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Tired of marketing tactics that don’t work? Is live chat any different? Can it deliver increased conversions and sales?
Let’s look at some surprising data. Then we’ll cover 20 of the top live chat tools, their analytics and real-time features, and their ease of setup.
Why Use Live Chat Software?
Live chat provides a way to improve engagement and customer experience. It’s been proven to boost leads, conversions, sales, and customer satisfaction.
And for sellers of software it can significantly improve the onboarding process.
- Your visitors can connect with you immediately from any page on your website or in your app.
- By contrast, sending an email or calling takes multiple steps.
- Reducing friction means that your visitor is more likely to talk to you.
Increasing Sales and Conversion Rates
By engaging with you, your customer is more likely to convert, increasing your sales.
- According to Forrester Research, website visitors who engage in live chat are 2.8 times “more likely to convert than those that don’t.”
- Forrester has also found that “half of US online adults will abandon their purchase if they cannot find a quick answer to their question.”
- A study by Bold360 found that buyers who engage in live chat spend 60% more.
Onboarding and Customer Satisfaction
Live chat software is an extension of your customer service program. Research shows that the majority of online shoppers like using live chat and it increases customer satisfaction.
Furthermore, live chat is cost effective, especially when you consider that someone working the live chat desk can help multiple customers simultaneously, while those handling the phones can only assist one person at a time.
It’s also a boon to sales teams, who can search through chat histories for key data.
Live Chat vs. Chatbots: What’s the Difference?
Chatbots provide canned responses, based on keywords in the customer’s query.
For example, if someone writes in, “Hi, how do I return a shirt that doesn’t fit?” the chatbot can respond with a link to your company’s return policy.
Some businesses use chatbots to collect basic information, like name and email, before the live chat begins. Others use chatbots in off-hours when live reps are not available.
Live Chat Software Buyers Guide
Are you ready to take the plunge and include Live Chat software on your website? The best option for you depends on the needs of your business. Here are some things to keep in mind when evaluating tools of interest to you.
First, consider the type of live chat software. There are full-featured options like LiveChat and Intercom. With these platforms you can do things like:
- Quickly scroll through any previous chats a visitor has had with you, so you get a full context
- Allow the user to rate the quality of the chat
- Display social buttons on the chat window so the user can share their chat experience
- Integrate with CRMs and help desk ticketing
Some services enable you to live text with prospects via popular social media messaging channels like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.
And there are hybrid, enterprise-level solutions, like LivePerson, that offer you traditional website live chat, chatting in social channels, and AI (artificial intelligence) conversational “assistants” that can interact with viewers of your display ads.
Features to Look For in Live Chat Solutions
Once you’ve narrowed down the type, you’ll want to consider the features of the app itself:
- How easy is it to set up? Is the tool ready to use out-of-the-box or will it require extensive setup? Are you comfortable with adding the code required to install your chat app? If the app is difficult to set up, can you get assistance from the company?
- Can you customize the UX? Rather than displaying the chat app’s branding, can you replace it with your business’ branding, color scheme, and so on?
- What additional features do you need? Popular features include:
- Mobile apps, so you can chat on the go
- Audience targeting
- Chat tagging
- Support for rich messages (e.g., messages that include emojis, images, and more)
- The ability to switch to voice or video chat directly from the live chat window
- File sharing capabilities
- Help desk functionality including the option for setting up customer support documentation and knowledge bases
- Built-in calendars for setting appointments or offering reservations
- Chat history, so you can make a record of conversations you’ve had with customers
- Does it support the chat volume you need? Some apps limit the number of messages you can send and store with free or less expensive plans. For example, the free Slack plan only allows you to search through the 10,000 most recent messages across all of your channels.
- Does it come with chatbot functionality? Some live chat apps provide chatbot functionality, such as canned responses, but others come with full chatbots. This is helpful for times when you’re not actively monitoring your messages.
