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Video Chat Best Practices for Ecommerce

Most customer support inquiries are handled through phone, email, or live text chat. But as we'll demonstrate in this article, live video chat can fill a helpful gap in any ecommerce customer service experience. Discover how to implement live video chat on your ecommerce site, along with best practices.
Brittany Rycroft

Understatement of the century (so far): The world as we know it changed over the last couple of years thanks to a particular pandemic that shall remain nameless. 

One of the biggest shifts of course, was a move from working in an office to working from home. Distributed teams, Zoom meetings, hybrid workplaces, and ‘work from anywhere’ mandates have become a new normal we’re all still navigating. 

And while 'Zoom fatigue' is a real thing, we’ve got to give credit where it’s due: Being forced apart has forced us humans to find different ways to stay connected, and video chat is one of the biggest ways that’s happened.

Suddenly people of all ages and technical skill levels are familiar with how to initiate a live video chat, whether through a video conferencing platform like Zoom, productivity tool like Microsoft Teams, their phone, or a social media channel like Facebook Messenger or Google Hangouts. 

This increased comfort with video chatting spells interesting possibilities for ecommerce brands. Specifically when it comes to customer service, at both the pre- and post-purchase stages.

In this article, we’ll break down where live video chat can play a role in supporting customers on their buyer journey, and video chat best practices for offering live video chat on any ecommerce store. 

What is video chat technology?  

First, the fundamentals. Video chat technology is any software or app that lets you connect two or more people over video with two-way communication. 

That two-way communication piece is important. Livestreaming apps are different than live video chat apps, because live stream video conferencing typically only allow for one-way communication, or at best, limited two-way interactivity. With live streaming, there is generally a host speaking to an audience. The viewers may be able to ask questions in chat, or interact with each other in chat, but it’s unusual that they will actually appear on screen and speak directly to the presenter or host. 

In contrast, video chat is about facilitating a conversation between a small group of people, often as little as two. 

Both sides of the video chat should have access to a relatively similar set of abilities within a call, such as turning their video on or off, and muting or unmuting themselves to speak.

Another nuance: Live streaming usually involves broadcasting to a larger audience. It’s a bit fuzzy, because technically a live video chat could have 20 people in it, just as a live stream could be broadcast to just 20 people.

But in general, a video chat app is associated with a more intimate conversation, whereas live streaming services are largely tied to one person, or a small group of people, broadcasting to a much larger audience.

Why choose video chat for customer service?

Most ecommerce customer service is handled through email, live chat, or phone. But all of these methods offer some level of friction. 

With email, customers have to wait for a customer service agent to get back to them, often taking hours or days. Their inquiry may be picked up by multiple associates, causing a fragmented and sometimes frustrating experience. 

Communication Type Benefits Challenges
Email Shoppers can interact with customer service on their own time / convenience Responses can take hours Possible fractured experience / handoff between associates
Live Text Chat Ability to have back and forth conversation while protecting privacy Hard to share visual feedback (attachments may or may not be supported) Can take awhile to complete a transaction
Phone Can speak faster than type No visual support

Video chat apps for customer service offer a lot of benefits, including unique use cases that can’t be solved by any other method of communication. Here are some of the core benefits of having video chat for customer service on any ecommerce site:

  1. Shoppers and associates can have a back and forth social conversation speaking like humans do, as opposed to the time it can take to type something, similar to a phone call. 
  2. Shoppers can provide visual feedback in real time, for example by showing a damaged item and requesting a refund.
  3. Video chat also allows for pre-purchase support. Customers can show off a physical space they’re looking for a piece of furniture for, or show their skin type when tracking down a skincare regime. Have an audio component? Shoppers can hear and see a product on a live video chat. 
  4. Shoppers and associates can build a human bond and trusted connection within a single call, much like a sales associate in a store can with a customer.
  5. Associates can show products to customers on a call through product and screen sharing, provide a demo, or walk a shopper through a retail store. 

Of course, live video chat isn’t for everyone. And that’s okay! Sometimes a shopper may not want to be on camera (you can offer them the option to turn theirs off), or they may not be in a situation where they can talk over video (for example, a public place or their office). 

