Speaking With the Natives: Using Live Chat to Humanize Online Sales for Every Generation

Industry Guides

Just about everyone nowadays uses the internet, no matter what age they are. Look around next time you’re in a coffee shop or an airport: everyone is online, regardless of their demographic.

In recent years, mobile usage and social media have become just as ubiquitous as the internet itself. Mobile devices absolutely transcend generational divides. As of 2013, according to Digital Buzz Blog:

• 91% of all people on earth have a mobile phone
• 56% of people own a smartphone
• 50% of mobile phone users use their mobile devices as their primary internet source
• 72% of tablet owners purchase something online from their tablets each week

If your company sells products or provides customer service online, those numbers speak volumes. They will (or at least should) influence the ways you choose to reach out to your customers.

There are differences, of course: for example, older people are less likely to have a smartphone, but highly likely to use a tablet. Perhaps the largest difference is the fault line between those who can’t remember a pre-digital world and those who can. Or to put it in the words of education researcher Marc Prensky, the “digital natives” and the “digital immigrants.”

Digital natives, because they have grown up with the internet and they take it for granted, also tend to be “digital firsts,” meaning that their preference is to transact business online unless it’s impossible to do so. They’ll do the easy stuff, of course: downloading music, booking flights, or buying books. But they’ll also carry out complex transactions such as buying insurance or renewing their drivers’ licenses online.

By contrast, digital immigrants will choose between digital and analog channels depending on the complexity of the task. For some types of transactions, they prefer to go online, but for others, they’d rather visit a brick-and-mortar branch or call a service representative at a call center. They are digital, but they are not necessarily “digital first.”

Luckily, live chat can help you serve the needs of both groups. With WebsiteAlive’s AliveChat, you can communicate optimally with all types of people, whether the internet is their default or something they’ve picked up as an adult.

Native speakers

Digital-first consumers—the natives—have grown up with the idea that they can research and buy any product online, at any time, with any device, without any need for human interaction. That’s good news for retailers and service providers, since it’s usually less expensive to sell online than to transact in a brick-and-mortar facility. It’s easier for customers, too.

But sometimes this system breaks down when digital natives are trying to buy something complex, like a new car or a trip to Prague. In these cases, a one-to-one interaction with a human being can help seal the deal—but that interaction often isn’t available online. Digital-first consumers don’t like to wait in stores and often shy away from call centers, so if they get frustrated, they might just abandon the transaction. In fact, 45 percent of all people visiting a website will abandon the process if they’re not connected with the brand immediately. Sellers can lose business simply because they’re not offering the right channel for communication.

If you think about this, it makes sense. If someone walked into your office, store, or dealership, would you make them call a phone number for service? Would you hand them a clipboard and require them to fill out a form? No! You’d actually talk with them.

That’s why you need to humanize your website. With online chat, you can answer questions quickly and easily and lock down sales. You can even use proactive chat to make a chat window appear if a site visitor hesitates for too long, catching them at the exact moment that they need help. Live chat gives you a way to speak one-to-one with a group of consumers—even the digital-first consumers who are hard to speak with in any other way.

Live chat can also be augmented by other one-to-one communication services, such as click-to-call (which, demographically speaking, is often more popular with older “digital immigrants”) and WebsiteAlive’s innovative AliveSecure service, which allows retailers to accept payment securely within a chat window. This streamlines the purchasing process, increases customer satisfaction, and dramatically decreases the chances of shopping cart abandonment.


What happens when older, more traditional customers want to buy something like a new car or a vacation? They might think, “It seems very convenient to do this online, but what if I get stuck? What if I need advice? Maybe I should visit a broker.” That’s where live chat comes in: it gives them access to a real human being in a format they’re comfortable with. They can get guidance on product selection and make a purchase right in the chat window. And once they have one good experience, they’re likely to go that route again. Again, it’s good news for sellers, since live engagement can help migrate customers to the more cost-effective online channel.

Across all demographic lines, industry research indicates that live chat creates a 16 percent increase in online business, a 30 percent increase in online shopping cart revenue, and a 12 percent reduction in support costs associated with telephone-assistance overhead. In short, it vastly reduces shopping cart abandonment, which is essential no matter which customers you’re trying to reach.

All of us, regardless of age, gender, location, or online experience, may need help making a purchase at some point. Digital natives may be completely at home online, but even they won’t necessarily have all the information they need to make a buying decision. Digital immigrants may be comfortable online, but they’ll still think about using other channels if the digital experience seems too difficult. In both cases, consumers need the helping hand that online chat can provide.

That’s why live chat is mission-critical for anyone selling a product or service online. It gives sellers a way to give every single site visitor the level of service they want and need.

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