Live Chat That Uses Social Media Channels
Some live chat tools enable you to communicate with users in the social messaging channels they prefer.
For example, LivePerson enables you to chat with prospects in Facebook Messenger, Line, Apple Business Chat, and WhatsApp.
Userlike is another service that allows you to connect with prospects in their favorite channels. Using a single dashboard you can chat with users in Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, or Telegram.
Both LivePerson and UserLike also include live chat functionality for your website.
Chat For Online Ads
Last fall Google announced their new “message extensions” for Google Ads (formerly called AdWords). This feature, which can be a boon to small businesses, allows users to tap on a search engine ad and see one or more pre-populated messages offering additional information.
From there, a user can connect with your business and engage in live text messaging.
No special software is required to use Google’s message extensions. Per-click fees apply.
Conversational Chat Within Display Ads
With Google AdLingo, you can now embed conversational “assistants” into your display ads. Some services, like LivePerson, allow you to convert to live chat.
Haven’t heard of conversational display ads? Take a look.
The “bots” used in AdLingo are called “assistants” because they use machine learning and are more sophisticated that traditional chatbots.
You can also create your own AI assistants for AdLingo by using services like:
So far, we’re seeing display ad chat being used primarily at the enterprise scale (think: medium to large-sized businesses).
Many chat apps support third-party integrations to increase the usefulness of both tools. For example, you might integrate your chat app with Salesforce so that you can pull in customer-related information and send out chat history to document conversations you’ve had. (Check out Intercom’s list of integrations for an idea of what is possible.)
Integrations aren’t just for adding functionality to your chat app, however. They can also make it easy for you to add live chat or chatbots to your website.
For example, CMS integrations make it easy for you to allow visitors to contact you if they’re on your WordPress site, while others will enable you to add live chat to your online store hosted by BigCommerce, Volusion, or Shopify.
If a specific app doesn’t offer the integration you need, there’s the option of using Zapier to set up an ad hoc integration. It is a bit more work than using a built-in offering, but don’t let the lack of integration be a dealbreaker for an otherwise perfect solution.
Live chat software doesn’t just facilitate a one-way transfer of information from you to your customers. Rather, you can use live chat to improve your analytics capabilities and gather helpful information about your potential customers.
For example, you can get statistics like:
- Where your visitors are located
- Whether they’ve engaged with you previously via live chat
- If they’ve placed orders before
If you’ve integrated with other tools, you can cross-reference this information to see things like how many of your leads in Salesforce came from live chat or which messages produce the most conversions.
If you’re using Google Analytics, you can add in your live chat data to improve your data set. There are many other analytics options, but Google’s offering is one of the most popular. Many live chat software providers support Google integrations that allow you to keep all of your data in one place.
You can also use your Google Analytics Dashboard to view the data you’ve collected.
Comparison Table: Live Chat Solutions
|Scenario||Needs||Live Chat Match|
|Small business owner who "wears all the hats"||Simplicity, convenience||Social Intents' Live Chat|
|Businesses that want live chat features for customer support and sales.||Easy to set up, live chat agent rating, CRM integration, searchable chat histories||LiveChat
HubSpot Live Chat
|Adding live chat to marketing automation platform.||Single integrated platform.||HubSpot Live Chat which integrates with their marketing automation platform
LiveChat Inc. which can be integrated into Autopilot's marketing automation platform.
|Using live chat on search engine ads||--||Message extensions for Google Ads|
|Using live chat on your business website and in social messaging channels||Ease-of-use, single dashboard||Userlike for small businesses
LivePerson for medium to large-sized businesses
|Businesses that want live chat, social channel chat, and chat within display ads.||Ability to switch from AI-based conversational "assistant" in ad to live chat; ability to track chat conversations with users across multiple channels.||LivePerson|
The 20 Best Live Chat Software Solutions Reviewed
Now that you know what you need to consider when choosing a live chat software option, it’s time to take a look at the apps available to you. In the following sections, we will cover many live chat software options to help you make an informed decision on the best option for your business.
