PetFlow relaunches its site with a focus on live chat

March 31, 2016 02:50 PM

When plotting a redesign for its website, online pet supplies retailer turned to bricks-and-mortar pet stores for inspiration.

“We walked lots of stores, and it was very clear that what physical retail did very well was create colloquial conversation,” says PetFlow CEO Mike Lackman.

PetFlow, No. 366 in the Internet Retailer 2015 Top 500 Guide, relaunched its site Monday with an emphasis on creating longer-lasting relationships with its customers by doing a better job of engaging them in the same way pet store employees do in physical retail locations.

In speaking with his customers, Lackman found that a major pain point when it comes to choosing the right products for their pets is that they were overwhelmed with information.

“Where we can add a lot of help is we can ask them what kinds of ingredients does your vet recommend, what is your budget, and we can get them to a product that matches up with their values effectively,” he says. “We’re not giving nutritional or medical advice but we are helping people marry, ‘Here’s what my doctor told me, or ‘Here’s what my values are,’ and ‘Here is the product that meets your needs.’”

To address that, PetFlow’s new site, which took six months from planning to execution and has dedicated sites for both desktop and mobile devices, features an increased emphasis on live chat. The retailer, which generated more than $50 million in revenue in 2015, hadn't had live chat on its site since 2012. Lackman says PetFlow opened a contact center dedicated to live chat in Las Vegas late last year with the aim of helping customers as they browse the company’s site.

PetFlow’s website makes help readily available by quickly displaying a live chat icon pop up on the right side of web pages after a visitor arrives. A click on the live chat button pops up a window identifying the customer service representative as a pet parent first—for instance as “Jinx’s Mom, Paige.” PetFlow works with outside recruiters to find qualified pet parents who are passionate about pet nutrition and wellness focusing primarily on dog and cat parents. Employees are trained extensively on specific product information and how to interpret ingredient lists. They also take part in live chat simulations and shadow existing experts so they are adequately prepared.

“What makes chat interesting to us is rather than spending X thousands of dollars on media, we can put that money towards people who are creating stickier relationships and converting the traffic that we already have better,” Lackman says.

There’s a good reason for that. Lackman says that in doing A/B testing with customers who engaged a representative in live chat compared to those who didn’t, those who communicated with one of PetFlow’s customer service representatives but didn’t convert on that particular day were three to five times more likely to return and make a purchase within two weeks.

“We found a tremendous value in having conversations with people,” he says. “Every single (customer service representative) is a pet parent. We’re getting them more and more granular information as to what’s in the food we’re selling and how they can pass that on to the customers.”

Lackman anticipates having seven employees in the Las Vegas office by the end of April, all assigned to live chat, with plans on increasing headcount in the office to 20 by the end of the year.




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