Being there for your customers when they need you most is key. This is why more and more businesses are investing in live chat as a way to connect with customers in the digital world. That said, not all live chat software is created equal. 

You want to offer your customers a convenient way of reaching you while they shop—but not at the expense of real one-to-one communication. Chatbots often feel robotic—because that’s what they are—robots. Take a closer look at eCommerce live chat to discover how it will improve customer communication and make a difference in your bottom line. 

What’s the difference between website chat and live chat?

Website chat and live chat can be used interchangeably. In either case, it refers to the software you use to chat with customers.

A website visitor can use chat to interact with your customer service representatives. You can also set up eCommerce chatbot customer service for more basic requests. But most people will want to talk to real people for more complicated requests, so it’s best to have a live chat solution as well as a chatbot if possible.

two people checking out an ecommerce website

Why Invest in Live Chat

Part of using live chat for small businesses is understanding the trends surrounding it—following some best practices will help maximize the customer experience and ensure customer satisfaction.

Customers expect it

To start, every website visitor expects to find live chat customer support software when they visit your website. If you do not have webchat, they will be disappointed, and this can hurt their experience. It can even frustrate customers when they can’t get the answers they want.

There is a clear preference for live chat, especially when compared to phone, email, and social media support. One study found that 41% of customers prefer live chat over all other methods. 

Another important trend to take note of is that customers like chatbots, but only in certain situations. Your website visitor will appreciate the fact that bots give instant responses and are available 24/7. But they mostly only want to interact with chatbots for quick questions. For anything beyond an FAQ, most customers want to talk to a human support agent: 70% of customers prefer human interactions over chatbots. 

Customers are fine waiting for support as long as it is high-quality

The common assumption is that customers prefer their support to be as fast as possible. While this is usually true, research shows that customers are willing to wait if they get high-quality support and their issue is resolved. Specifically, 95% of customers place more value on the quality of support than on its speed.

Keep this in mind when creating the guidelines for your agents to provide chat support via your live chat apps.

Chats can be personalized 

Every part of the customer journey is now more personalized than it used to be. This includes live chat on websites. For example, support agents will refer to clients by name and reference past purchases while helping website visitors. 

person checking out and buying on an ecommerce website

Why do customers like website chat?

As mentioned, research from Forrester found that customer support is the most common reason clients use live website chat. There are various scenarios in which having a live chat feature can come in handy, though.

Some examples of customer service use cases for your live chat app include: 

  • Checking store hours
  • Checking product availability
  • Finding similar products
  • Tracking orders
  • Getting information on returns and exchanges
  • Troubleshooting issues with the product

You could even let visitors use live chat for:

  • Making purchases
  • Making a product demo appointment
  • Scheduling a sales call or video call
  • Joining a newsletter

What features to look for in a website chat software

There are plenty of live chat software options available, so keep the following features in mind to find the best one for your needs.

Integration with your programs and software

If there are specific platforms or software you already use for your website, make sure that your chosen live chat software integrates with them. For example, if you use Shopify, confirm that your live chat solution works with it. If you use WooCommerce, check for that.

The same is true for your other communications platforms, customer management programs, and anything else you need to link. If the tools you use don’t work together, they might be slowing you down more than they’re helping you.

Detailed reports

Your chosen webchat should give you detailed reports with data to help you evaluate your customer service. This is crucial, as you can’t improve unless you know there is an issue. The reports can also help you track growth. Some programs generate their own reports, while others integrate with Google Analytics. Either option is good; you just want to ensure you have the live chat tools necessary to analyze your chat conversations and customer data. 

Ideally, you will also be able to get data from pre-chat surveys. In addition to pre-chat surveys, some live chat apps also support post-chat surveys to gauge the customer experience. 

You also want to be able to view the chat history. This lets you confirm your sales team or customer support team is doing a good job. 


As mentioned earlier, you should assume that a large portion of your website visitors will be on their smartphones or tablets when using your webchat. As such, your chosen platform must be mobile-friendly.

Podium takes this to the next level by letting you move your webchat conversations to text messages.

Customization and branding

The best live chat software will let you customize it to some extent. At the very least, you want to be able to match your brand imagery and colors.

Auto Responders

Make sure that your chosen platform has an automated response feature. This may come in the form of a chatbot. This feature will let your chat perform basic functions and gather leads even if your agents aren’t online. This is essential for a 24/7 webchat.

Different live chat software will call this feature by different names like canned responses or smart responses. It just means that your live chat software can answer FAQs such as questions about business hours.


Incorporating webchat on your website will help create a seamless customer experience. Customers strongly prefer customer support over live chat compared to other methods, such as over email or the phone. Choosing the right webchat software will give you the features you need, from reports to integrations to automated responses outside of business hours.

Isaiah Rendorio
Isaiah Rendorio Product Marketing Manager, Campaigns

Isaiah Rendorio is the Product Marketing Manager for Podium Campaigns—helping local businesses tap into the power of SMS marketing to strengthen customer relationships, increase customer lifetime value, and drive more revenue.

Adapt the way you do business. Press send.