January 29, 2015
Case Study

Web Optimization: Live chat yields 39% of Total Gym Fitness' online orders

SUMMARY: Starting with its long-running infomercial campaigns, Total Gym Fitness began to see less people dialing in and more people coming to its website. With this shift, the marketing team needed a way to translate the Total Gym phone experience to the website.

Learn how Total Gym leveraged online live chat to meet the needs of customers and answer questions at critical points in the conversion funnel. Along with yielding 39% of Total Gym's online orders, live chat and related automated online engagement has proven to be an asset for understanding customer motivation and evaluating site effectiveness.
by Erin Hogg, Reporter

As we head into the new year, millions of people around the world have made resolutions to achieve better health and fitness through exercise.

Since 1996, Total Gym Fitness has dominated airwaves, broadcasting infomercials featuring Chuck Norris and Christie Brinkley with the goal to get a Total Gym product in every home.

For the first couple of years, the team at Total Gym Fitness solely leveraged the infomercial space. As the product gained traction, they expanded into other channels of distribution.

"I've seen many shifts in our business, with Internet being one of the most significant ones, but our goal still is to try to sell as many Total Gyms as we can to the home consumer," said Joe Crowley, Vice President of Marketing, Total Gym Fitness.


Total Gym's target audience is the home consumer, ideally individuals who are looking to make a change in their life.

"They want to look better; they want to have more energy; maybe they have a life event coming up; their doctor told them they need to get healthy," Crowley said.

However, Total Gym is able to target specific personas in its mass market audience, particularly by which channels and networks its infomercials appear on.

"We promote that its [age] range is 8 to 80. We do have consumers in that entire range, men and women, beginner, intermediate, advanced. We do have a lot of consumers that come in as beginners and then work their way up to being intermediate and more advanced type of exercisers, and we love to see that progression," he said.


Over the years since it launched, the team at Total Gym Fitness started to see a trend. Fewer orders for a Total Gym product were coming via the phone, and the website was seeing more and more traffic.

To stay competitive and relevant, the team needed to figure out a strategy to convert more of the website traffic to order.

The team has worked to optimize the site in terms of the structure, usability and design as well as offers to consumers.

"But we realized there were still components missing," Crowley said, and the team wanted to approach the website in the same manner the company has done with phone sales, which is a conversational-based selling approach.


To add a personal feel to the site, the team at Total Gym turned to implementing a live chat feature on the site to help facilitate conversions.

A live chat program was looked at as an opportunity to answer customers' questions during the purchasing process to aid in making a more informed and confident buying decision.

"Having the chat agents available to answer questions for customers at various points was important, whether they were at the beginning of their research on the products or they were sitting in the shopping cart with one question that they wanted to have answered, which made the difference between whether they were going to proceed with their order or not," Crowley said.

The live chat system, along with related automated online engagement solutions, was integrated into the Total Gym website in October 2009, and the team has since worked with their solution provider to continually optimize the experience for customers.

Step #1. Implement live chat feature on the website

The Total Gym team worked closely with its solution provider to implement the live chat feature and online engagement features, such as automated guides and exit chat offers, across the Total Gym website.

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Over the course of about 60 days, the Total Gym team tagged elements and pages of the site so the solution provider could identify the customer's navigation path on the site.

This also allowed for the team to develop a trigger for when a chat box would pop up based on time spent on a page as well as how many pages a potential customer viewed.

"We worked closely as a team from a technical side but then also on the business side to determine what scenarios made the most sense for initiating chat," Crowley said.

Furthermore, placement of chat buttons on the site was an important step to implementing the feature.

The Total Gym team worked with the solution provider to determine the best locations to place buttons to allow a customer to initiate a chat.

Working with a partner helped in getting the live chat feature up and running as it was new to the Total Gym Fitness team.

Step #2. Train agents to speak with customers

During the day-to-day conversations with customers, Total Gym leverages the solution provider that provides agents to speak with potential customers in the live chat feature.

Total Gym works closely with the agents and provides in-depth training to the agents to help them best meet customers' needs.

This is similar to Total Gym's outsourced call center operations, in which agents are trained so they understand the sales approach the team wants them taking for selling Total Gym products.

The Total Gym team has found that regular training sessions for agents involved in the live chat are beneficial to identify any issues or opportunities agents are missing as they chat and answer customer questions.

In those training sessions, one of the most important strategies Total Gym instils in its agents is to get the customer to provide details to the agent and disclose what they are trying to accomplish.

A conversation with a very active person looking to have a workout in their homes on days they cannot make it to the gym is a very different conversation than a customer who has been deconditioned for most of their life and is now looking to become more physically active, according to Crowley.

Knowing the exact reasons and goals of a potential customer is important so an agent can accurately help them make an informed purchase decision.

Crowley explained this tactic of digging deep into goals engages the customer psychologically into the sales process.

For example, if a customer states they want to lose a little weight, the agent will ask the customer to get more specific about how many pounds they want to lose and what their problem areas are. This removes ambiguity from answers, and the agent can paint a more accurate profile of that potential customer.