But not having a video call option for customer service is a missed opportunity to not only speed up the time to a helpful conclusion for any issues a shopper is having, but to enable more purchases and bigger basket sizes, among other retail and ecommerce KPIs

What are the do’s and don’ts of video calling

If you’re going to offer video chat support for ecommerce customers, your team is going to need some guidance, no matter how familiar they are with video meeting their friends and family. Check out our ebook How to Build a Live Shopping Experience to get a helpful guide to hiring live video support staff, including a job description for live video co-shoppers and a  ‘Go Live’ checklist they can reference before answering calls.

In the meantime, here are a few key do’s and don’ts for your live shopping associates to follow before jumping on a call. 

DO prepare your video chat setup

There are multiple models for hosting live video chats, including in a retail store, through a studio, via a customer service center, or even from home. Regardless of where video chat calls are hosted from, having a professional setup can make all the difference in building trust with customers. Consider investing in a ring light, phone or tablet stand, and backdrop. Look for a space with minimal environmental noise and have all products close by that a customer may want more information about.

DON’T try answering video chats without proper wifi

The look and feel of a live video call setup is one thing. The connectivity and technical performance of a call will make all the difference when it comes to converting shoppers. Having proper wifi is essential to providing optimal performance during a video chat. If required, think about investing in wifi extenders to ensure full coverage no matter where an associate is within a retail location. 

DO look in the mirror

It’s okay to be vain when getting ready for a closeup. Live video chat team members should always step in front of a mirror before they get close to a camera. Check for stains or tears on clothing, keep an eye out for smudged makeup or trapped food in teeth, and spit out any gum or mints (virtual shoppers can’t smell your breath anyway). The idea is to look presentable and polished, just as a shopping associate does in store. 

DON’T forget to do a set check

If the set looks right and someone’s appearance looks right, the last step is to bring these two elements together. Before starting to answer live video chats, your video associates should turn on their camera and ensure both their audio and video is working as expected. The last thing anyone wants is to get on a live call only to realize the live shopping associate’s phone is paired to a pair of headphones that are effectively muting their sound. 

DO set devices to ‘do not disturb’

This is especially important for live shopping associates using their personal devices to answer video chats. Those group texts can be super distracting and can pile on fast. When it’s time to work, think of turning off a phone’s social functions as the equivalent of leaving a phone in a locker while on the floor. Most retail sales associates don’t have their phone during a typical shift; video chat call shifts should be treated similarly. 

DON’T be afraid to sell during a video chat

If a shopper is showing interest in a product, the sales associate’s first job is definitely to provide whatever information they need to help convert a shopper on that product. But video chat is an opportunity to have a conversation and build a relationship, one that can net bigger basket sizes through cross-sells and upsells. Video chat associates should be trained on key products to focus on, promotions and offers, and effective strategies to sell more, including recommendations for items that are often bought together.  

How to choose a video chat platform for ecommerce

Let’s be real about one thing: Not all video chat platforms are created equal for ecommerce. Many live text chat brands will also offer a video chat option, which can have its place, particularly for brands in the service industry. Banks, real estate, and car dealers are actually all early adopters of video chat because they recognize how it helps them connect with customers in a more personable way than over the phone or email - and without the inconvenience of needing to pay a visit to a physical location.

Until recently, this was enough. Ecommerce brands that introduced live video chat support were simply offering a new way of providing support at either the pre- or post-purchase stage. But now, live shopping within a video chat is actually possible. 

Why does this matter? Two words: Cart abandonment. Even if a shopper was able to get onto a video chat with a sales associate, it was up to the customer to add the items they were viewing or asking questions about to their bag, and to check out. 

But with in-chat video commerce, a sales associate can actually show specific product pages to a customer, add products to their basket, and help them get started with the checkout process, kind of like having a sales associate walk a shopper to the till in a retail location. That’s just one of many use cases for offering live video chat on your ecommerce website.

When considering video chat apps for customer support, understanding that platform’s ecommerce function is critical to not just provide support, but conversions. 

Here’s a thought: While most people will reserve live video shopping for customers that are in the decision-making stage, it may also make sense to offer it for regular customer service inquiries. A well-trained customer service associate may be able to turn a return into a new sale, all within a single call.

We’ve built an entire guide to the best live video shopping platforms out there, including solutions for both live stream and one-on-one video chat. 

Naturally, GhostRetail is completely built for ecommerce brands looking to drive more conversions, improve the customer experience, and build deeper relationships that leads to higher LTV. Interested in learning more? Try out our interactive demo, or contact us to book a discovery call. 

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