat option, and send automated greetings, based on criteria like which page a visitor visits, the time they’ve spent browsing, and their location (based on IP address). If you can’t accomplish this with your current tool, look into switching software providers; targeting capabilities will be critical to your success as a small team.

Start by hiding the chat option everywhere on your site, and then adjust your rules and settings to display it strategically. For example, you might want to:

Show the chat option only at important moments in the purchase flow, e.g., when a visitor is viewing their shopping cart

Show the chat option only on pages that feature new products or bestsellers

Expand the chat window and send a brief greeting 20-30 seconds after a new visitor lands on your site

Only show the chat option to visitors referred from email promotions, digital ads, or other marketing campaigns

Only show the chat options to visitors in certain geographies; for example, if your website is in English, focus on engaging visitors in English-speaking regions

You can try any of the targeting strategies above, together or in isolation, or come up with your own rules. The key is to make sure you’re chatting primarily with visitors who are genuinely interested in making a  and engaging them at the moments when they need more information or a friendly nudge to close the sale.

Build stronger relationships with Shopify Ping

Shopify Ping connects to the messaging apps you already use to bring all your conversations into a single mobile location, making it easier to respond to questions and build relationships with customers—even when you’re on the go.

3. Emphasize quality over quantity

As a small business owner, it’s not just your time that’s in short supply. Your mental energy is a precious resource, too. Nothing will drain your brain faster than trying to juggle a dozen chat conversations at the same time, so don’t go there! You’ll serve your business better by providing outstanding service to one visitor (and closing that one sale) than by firing off one-word responses to twelve.

To avoid getting overwhelmed, configure your chat software to automatically hide your chatbox once you hit a certain number of simultaneous conversations; our team caps at five per person. And never hesitate to hide chat manually if you encounter an extra-demanding visitor, need time to research a product or order, or just feel like you could use a break.

You can also use a pre-chat survey to make sure you’re prioritizing quality conversations. By requiring visitors to provide basic details (such as their name, contact information, company and role, and/or a summary of their question) before they start a chat, you’ll filter out some folks who aren’t seriously interested in your products. You’ll also be better prepared to offer quick responses and relevant suggestions once the chat begins.


4. Track feedback to improve your store

It only takes a few hours a week on chat to develop a new perspective on how your website visitors think and feel about your brand, what their needs are, and what confuses, frustrates, and delights them. If you use that perspective to improve your storefront and products, you’ll likely see an uptick in purchases. You’ll also reduce the number of basic inquiries that you receive from visitors, leaving more time in your chat shifts to focus on tricky questions and high-touch sales.

Of course, distilling dozens of chat exchanges into a few actionable improvement steps can be a little daunting. If you’re not sure where to start or what to focus on, try any of the following suggestions:


Do your visitors consistently describe your products in terms that are different from those used on your website? For example, maybe you have a product category called “window dressings”, but every visitor you’ve chatted with has used the term “curtains”. If you’re noticing a terminology disconnect, try updating your website copy to make it easier for visitors to find what they’re looking for.

Layout and navigation: Have you chatted with multiple visitors who seem lost or disoriented on your site? Maybe they’re not sure how to get back to your homepage, or they’re completely overlooking a navigation menu. If so, it might be worth experimenting with some changes to your site or even hiring a professional designer to do a quick review and suggest some updates.

Product FAQs

If you’ve got the same questions about a particular product from multiple visitors on chat, consider adding some information to the product landing page. Clarifying “purchase-critical” questions—those that relate to safety, fit, or compatibility, for example—can have an especially big impact on sales.

Requests and suggestions

Following up on every off-the-wall product or feature request could very well drive you crazy, but if your visitors are constantly asking for more color options or faster shipping, it’s worth your while to see what you can do. Tracking requests as they come in will help you make an objective judgment about what to pursue and when—use tags in your chat transcript archive, or a simple spreadsheet, to build a list and assign priority rankings.

From conversation to conversion

For a small e-commerce team looking to maximize conversions and encourage repeat purchases, live chat can be an incredibly powerful tool. If you’ve been nervous about adding a chatbox to your site in the past, give these suggestions a try. It only takes a little planning and strategy to feel totally in control and start closing more sales.

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