I was born in Cork in the 80’s so by the early nineties it was time to head to the city with the lads and start buying clothes to wear to the annual underage disco. At that time Levis were in their heyday, 501 red tabs were the ones to be seen in, and the destination shop in Cork City was, and still is, The Denim Store on Cook Street. When you mention The Denim Store to people of my generation the first reaction is usually `OMG, remember that guy in there, the sales guy`. The Denim Store Guy was a sales person on top of his game.
Most shops you can go in to have a browse around, view the produce and leave at your leisure without talking to a single person. A passive sales environment - in, browse, buy / don't buy and out. Not, in The Denim Store, oh no!. When you walked into this shop you were met with a sales force to be reckoned with. You had to go in there with a fair intention that you wanted to purchase something, as not only did you get what you wanted, but you more than likely came out with something you needed, that you didn't know you needed until you entered the shop. A sales person in the groove!
Websites, up to relatively recently, have been very similar to that passive sales environment I referred to above. Users logon, browse around, contact / don’t contact and leave without dealing with a single person. As a punter, this has been a large part of the success of the internet being able to browse around completely anonymously at your leisure - engage when you want to engage. For website owners however this has been very frustrating as we could only analyse data retrospectively to make decisions, see what the user did during the visit and infer as to how we could make the website better at its job. A big move to solve this was the development of the `Real Time` feature in Google Analytics - this gave you more real time info but always struck me as similar looking through a two-way mirror at your client but not being able to say anything to them. Working with website data like this was quite an inefficient process - build, analyse traffic, tweak, analyse, tweak etc - there was no way for website owners to interact with the users while they were visiting their site. There was no way to become the online Denim Store Guy … until now!
As you browse around the internet this year, one really noticeable development is the prevalence of the online live chat option on every second or third website you visit. This is partly due to the fact that there are so many vendors out there offering solutions, they are so easy to integrate with the technology becoming very reliable. A good online chat solution will notify you when a user enters the website, shows you what the user is looking at and allows you to interact with them via live chat to see if you can offer a helping hand in anyway. Some solutions have developed beyond the instant messaging method to offering a live video chat channel also. These systems offer a range of features including automated welcome messages, trigger pages, ticketing systems if agents are offline etc. They really do add a new level of interactivity to even the simplest of websites.
So, after years of hoping people will like your website and make contact, break out the inner Denim Store Guy in you and make it happen.