LiveChat offers live chat and help desk software for businesses both small and large. This tool supports over 130 integrations and comes with built-in analytics features (though you can use Google Analytics if desired).
LiveChat offers a robust feature set, but to get access to everything, you’ll find that you need to upgrade to more expensive plans.
Intercom offers live chat apps for sales, marketing, and support that can all be managed from a single platform, which is ideal for larger businesses that separate such functionality when working with customers.
Intercom offers both live chat and chatbots. Intercom is feature-rich (though some users think the widget itself could use a bit of TLC with regards to UX), offers robust integration (including with Google Analytics), and is one of the most popular chat options around.
Prices begin at $87 per month, but early-stage startups can apply for a discount.
Olark live chat offers live chat tools that include automation features to over 12,000 businesses around the world.
Olark’s integrations aren’t as well developed as some other apps, but they do support Google Analytics, WordPress, and other major vendors.
Those who need chat software on a budget would do well to look at Olark; prices begin at just $12 per agent per month, but small businesses or individuals might also find that their free plan is sufficient.
After you install the bot you can simply live chat with customers on the go via your Slack app on your mobile phone. This is potentially a good fit for sole proprietors (who may also serve as the live chat agent) and small businesses with limited staff.
You don’t need Slack in order to use Social Intents though. They offer a web-based dashboard too.
Drift offers live chat and chatbot functionality to both small businesses and large corporations. Drift offers automation options as well, and its integrations support are improving (for example, Drift sends eleven event types to Google Analytics).
Drift offers a free plan, but paid options begin at $50 per month with chat seats starting at $25 per month.
HubSpot Live Chat
Marketing giant HubSpot offers a free live chat tool to complement its HubSpot CRM offering. In addition to its Google Analytics integration, HubSpot Live Chat can be used with other chat apps, e.g., Slack, so that you can reply on the go.
If you’re interested in HubSpot’s CRM, you can’t go wrong with the live chat add-on.
Zendesk Live Chat
Zendesk Chat is a leader in the world of customer service/help desk software, and one of its features is live chat.
Zendesk supports Magento, something that should appeal to online vendors who have built their sites using Magento.
Note that Google Analytics integration is only supported by legacy versions of Zendesk Chat, not the most recent version.
Zendesk Chat offers a free plan, with prices beginning at $14 per agent per month.
SnapEngage is easy to set up and offers a flexible, if somewhat dated looking, user interface.
The app comes with some automation features, but not a lot of integrations, though Google Analytics integration is one of them.
Prices begin at $16 per month with a three-user minimum.
Salesforce Live Agent
Salesforce Live Agent offers real-time chat via an easy-to-use and simple interface. You can integrate with Google Analytics and many other third-party vendors, but Salesforce comes in with robust analytics features already.
The UI is customizable, but we found that it doesn’t launch as quickly as some of its competitors. Pricing information is customized — for specific details, contact Salesforce.
Pure Chat offers 100% live chat for businesses with three or fewer operators. However, free doesn’t mean that it lacks in features — you still get an operator dashboard, customizable widget, and native iOS and Android apps.
Pure Chat also offers a free automated chatbot. Pure Chat doesn’t offer many integrations, but it does work with Google Analytics and Zapier, which allows you to extend your Pure Chat platform.
Bold360 offers a full suite of customer engagement-related apps, including live chat and a powerful chatbot.
The tool supports five integrations, including Google Analytics. However, integrating Bold360 with your website itself appears to be more complex. Although the company offers API integrations and SDKs, it doesn’t provide drop-in libraries.
Prices are available upon request.
ClickDesk is a budget-friendly option that offers more than Live Chat. You’ll get video chat, help desk tools, social integration, apps and plugins, and more.
Google Analytics integration is enabled by default, and paid users get access to integrations.
