Etsy’s new, “Gift Like You Mean It” ad, in typical holiday fashion, is one that promises not to leave a dry eye in the house. In the spot, a grandmother, decorating her home, picks up a snow globe, eyes it sadly, and looks to her husband, who says, “We’ll see the kids soon.” Cut to the next morning, she hears her grandson’s voice and rushes downstairs to huddle over her husband’s smartphone, where she “sees” her grandson. Connected over video chat, she excitedly unwraps a personalized doll as he explains, “That’s me! Hug it whenever you miss me.”
By showcasing remote face-to-face communication between grandmother and grandson, the commercial conveys a simple truth: video chat brings people together emotionally even when they’re remote. Research increasingly shows that’s true not only for personal interactions but for business and consumer engagements as well. Even before the pandemic, people were increasingly using video chat to connect with businesses. Data from a May 2020 Ipsos report shows that six in 10 Americans use video chat for work or business, while only one in three had used video chat prior to the pandemic.
People prefer video as a means of connection over chat, phone calls, and emails. After implementing virtual shopping consultations using video, DFS, the largest furniture retailer in the United Kingdom, saw CSAT scores in excess of 90% while scores following text chat were 85% on average. Both these scores far exceeded traditional phone service.
In our ever-expanding digital world, using online video engagement is essential to developing trusted relationships and building brand loyalty.
Eye contact via video chat drives emotional bonding
It’s not hard to see why. Video chat has the ability to drive the same emotional bonding as in-person interaction. Behavioral scientist Rory Sutherland of the nearly century-old advertising agency Ogilvy said that video conveys “tacit and emotional information that voice and text alone don’t convey, and it gives you something to look at to hold your attention.” A Popular Science article, quoting a 2013 Cyberpsychology study, found that people who chatted over video expressed a higher rate of emotional bonding than those who talked on the phone or texted. As much as 80% of human connection is nonverbal, the author says, and video allows us to convey these expressions, and also allows our brain to read them from others. When people make eye contact on video calls, it elicits a similar psychophysiological response as in-person eye contact, a recent study from Tampere University found. The researchers found this was true even for a one-way video call, with the recipient smiling even when no one else could see.
And in some cases, video is actually equal or even better in driving a certain outcome for a business, entity, or organization. For instance, a trial that ran from 2006 to 2010 and looked at nearly 100,000 patients who received care from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs found that those who used video services vs. traditional services actually had a decreased rate of hospitalizations, with the researchers theorizing that greater accessibility of care was a huge factor.
Discussions about money require a trusted relationship
Financial services and banking along with healthcare, are industries that have had great success in leveraging video chat to reach and connect with customers whether they be patients, consumers, or small and large business customers. A study by Phoenix Synergistics and reported in The Financial Brand found that nearly one in every five consumers has used video chat through a website or app with their financial institution. Almost nine in 10 found video very valuable. Data from Frost & Sullivan forecasts sevenfold growth in telehealth by 2025.
Use cases and growth within these industries also prove that a major concern with video chat — data privacy and security — is not an obstacle to deployment with the right tools. Healthcare and financial services are of course two industries that are extremely regulated and must be in strict compliance with data privacy and data security laws and regulations.
For instance, video chat can enable banking professionals to conduct complex, time-consuming transactions that typically occur in-person entirely online. Banking agents can leverage video chat to cobrowse the website — guiding customers to relevant information and helping them to co-fill forms together. These real-time collaboration capabilities allow banking advisors to go through mortgage calculators, insurance schedules, or applications with customers. As they make eye contact, they can better pick up non-verbal signals and respond to them. Results include the increase in loan contracts, such as home or installment, signed digitally. Perhaps the best indication of video chat’s success is that customers are happy.
Big-ticket purchases succeed with online face-to-face connections
The willingness of consumers to try new communication methods to solve their problems extends beyond finance and healthcare. The Wall Street Journal recently reported on a new survey from consulting firm McKinsey & Co. that roughly three out of four people have tried a new shopping method due to the coronavirus. Online shopping had a record year in 2020, and more than 60% of the 7,000+ consumers surveyed by the National Retail Federation (NRF) said they planned to do their shopping online — the highest ever. This year shouldn’t be different. This trend extends beyond smaller items to major purchases that in the past involved some research online, but the eventual visit to a store to fulfill.
Those that have evolved the online experience to more deeply personalize it — with actual connections to people — have had great success in increasing conversions. DFS, the UK’s leading retailer of upholstered furniture, has an 85% conversion rate from leads that come through video chat. And UK-based car dealership Synter moves more than 1/3 of the customers who engage via video chat further down the pipeline to dealerships, a rate that is significantly higher than those who browse the website independently.
These are times that absolutely call for reaching people on their preferred channel and person-to-person — and video chat with cobrowsing and sharing technology is a secure way to more deeply engage customers and build confidence and trust. Adopters of live engagement technology such as live video chat experience an improvement in overall customer experience, improved margins, and enhanced competitiveness, making the business benefits of video chat and how it accelerates digital business clear to see.