CFI study: retail consumers now expect online chat

ANN ARBOR—A new retail report, based on a survey conducted by the Ann Arbor-based customer experience analytics firm CFI Group and the Pennsylvania-based e-commerce consultant Radial, shows that today’s shoppers expect easy and immediate chat assistance online, as well as and flexible delivery options that fit into their schedules.

Live online chat during an online purchase has become ubiquitous. In fact, 25 percent of online retail customers reported they had used chat at least three separate times when placing an online order over the past 12 months, and 43 percent are more likely to purchase from a retailer when that retailer provides a live chat option.

Retailers must be careful, though. Solutions that attempt to provide chatbots instead of professional agents can backfire and cause customer frustration. The report shows that customers who use chat and have some or all of that interaction with a chatbot are 8 percent less satisfied, 4 percent less loyal, and 3 percent less likely to recommend the retailer compared to the average customer who contacts retail customer service.

“To provide the service levels consumers have come to expect, retailers must think holistically across support channels and avoid halfway measures such as chatbots without access to live agents,” said Ricardo Layun, vice president for customer care services at Radial.

Also growing in popularity are in-store pickup and ship to store, both of which provide greater flexibility for the customer. Of the online buyers surveyed, 61 percent said they had opted for in-store pickup at least once over the past 12 months, and 27 percent had used the ship to store option for an online order at least three times over the past 12 months.

However, retailers must do more than simply offer in-store pickup and ship to store as options. According to the report, when consumers contact customer service about an order, they expect the agent to have access to their full account history with the retailer for all in-store pickup (54 percent) and ship to store (39 percent) orders.

Click here to download the report, or visit to find other retail research conducted by Radial and CFI Group.

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