ClickDesk offers a free plan, and paid plans begin at 14.99 per month.
LiveAgent is a help desk tool that supports a ticketing system, live chat, and call centers. To help you get an overview of everything that happens, LiveAgent comes with reporting. You can also use Google Analytics, if you prefer.
While robust, LiveAgent might come with a bit more than what some would want from a chat app.
Pricing begins at $15 per agent per month, but the company also sells one-time software licenses.
For smaller businesses looking for an entry-level option, you can’t go wrong with Smartsupp with its forever free plan supporting up to three users.
Smartsupp isn’t the most feature-rich option but if you want something simple that works, Smartsupp should fit the bill. It does come with a Google Analytics integration. Paid plans begin at $8 per month per agent.
LivePerson allows you to connect with customers using the digital messaging tools they’re already using, including mobile text messaging, Facebook Messenger, Line, Apple Business Chat, WhatsApp, and more.
LivePerson also comes with AI-powered chatbots to help you scale your support resources. LivePerson is a full-service offering geared toward more established companies. The company will help you figure out which channels are the best for you, as well as which ones can be automated.
Prices are available upon request, though we suspect the cost may be out of reach for individuals and many smaller businesses.
Userlike boasts an easy, five-minute setup process for its chat app. It allows you to message visitors and customers via Facebook Messenger, Telegram, and WhatsApp. You can also chat with customers on your website.
It supports a large number of integrations too.
Userlike offers a free plan, with the paid plans beginning at 29 Euros per month for three users.
Freshchat offers you chat functionality, but their dashboard comes with events timelines, user info, and social profiles so that your agents are fully informed when chatting with customers.
If you need more, Freshchat integrates with many external tools from which you can pull information. Many, including the Google Analytics one, can be included with just a few lines of code included in the snippet that adds the Freshchat widget to your page.
Freshchat is free for up to ten, though paid plans begin at $15 per month per person.
Acquire.io offers a robust chat app designed to help support teams solve customer issues quickly and easily. The live chat feature provides a good entry point, but the tool also comes with profile management, records, and video and voice call functionality if certain conversations need to be escalated.
Acquire.io offers a small number of integrations, including those for Salesforce, Google Analytics, Slack, and more.
Prices begin at $40 per agent per month.
Comm100 bundles multiple tools together: live chat, support ticketing, knowledgebase, chatbots, and social media.
If you’re looking for a tool that does all of these things, look no further. It supports integrations with vendors like Salesforce, Zendesk, Google Analytics, and more.
Comm100 pricing begins at $29 per agent per month.
Zoho’s SalesIQ tool offers you live chat, visitor tracking, and analytics — all accessible from one platform. It also works with Google Analytics, if you prefer.
If you need more, you can integrate with Zoho’s CRM suite, though that isn’t necessary. Zoho doesn’t offer the most intuitive UI from the perspective of the user, unfortunately.
You can use SalesIQ free, but paid plans begin at $17 for three users.
Here are some common questions we get asked about live chat software.
What is the best live chat plugin for WordPress?
The best live chat plugin for WordPress depends on your needs and goals as well as the quality of the plugin and its features. Review our Buyer’s Guide to figure out your needs.
All of the live chat tools we reviewed above include WordPress plugins, except for the following:
- SalesForce Live Chat
Some of the most popular WordPress live chat plugins with high ratings include:
- WP Live Chat Support
- LiveChat for WordPress
- Tido Live Chat
- Live Chat with Facebook Messenger
- Tawk.to Live Chat
Are there live chat tools that incorporate video chat or voice chat?
ClickDesk, Acquire.io, and Intercom are popular live chat tools that incorporate video and voice. They allow participants to join a video or voice call directly from the live chat window.
Live chat functionality is an important part of your customer support, sales, and marketing mix.
Not only does chat help you better engage with your customers, it can significantly increase your sales. When people want information they want it right away. Live chat can meet that expectation.