Since Woopra's Chat system made a lot of noise a few days ago, today news from Omniture. InstantService and Omniture joined forces and enable a Proactive Chat to Omniture and InstantService clients. This is how it work:
InstantInvite employs a rules-based engine (instead of human monitoring) to identify shoppers with greatest potential to buy. This unique and innovative approach presents important value at the front and back-end, ensuring privacy for shoppers and increasing agent productivity. The solution also delivers informative data related to chat transactions which enables companies to better assess online customer behaviors, and make adjustments in real time without changes to site code.
Rules for triggering a proactive chat session are based on visitor site interactions and behaviors and commonly include: which pages they have visited, how long they remained on a page, where they came from, which keyword they used to find the website, which items they have in their shopping cart, and whether they are repeat buyers.
Based on these user-defined rules, InstantInvite automatically presents shoppers with a customized invitation to chat live with a customer service representative. With this automatic connection, agents can instantly engage the customer with offers for assistance and incentives in addition to up-sell and cross-sell opportunities."
Also according to InstantService a study showed that...
"-- 20% of web chats result in a completed purchase -- Web chatters spend approximately 35% more per order -- 30%-40% of Web site traffic includes self-service shoppers (consumers who make purchase decisions without vendor assistance) "
I was not really convinced by Woopra's chat system, b/c it might be one of these things that can go too far and turn users rather off than driving them into a sale.
Omniture and InstantService however might be a solution that is more based on metrics and I believe it could work for certain kind of sites (e.g. sites that sell customized products that need some consultation...).
Anyways...any online marketer should test a proactive chat and see if it works for them. Reliable studies will probably show up not within the next few months, b/c every website is just too different.