Evolution of Live Chat White Paper Cover

Increasing the effectiveness of Live Chat in automotive retail

Schematic of car buyer engaging in a live chat

Increasing the effectiveness of Live Chat in automotive retail

The latest white paper from Sophus3 looks at how car brands can achieve even better returns on their investment in Live Chat systems.

Our recent survey of the European ‘Big 5’ markets found that over 80% of car brands now have a Live Chat facility on their website. The drivers for this level of uptake are many. GDPR has made it more difficult to track and capture information about site visitors who are themselves using ad and cookie blockers in ever increasing numbers. ‘Pure players’ like Amazon have raised the bar so that online shoppers expect immediate answers and personalised service. The need to be able to engage immediately and one-to- one with potential customers has never been greater.

But  given that the industry’s products are complex and expensive and that purchase is seldom an impulsive action, the uptake of Live Chat by the car industry is not really surprising. Deploying product specialists to engage with car buyers within their online journey clearly offers a better return on investment for an automotive brand than for a business selling cheaper items or where purchase is driven by convenience or simple price comparison.

The value of such services is most clearly evident in the online data we collect.  The impact of Live Chat on visitor’s subsequent behaviour shows measurable improvements in visitor engagement and outcomes. For example, those who engage in a chat  are three times more likely to download a brochure, search for a dealer or request a test drive.

chat impact on car buyer actions

The demands of automotive retail

Live Chat services are continuing to evolve, particularly within automotive retail which makes additional demands requiring some clever and robust engineering. 


The three main differentiating factors that need to be considered within an automotive context can be summarised as ‘speed’, ‘volume’, and ‘intent’. The average visit to a car brand site is now under three minutes – a small window within which to initiate interaction. The huge audience on these sites presents a further challenge – the number of visitors who are genuinely in market for a car is likely to be, even in the best case scenario, less than one in seventy, at worst as few as one in a thousand. How do you correctly  identify and engage with those users and not alienate other visitors with over eager advances?

Fast and furious: the car buying journey

Enhancing Live Chat services

To handle these challenges, effective automotive Live Chat systems need to be underpinned by strong programmatic intelligence based on a precise understanding of the car buyer’s journey and capable of triggering interaction in real time through algorithms refined through analysis of previous visitors’ behaviour.

Sophus3 is at the forefront of developing this programmatic technology, and additionally we have identified other ‘good practice’ and engineered some unique enhancements for Live Chat systems to perform most effectively in an automotive retail context.

On the operational side, we know that the majority of visitors to car brand sites are now using a cell phone. Our data shows a 59% increase in the number of chats when this functionality is offered to mobile users. Cross device compatibility of chat systems should be a given, but brands need to also think of the specific requirements of this audience.

For example by encouraging agents to reduce the verbosity of conversations so that users needs the fewest possible finger taps. (Thinking further ahead, brands should be planning how these conversations can be conducted with users of ‘zero UI’.)

Engaging with the out-of-hours shopper

Another operational consideration is the value of extending chat services outside of office hours. With the largest number of visits to car brand sites occurring around 21:00 it may even make sense to prioritise service at these times. One brand we work with found that by extending chat services into the evening they saw an uplift of 44% in the number of chats that were initiated.

55% of visits to websites take plance outside of office hours

Here comes the 'chatbot'

Chat text. Questioner. Are you human or are you a robot? Answer. Yes.

Chatbots are now evolving to the point where they can increase the reach and efficiency of Live Chat services, but within a blended framework supporting the work of human agents.

Consumers seem happy to interact with bots if this is made clear from the start, if their needs are met quickly and comprehensively through interaction with the bot, and, if there is the option to quickly escalate the conversation to a human agent should problems arise.

Using Live Chat 'off site'

A unique capability Sophus3 has added to Live Chat systems for our customers is to be able to initiate chats in online platforms other than their own website. Through our work with digital publishers, chats can now be initiated by a brand through banner adverts on automotive portal sites. This greatly extends the scope for one-to-one engagement with online car shoppers who may not have even considered that brand previously.

AutoMotorSport German Car magazine website showing banner advert with embedded invitation to live chat

Live Chat: Video

Lastly, developments in Voice and Video over IP are transforming the potential of Live Chat services. Sophus3 has been at the forefront of developing this technology with our recent release of our ‘Live Chat: Video’ product. This allows the site visitor to open a video console within their browser without the need to download and install any additional software or plug-in. The chat now becomes a one-to-one interaction with an agent with both a name and a human face.  The agent can leave their desk and use a camera or ‘phone to show the features a customer is interested in on a real car. The agent can either respond to a customer’s requests, or themselves highlight the available equipment and features of the car.


The role of Live Chat and these new, enhanced video-based services, can only increase in importance for the automotive industry in the years ahead. The move to electric powertrains and the coming disruption caused by autonomous vehicles and new mobility services, means that consumers will have more choices, but also, more questions. That, coupled with an increasing expectation on their part of instantaneous delivery of services and products, means that brands must be ready and able to engage with them through an ever expanding variety of channels.