UK shoppers switch on to 'chat' services but not all brands are ready

Shop Direct’s deep dive into artificial intelligence and services like online chat looks to be a wise move given the results of a study that shows UK shoppers are very chat-focused and are becoming more used to chatbots.

UK shoppers are increasingly happy to chat with stores and brands online

The study, from Eptica, shows 72% of consumers agreeing that a good chat experience will boost their brand/store loyalty, although it’s clear that stores and labels are still falling down in this area. How so? Only 15% of consumers say they’re always happy with the chat service they get and only 16% feel the service is personalised enough.

But on the upside, 65% are happier to use chat now than they were five years ago, although ongoing problems include waiting in queues (69%), agents that can’t get to the information they need (60%), and having to repeat themselves multiple times (54%).

That said, 68% of people seem to prefer chat to other options such as a phone call, social media communication or an email as it’s faster than most of these. Eptica’s tests showed it took a little over two minutes on average for query responses via chat with 82% of replies answering the relevant questions successfully.

But what type of chat works best for shoppers? Most consumers (77%) still want to talk to human beings rather than chatbots for complex issues but 29% are happy to interact with AI if the answers they need are quite basic.

Eptica spoke to 1,000 consumers for the study but also conducted research into UK brand chat use. Interestingly, while 49% of the companies it surveyed said they offer chat, the company was able to use it with only 22% of the brands’ websites when it conducted the research.

The company said that apart from those who don’t offer chat being under pressure to add it, those who already do have a service need to move beyond early stage chat functionality to make it more sophisticated and to make better use of AI.

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