"It gets the consumer more psychologically engaged in the sales process. Those are techniques that our team teaches the agents, and then [our team] continually reinforces those techniques through our ongoing training process," Crowley said.

Step #3. Understand common scenarios of users in live chat

Once the live chat and online engagement features were implemented, Total Gym and the analytics team from its chat solution provider had the opportunity to record and analyze scenarios that are common to the Total Gym Fitness customer base engaging in live chat.

A common scenario the team has seen on the live chat feature are customers inquiring about what would be the best fit for their goals and needs. This would be a top of the funnel activity, engaging with customers early on in the purchasing process.

"The agent engages in conversation with the customer, trying to understand the customer's current physical condition, other goals and what they want to accomplish with the Total Gym so we can make a recommendation," Crowley said.

Another scenario the team has seen is a customer using the live chat while they are in the shopping cart, nearing the end of the purchase funnel.

"It may not be a long chat that they have with the agent, but to the customer, it's an important question at a critical point in the sales process," Crowley explained.

These critical questions could relate to Total Gym's free shipping policy, and the customer might be curious to know if they return the gym, how the return shipping costs would be handled.

While this information is available on the site, it may be a question that the customer has as they are about to enter in their credit card number.

At this critical point in conversion, it's key for agents to be on-deck for any last-minute questions that would impact a purchase decision.

Step #4. Analyze transcripts for optimizing live chat conversations

Total Gym's online engagement solution provider gathers live chat transcripts and helps Total Gym mine customer conversations for more insights into what's working and what's not.

Transcripts are analyzed on a weekly basis, and the Total Gym Fitness team looks for trends in customer feedback, questions and analyzing conversations, especially when changes are made to the website.

"It's a great place to go and get feedback from our customers about our website. You can look at analytics all day long, but it doesn't tell you the type of feedback that you're getting from customers like we do in the chat transcripts," Crowley said.

The team looks at questions they have never encountered before, as well as popular questions agents frequently answer.

These frequent questions provide insights into website changes that need to be made to better convey information on the site or to roll back changes that are providing a negative experience.

Achieving insights that directly impact decisions on website design and usability was an unexpected, but welcomed, result Total Gym Fitness achieved from implementing live chat.

"What we didn't realize was that we were going to have all this great feedback from our customers about our own website. We could then take this feedback and make changes to the website, such as adding information, or, if we have the information on the website already but we didn't have it in the right location or wasn't prominent enough, we could make those changes as well," Crowley explained.

The transcript analysis allowed the Total Gym Fitness team to improve the site, not just for the group that's engaging with live chat, but also to help answer questions other potential customer may have as well.

Step #5. Optimize live chat for mobile traffic

Total Gym has been experiencing a rise in mobile traffic, specifically a 177% increase of traffic with tablets.

The team realized they needed to implement different tools to make the live chat feature easy to use not only on desktops, but also on a smaller screen for a tablet user as well.

Total Gym and its live chat provider tested an optimization with quick replies, in which several brief replies are given to a live chat user to help get a conversation going. This helps a customer easily engage with an agent, especially when tablet keyboards can take longer to type out longer messages.

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In addition to the quick-reply option, Total Gym customized the size of the live chat feature for each mobile device "because if you use the same size chat window as the desktop computer, you fill up most of the page [on mobile]," Crowley explained.

The team tested a number of different size chat windows as well as the placement of the chat windows on the screen to find the optimal location.

The Total Gym Fitness team also changed the training its agents received, reminding its agents that their responses for customers on mobile devices must be shorter due to the smaller screen size of mobile devices.

"If you start sending through very lengthy responses, it could be overwhelming to the user, and they may end up not reading through the whole thing. Let's scale back what we're saying, still get the message through to the customer but understand the device they're on," Crowley added.


With a main goal to drive more conversions through the website, Total Gym Fitness also gained a direct pipeline to customers.

"You could almost say it was a focus group of our customers on our actual website. It gave us the opportunity to get insights that we weren't able to glean form analytics before. Analytics is great. You can see the data and the trends, but here are your customers giving you feedback on your website through the chat," he said.

Live chat and online engagement has yielded 39% of Total Gym's overall online orders across desktop, tablet and smartphone devices.

During testing of the quick reply option on the tablet audience, the team discovered that response times from the customer were 71% faster, facilitating a better experience.

Since implementing live chat, the team has also noted that 92% of live chat engagement occurs prior to the user reaching the cart. This proved to the team that live chat and online engagement will help move potential customers through the conversion funnel.

In 2015 and beyond, Total Gym will be looking to continue expanding and testing its chat program with two key goals: improve interaction rate and improve conversion rate.

"Even the tests that don't go well we still learn from, and then we come back and figure out how to approach that differently or how to look at something from another perspective in the future," Crowley concluded.

Creative Samples

  1. Live chat

  2. Quick reply tablet test


Total Gym Fitness

TouchCommerce — Live chat solution provider

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B2C Web Optimization: 23% lift in conversions by optimizing step one of funnel

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