Live Chat: Australian Retailers Mystery Shopped Online

By Campbell Phillips | 21 Aug 2013

Lauren Freedman, President of The E-Tailing Group reveals insights into a recent mystery shop of prominent Australian retailer’s live chat service, including Bing Lee, Harvey Norman and The Iconic.

With the Online Retailer Conference and eCommerce Expo in full swing, Lauren Freedman, President and Founder of The e-tailing group, took time out to discuss the results of her latest project: a mystery shop of prominent Australian online retailers’ chat services.

While The e-tailing group has been mystery shopping and reporting on US retail businesses for its 16-year history, this is the first time the firm has put together research on the Australian market, which is due to culminate in an inaugural whitepaper, ‘Prioritise Chat for 2014 with Best Practices Guide’, due for release in September.

Freedman had recently completed a week long tour of Australia with her daughter, expressing excitement at the prospect of presenting her wisdom to a crowd of information-hungry local retailers.

“This isn’t the first presentation I’ve given on this scale, but it’s the first time I’ve presented in Australia,” she says. “Today I’ll be discussing some general e-commerce trends, merchandising and best practice information for online retailers. I think the biggest change we’re seeing at the moment is in mobile – in the challenge to provide the best experience for your customers across every device, anywhere. That also really plays into that notion that retail has become very consumer-led.”

Freedman also plans to share some of the insights garnered from the recent mystery shop of Australian retailers, but doesn’t plan on giving away too many figures ahead of the impending whitepaper.

“The whitepaper will reveal what we’ve discovered locally in the live chat space, as well as suggest to retailers what the best practices should be in this area. Locally, we’ve mystery shopped retailers such as Bing Lee, EziBuy, Harvey Norman, Masters Home Improvement, Milan Direct, MobiCity, Roses Only and The Iconic,” Freedman explains.

We may have to wait to see the exact numbers to come out of this survey, Freedman was happy to share her perspective on some general trends to come out of the mystery shop, adding weight to the idea that local retailers still have some way to go in bringing their online service offerings up to speed.

“One of the interesting findings was that some of the retailers weren’t always available when they said they would be,” she says. “That’s one of the things we’ll be discussing in our report – the messaging needs to be consistent and available as often as possible. We also looked at how long the response time is via live chat and how long it takes them to close a chat. On both counts the Australian retailers appear to be a little slower than their US counterparts. In saying that, the general sentiment is that Australian online retail is still trailing the US in general by about five to seven years.”

Freedman acknowledges the hesitancy some retailers may have around providing this form of customer service, however she points out that is has been successfully implemented in many other regions and some retailers are performing well with it in Australia. She also highlights the fact that it isn’t a technology restricted to large enterprises with a lot of money to invest.

“I think live chat is a must for smaller retailers – it’s certainly not restricted to the larger players,” Freedman says. “In fact, by managing live chat within a small team, it’s possible to bring a lot more knowledge and personality to your service offering as an SMB. It’s really about recreating the in-store environment in the online space and there isn’t any better way to do it than with live chat.”

After all, Freedman says, live chat isn’t simply another technology to enhance your website’s look or feel, it’s a truly engaging customer communications tool. As such, retailers that use it correctly can look to reduce returns, increase conversions and even cross-sell and up-sell in order to improve the average order value.

Lauren Freedman will also be sharing highlights from Australia’s first Chat Mystery Shopping findings and suggest best practices to ensure successful deployment in an upcoming webinar, ‘Prioritising Chat to Power Sales and Support in 2014’ sponsored by BoldChat on Thursday, September 12 at 1:00pm.